Practical Advice on Bridging the Library-Press Divide

New Resource Center for Campus-Based Publishing Partnerships

Libraries and university presses have always been inextricably bound up in each other's success. While at its best this relationship can provide extensive benefits to the whole of scholarly communication, too often a lack of common understanding has led to conflicting interests. With the advent of digital publishing and the demand for new methods of scholarly communication, the need for the two institutions to share their strengths and resources is increasingly evident.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition's (SPARC) new Campus-Based Publishing Partnerships Resource Center is designed to help institutions meet that need. SPARC Senior Consultant Raym Crow explained that the idea for the guide and resource center came from "a meeting on library-press collaborations in June 2007, sponsored by the libraries and presses of the University of California and the University of Michigan." Crow said that participants at the meeting, all actively involved in collaborative publishing initiatives, were "describ[ing] a common set of issues that they needed to address," and it became clear that there was "a great deal of duplicative effort being expended as new partnerships wrestled with the same issues."

It was this convergence of concerns that led Crow to create the "Guide to Critical Issues." The guide is a five-part, comprehensive overview of what form these partnerships might take and practical considerations of how they might work.

Out of the guide grew the web resource center, which expands on issues covered therein, and keeps the information in the guide dynamic and relevant. Among the resources available are case studies, a bibliography, and LIBPRESS, an email list devoted to discussion of publishing partnerships. The resource is unique in that it gathered perspectives from librarians, press staff, and some who are straddling the divide (such as Monica McCormick, Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing at New York University).

The guide and case studies are focused specifically on library-press collaborations, but the guide's introduction indicates that "most of the discussion applies as well to other academic units that may participate in campus-based publishing partnerships."

The accompanying resources have been compiled by the editorial board, which was formed after the completion of the guide to direct and support the web resource. Crow emphasized the collaborative and interactive nature of the resource center, explaining that it is "designed to grow based on user feedback and participation." Presses are encouraged both to submit sample planning documents and resources, and to submit suggestions on topics that they feel should be added or expanded to make the resources practically useful. The direction and experience of the editorial board has been particularly valuable in developing these resources, says Crow: "These are people who know what's relevant, what's current, and what's needed by participants on both the press and library sides of a partnership."

Laura Cerruti, Director of Digital Content Development at the University of California Press, and Catherine Mitchell, Director of the California Digital Library's e-Scholarship Publishing Program at the University of California, are both editorial board members who bring to the table their experience of collaboration on University of California Publishing Services (UCPubS). Mitchell described how the two organizations had been "unofficially collaborating in an episodic or opportunistic way," and eventually came to the realization that they lacked "any kind of ongoing formal relationship that took into account the formal structure of the collaboration." It was at this point that they decided to work with Crow, as they "decided one-off projects were not going to be sustainable in the long-run," and establish a more formal collaboration that takes into account "sustainability and scalability."

UCPubS combines the open access expertise of the library with the production, print-on-demand, marketing, and distribution strengths of the press to serve the wider University of California community. Cerruti commented that it was a "reality check" for both the press and the library when Crow helped them put numbers to things and be realistic about the financial picture for their projects. The hope is that more partnerships will benefit from this sort of practical approach, and undertake the "explicit planning" Crow advocates.

Cerruti said she sees the partnerships as particularly important for presses in that they allow them to "take steps forward towards some of the new business models that are out there – especially open access." She believes presses know that open access is becoming increasingly important, but may not always be sure how to implement it. Both Cerruti and Mitchell agree that partnering with libraries, many of which are already working on open access, can facilitate a press's move toward open access models.

On the flip side, as libraries are increasingly called upon by their universities to take on publishing roles, it is important for them to take advantage of the valuable experience and expertise of presses. Mitchell explained that these partnerships also benefit content providers who "feel strongly about open access, but also want to provide print publication," emphasizing the importance of providing all of these options in a way that is not detrimental to a press's business model.

Both Cerruti and Mitchell highlighted the fact that partnerships strengthen the case for university support of a press, as they demonstrate the institutional service provided. Cerruti pointed out that the practical nature of the guide makes it very easy for presses to make a case to their university about the relevance of university presses.

In terms of early feedback from presses and libraries, Crow noted that a survey of LIBPRESS participants indicated that the practical examples have been the most valuable. The editorial board now "intend[s] to increase the number of case studies, sample plans, and financial templates, as well as the networking support available through the site."

Once the resource center is completely populated, Mitchell envisions it "enabling people to get a picture of the different models of what this kind of collaboration can be," and that this will assist in getting partners to a point where "libraries and presses speak the same language, or at least a compatible language." Crow hopes that the resources may encourage presses to "take the lead in creating publishing partnerships."

Cerruti described the resource center as "one-stop shopping for resources and papers published every week," facilitating easier access to curated content for users who may not have the time to devote on their own. Her hope is that the guide and resources will "reduce some of the duplicative experiments going on so that we can learn from each other."

A more in-depth look at the guide and resource center is well worth it to anyone interested in campus-based publishing partnerships and their associated issues.

Those interested in joining LIBPRESS, the online discussion forum on issues of "collaborative digital publishing projects and models," may do so here:

Hear more about press collaborations at the AAUP Annual Meeting!

Friday, June 19: 1:45-3:00 pm
Plenary 2: Interpress Collaborations and Cross-Marketing Partnerships: Future Visions of Scholarly Communication (Panelists include Raym Crow and Laura Cerruti)

Saturday, June 20: 3:30-4:45
Library-Press Cooperation
(Moderator: Patrick Alexander, member of SPARC editorial board)

Meredith Benjamin
Communications Coordinator, AAUP