Agents of the Publishing Chain: From Libraries as Academic Publishers to Libraries as Publishers in eScience and Digital Humanities

SCHMOLLING, Regine (2015) Agents of the Publishing Chain: From Libraries as Academic Publishers to Libraries as Publishers in eScience and Digital Humanities. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa in Session 187 - Acquisition and Collection Development.

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Language: English (Original)
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Agents of the Publishing Chain: From Libraries as Academic Publishers to Libraries as Publishers in eScience and Digital Humanities

Whereas Anglo-American universities have had a long tradition and reputation as publishers of scientific research monographs, in Germany, universities, with support of their local libraries, began experimenting with the new role as scientific publishers only two decades ago. The results for member institutions of the “German Academic Press” were relatively modest. The impact factor was far too low to attract authors of high ranked papers and theses to publish them with a small university press or even “university library press”. However, with the transition from print to digital format, the publication chain has changed significantly. Instead of publishing a print version of a thesis, post graduates have begun to search for cheaper alternatives to publish dissertations electronically at almost no costs and at the same time with considerable visibility for their research results worldwide. This was the birth of university repositories in Germany as in other countries as well, managed by faculty as “content provider” and university libraries as online archive. With the journal crisis and the monopoly of big academic publishers, libraries began to publish open access journals, some in cooperation with faculty. The impact factor again was poor, the content aspect of peer-reviewed high ranked journals led in the end to the golden open access way of publishing, dominated again by big companies. The next step during the past ten years was the collaboration of libraries with digital humanities projects (e.g. digital editions, text grid activities). Valuable libraries’ manuscripts were digitized (some with help of Google) and published, where libraries held the copyright to do so. They helped attracting new user groups to library activities and getting access to rare books while preserving the original. With new requirements of e-science (grid computing, primary data repositories) libraries support faculty to archive, classify and publish raw research data for the scientific community. This is a big issue for university and research libraries. In not a few cases, faculty at German universities had to be persuaded to ask libraries for collaboration on publishing primary research data, for libraries are often seen as competitors in this emerging sector. In my view, this is a big mistake. We all should learn from the Google experience: a commercial company understood the tremendous potential of library collections and undertook the digitization and publishing of copyright-free prestigious books. Libraries should not wait to be asked to collaborate. They should push and effectively play their role as publishing partners for the sake of a non-profit access to the collective cultural heritage and research results. And librarians should ask themselves: how do we define the role of libraries in the 21st century, how do we make our unique collections public? Will public-private partnership always end up with universities and libraries as content provider and publishing companies as financial profiteers? We should keep in mind that it is the value of collections that should help libraries to participate in the publishing chain as an active player and not only as a “consumer” of published products. Examples from German library activities will be given and discussed.

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