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BACK-TO-SCHOOL BASICS: University Libraries Offer an Alternative to Traditional Publishing
Posted On September 6, 2016
This article was originally published on March 3, 2015.

Maybe you’re a professor who has an idea for a journal you’d like to start at your university. Or maybe you’re a graduate student looking to prove yourself by publishing your research. Or maybe you’re a college librarian hoping to start a newsletter that will raise your library’s visibility on campus. No matter the reason, you’re writing something that needs to find an audience. Why not publish it at the library? As digital tools get easier to use, many institutions are starting their own publishing programs in an effort to offer more varied services to their communities.

The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) defines library publishing as “the set of activities led by college and university libraries to support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and/or educational works.” Library publishing typically includes three criteria: a production process with steps such as editing, consistent structuring, and design; the presentation of new, original works that are considered authoritative materials on their subject matter; and a level of certification for the content published, which is similar to peer-review requirements at university presses. Open access (OA) dissemination is common in library publishing programs because it aligns with libraries’ traditional goal of providing public access to published works.

“Libraries have always been the place that people go when they need help finding, using, and building on information. … As trusted partners of scholars, academic librarians are increasingly approached for guidance in finding a way to publish works of scholarship, and they already have access to and experience with many of the tools required to do this,” says Sarah Lippincott, the LPC’s program manager. The LPC sees the rise of library publishing as a response to the current problems with scholarly communication, including the issue of authors’ rights, the increase of unsustainable subscription prices, and the slow adoption of new modes of scholarship.

The LPC’s Mission

The LPC is an independent, community-led membership association that promotes publishing services in academic and research libraries. Among other activities, the LPC advocates for libraries by helping them show faculty members, students, staffers, and other parts of the university community the value of their publishing programs.

Membership is open to academic and research libraries and library consortia in North America that are looking to explore publishing solutions. The LPC board recently proposed that the association remove the geographic stipulation from its bylaws, and members will vote on this revision in the near future. Joining the LPC gives libraries access to a network of peers as well as to its Documentation Portal of members’ sources such as checklists, job descriptions, and procedure documents.

The LPC’s 2015 Library Publishing Directory, freely available as a PDF or EPUB file, describes the publishing efforts of 124 college and university libraries around the world. The following institutions from the directory share their experiences with starting publishing programs (showing how they benefit both libraries and writers) and give advice so other libraries can follow their lead.

Keeping the Community Engaged

The Howard-Tilton Memorial Library has run Tulane University Journal Publishing since 2012. This OA service has a web-based platform for publishing peer-reviewed journals, which include Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany and Tulane Journal of International Affairs.

“Tulane Journal Publishing came about as a result of the rising costs our library … was and is paying for subscription journals,” says Jeff Rubin, digital initiatives and publishing coordinator. The university’s provost wanted to create “a publishing outlet for faculty and students and he wanted to provide the academic content to the global public at no cost.” Rubin sees the library as a central hub that connects everything on campus, and by offering publishing initiatives, librarians can engage more closely with faculty members and students and demonstrate how they can meet the community’s needs. The journals retain their autonomy, with each one setting its own policies and guidelines.

“The single most important item for new publishing programs is support from the school’s administration, from as high up as you can get. That support is crucial because success requires a long-term commitment. Obviously some funding is helpful, but the support for the idea, for the program, carries more weight than simply money,” says Rubin.

The library began branching out beyond journals to help produce content from various institutes, centers, and other programs Tulane offers. “There is so much content being created (studies, institute reports, community health articles, magazines, newsletters, etc.) that I thought we should utilize our publishing platform to publish everything that is not directed to the journals. It was important to keep the peer-reviewed material separate from the non-peer reviewed content, so we have separate websites for each tier,” says Rubin. His eventual goal is to develop collaborative publications between Tulane’s faculty members and faculty members from other universities.

Offering Added Value

The University of Waterloo Library provides OA publishing services on several platforms, and as a member of CrossRef and DataCite Canada, it can issue digital object identifiers (DOIs) for its hosted publications and research data, which include preprints (scientific paper drafts) and the Canadian Graduate Journal of Sociology and Criminology.

In 1998, the library began providing OA electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). In 2009, it partnered with an electrical and computer engineering professor to start an OA preprints service for the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and its associated journal. Now, the library uses the Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems (OJS) platform to create new titles in partnership with faculty members and students.

“Be clear what the library is responsible for and what the editors are responsible for,” says Pascal Calarco, associate university librarian for research and digital discovery services. “Start small with a champion, respected faculty member who values the project and will be an advocate for the effort. Provide solutions to disciplines where there is the most benefit and promise for OA models.” Libraries can also offer value in the form of DOI registration, abstracting-and-indexing inclusion, and other resources that the community can’t access on its own.

Services can be advertised at conferences, colloquia, and any venues where faculty members and students might go, says Calarco. He suggests creating an FAQ page on how to start a new journal, who and what is involved in the process, and the expected time frame. “We are in the midst of broadening our ETD digital repository to also serve as a more general institutional repository for scholarship, and finally we have started offering research data management and data curation services alongside these publishing services,” he says.

Choosing the Right Platform

At Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), the EKU Libraries provide OA publishing services to support the school’s mission of regional engagement and student and faculty member achievement. These include publishing peer-reviewed journals such as the Kentucky Journal of Excellence in College Teaching and Learning and the Journal of Military Experience, as well as ETDs and a student newspaper.

In 2009, EKU Libraries intended to publish ETDs, journals, special collections, and other content in an institutional repository using a platform that would display these items as well as manage the publishing process. “The existing open source platforms were capable of ingesting and effectively displaying a wider range of file types (including images files), but these systems required technical staffing levels that we could not support. After assessing the different systems, the ability of our staff to support them, and the needs of our institution, we realized we would have to narrow our publishing scope and identify fewer goals for the hosted repository, and let those goals inform which platform to choose,” according to “Publishing Open Access e-Journals: Leveraging an Outreach Opportunity.” EKU Libraries decided to choose journal hosting on bepress’ Digital Commons, which allowed the addition of that other content.

Linda Sizemore, copyright and scholarly communications librarian, says libraries should market to the campus community, especially the graduate schools, undergraduate research office, regional engagement services, and honors program. They can reach out to faculty members via their liaison program. Whatever publishing system a library chooses, it should be interoperable with search engines; the library can then share usage data to document the reach and impact of the published material. “Our publishing program will only expand in the future as the open access movement grows. We predict a growing need for data management, as well,” Sizemore says.

Testing the Repository Waters

The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s (UMMS) Lamar Soutter Library runs eScholarship@UMMS, an institutional digital repository and publishing platform that offers global access to research and scholarly works from UMMS. These include OA publications; peer-reviewed ejournals; ETDs from UMMS’s Biomedical Sciences, Nursing, and Medicine schools; and conference proceedings.

Institutional repository librarian Lisa Palmer says, “The dean of the UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences expressed interest in digitizing the school’s 300 dissertations and making them available on the internet. We were thrilled to have such a great demonstration project for the repository.”

In 2009, the library partnered with the neurology and psychiatry departments to host the publication of ejournals. In 2012, the library first published its own, the Journal of eScience Librarianship (JESLIB). “Library publishing services can open doors for faculty who want to venture into publishing in emerging or underserved disciplines. Library staff members have acquired detailed knowledge of how the publishing process actually works, and this allows us to be better advocates for our faculty because we understand what is involved—we are not just observers,” says Palmer.

Running the repository helped staffers test new tools and technologies and taught them about embargoes, metadata, and dissemination, Palmer says. “Typically libraries host the publication platform and faculty departments are responsible for all editorial content and tasks (peer review, layout, copy editing, etc.),” she says. The library plans to focus on strategies for digital preservation, offer more content indexing to facilitate discoverability and credibility, and ensure that the library is “fully enmeshed in digital scholarship on our campus.”

Meeting Various Needs

Georg August University Göttingen’s State and University Library has OA-oriented publishing services for researchers, including ETDs and peer-reviewed publications. Its program began in 1996, and it now publishes journals and monographs. Göttingen University Press, founded in 2003, is part of the electronic publishing division of the library.

Margo Bargheer, head of electronic publishing, says the university used early digital technology to focus on dissemination and archiving, which were functions that it could support with adaptations of its existing infrastructure and processes. “In our library the idea arose to offer web-based publishing services for different scholarly needs and different media such as a University Press, an Institutional Repository and infrastructural support for self-organized publishing,” she says.

Bargheer and her colleagues underestimated publishing’s complexity, so they had to learn on the job. Starting a publishing program allows library staffers to be creative, adapt, and innovate constantly, whether that entails drafting new strategies with users, helping promising scholars publish in OA for the first time, or using social media to test dissemination strategies, she says.

The library requires ongoing support from the university’s high-level management, its IT department, and faculty members who will need to be on board with spreading awareness of the publications. “If after an inventory of existing talents, resources and infrastructure at the library you are able to identify some enthusiasm and adventurous spirit to overcome challenges and criticism and there are two to three promising projects from dedicated scholars, give it a start,” Bargheer says.

Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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