This posting is sponsored by the Library Publishing SIG and published in cooperation with the ARL Section. Members of the Library Publishing SIG reach out to library publishers and invite them to respond to a series of questions.
This post features Paul Royster, Linnea Fredrickson, and Sue Ann Gardner, who are responsible for the library publishing program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries, which was established in 2005. Their institutional repository is available at https://digitalcommons.unl.edu.
Affiliation: University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
Describe your work in library publishing.
PR: We always considered the institutional repository as a publishing project. So it was a concise step to developing and finding original materials to publish. Our monograph imprint, Zea Books, has published more than 150 titles. We produce, publish, host, or mirror about 20 journals of various sizes and frequencies. We recruit, edit, design, and typeset as required in each case.
SG: The way we approach our work, all that we do involves library publishing in one form or another, whether it’s publishing books and journals, or populating the institutional repository.
LF: I do a number of things as a staff member in our scholarly communications unit that bit by bit helps to change scholarly communications—for the better is our goal. I help find, prepare, and upload materials—mostly professors’ academic papers—to our institutional repository (though we host all kinds of reports, curricula, proceedings, posters, videos, etc.). We also host entire journals, so I help post those that arrive in final form, and I copyedit and prepare for design and typesetting the articles of those that use our editorial service. We are also book publishers, and I use skills and processes from being an academic press project editor and copy editor to work with authors or editors and ready book manuscripts for design and typesetting. I also do proofreading on all sorts of projects, and I help with supervising some student workers who do scanning and IR uploading.
What attracted you to work in library publishing?
LF: Colleagues found me, thank goodness, while I was in library school mid-career, but with my experience in publishing (most recently in academic and educational publishing), it was a very nice fit to continue that kind of work in a library setting and be involved in changing scholarly communications in the twenty-first century—and for the “twenty-first-century academic library.”
SG: One thing that attracts me to work in library publishing is the collaborative nature of it. Researchers need to communicate with one another, their students, and the public at large, and we help them do that. Roger Chartier has said that authors don’t write books—they write manuscripts. From these, editors and publishers craft books, and that is what we do in our work.
What training resources have you found helpful in your work?
LF: Copy editors train every day with their style manuals—The Chicago Manual of Style, Scientific Style and Format, The Associated Press Stylebook, MLA Style Manual, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and more. I am also a member of ACES: The Society for Editing (https://aceseditors.org/). I attend virtually the Library Publishing Forums, Southern Miss Institutional Repository Conferences (SMIRC), and the Digital Commons North American Conferences. I write workflow documentation or tips for myself and others, and then after I haven’t done a certain thing for half a year (busy with something else), I use my documentation to retrain myself!
What values and principles inform your work?
SG: One principle that informs our work is that the repository belongs to the faculty. We don’t own it and it’s not our place to saddle it with a bunch of extraneous policy and gatekeeping. We are allied with the faculty and aim above all to support and amplify their work.
- The content belongs to the author.
- It should be easy to be published if you are serious.
- Someone somewhere is looking for this information.
What is the impact of your library publishing programme at institutional level?
PR: Our original publishing has a limited impact, perhaps around 20 faculty who have authored or edited works that we publish, and perhaps another 10 or 12 from outside the institution. But if we count all the contributors to the volumes and journals, it would number well into the thousands. So we have extended our institutional brand on a global scale, probably farther than any other media.
SG: We queried a subset of our participants recently to ask them to describe their experience with the UNL Digital Commons. The answers we received showed us that our services have emerged as essential in many of our colleagues’ scholarly communication workflows. An example quote: “[The UNL institutional repository] is indeed a remarkable resource, especially at the global level. My own papers, for which I am one of the authors, get picked up and later cited by people that would never have ready access to them otherwise. For that reason, I consider it a major means of promoting the scholarly strength of the university.”
What do you think is the impact of library publishing in the broader scholarly communications landscape?
PR: Right now, we are in a proof-of-concept stage—showing that professional-level publication is feasible for libraries at a modest scale. I believe we are also proving that online digital and on-demand publication do not require the full apparatus inherited from traditional paper publishing. We seek to change not simply the final form in which the product is delivered, but the entire system of scholarly publishing, including and especially the ownership and access to the means of production.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the global library publishing community?
SG: My hope for the global library publishing community is that we will converge on sustainable funding models. Partnering with for-profit companies and relying on philanthropic organizations each require us to establish intentional fiscal approaches that keep those other domains’ attendant value systems at arm’s length while still partnering with them. Some people think we can and should divest from for-profit businesses and in some cases also not-for-profit philanthropic entities, but I think that this kind of fiscal protectionism is short-sighted. In my estimation, the aggregator BioOne’s funding model as it was around 2010 (and perhaps still is) is an example of a viable funding schema. The details of the flow of funds are available in a conference paper I wrote several years ago called Hot Potato: Who Will End Up Paying for Open Access? Interested readers can find it available in UNL’s institutional repository (https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/199/).
Paul Royster: Coordinator for Scholarly Communications
Linnea Fredrickson: Scholarly Communications Production Specialist
Sue Ann Gardner: Scholarly Communications Libraries