Publishing Services a Major Growth Area for Academic Libraries

    Publishing services provided by libraries are expanding and professionalizing, suggests a new report released for comment today by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, on behalf of a team of researchers from the libraries of Purdue University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Utah. The report is the result of a year-long study of library publishing services made possible by a collaborative planning grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), with additional support from Berkeley Electronic Press and Microsoft Research. It is available at

    The research included a survey distributed to deans and directors at all 223 institutions that are part of the Association of Research Libraries, the Oberlin Group, and University Libraries Group, supervised by consultant October Ivins; three detailed sustainability case studies of library publishing programs at Purdue, Georgia Tech, and Utah by consultant Raym Crow; three consultative workshops involving over 120 leaders in the library publishing community; and a literature review. Together, these sources paint a picture of the state of library publishing services in the US and Canada that is unique in breadth and depth of coverage.

    Key findings of the project include:

    • Approximately half (55%) of all respondents to the survey indicated having or developing library publishing services. Interest in such services varied by institution size, with over three-quarters of ARLs being interested, compared to 30% of Oberlin Group institutions. Most libraries with existing programs anticipated increasing the program’s scale or scope in the next year.
    • About three-quarters of the programs publish between one and six journals, the majority of which are only distributed electronically and are less than three-years old. About half of the programs publish conference proceedings, technical reports, or monographs; most often electronically, but with some print-on-demand distribution.
    • The vast majority of library publishing programs (almost 90%) were launched in order to contribute to change in the scholarly publishing system, supplemented by a variety of other mission-related motivations. The prevalence of mission-driven rationale aligns with the funding sources reported for library publishing programs, including library budget reallocations (97%), temporary funding from the institution (67%), and grant support (57%). However, many respondents expect a greater percentage of future publishing program funding to come from service fees, product revenue, charge-backs, royalties, and other program-generated income.
    • Almost two-thirds of the programs collaborate with one or more other campus units—including departmental faculty, university press, and campus computing—and two-thirds collaborate with individuals or organizations outside of the institution. Over half of the respondents expect collaborations to increase in the next year.
    • About half of responding institutions centralize management of their publishing activities within one library unit. The number of staff allocated to publishing activities is modest—averaging 2.4 FTE for ARLs and 0.9 FTE for Oberlin Group institutions—with older programs typically being larger. Staff dedicated exclusively to publishing service programs are relatively rare, with responsibility for such services typically fragmented across multiple staff members.
    • The perceived relevance of publishing services to the library’s mission, and the integration of such services into the library’s budget, helps explain the relative lack of emphasis on sustainability planning. Few institutions (15%) have a documented sustainability plan for their publishing services, and only a fifth have evaluated the value or effectiveness of their publishing services.
    • The most prevalent journal publishing platforms reported were Open Journal Systems (57%), DSpace (36%), and Berkeley Electronic Press’s Digital Commons (25%).

    According to respondents, the three resources most needed for planning or operating a library-based publishing service are guides to business issues, information on publishing platforms, and examples of policy and process documents.

    The report includes a series of recommendations for future development of library publishing services based on the survey, workshops, case studies, and literature review. These are centered around developing best practices, collaborating to create community-based resources, and formalizing skills and training.

    The report is open for comment through the end of the year. A final version will be issued in early 2012.