Creating a Library Publishing Program for Scholarly Books: Your Options Are Limited Page: -PB_Page_4
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JLSC Volume 7, General Issue
In short, I believe that it's foolish to think that a library, without a significant investment of
resources, can create a publishing program that will be able to compete with conventional
publishers-let alone well-established unconventional publishers like Open Book Publish-
ers, Punctum Books, and Open Humanities Press-in offering the reputable peer review re-
quired by many academic authors. I believe that it's better for libraries to address their users'
unmet needs in publishing, much as libraries help their users with their unmet information
needs. Some examples of unmet needs are finding a publisher for a festschrift for a retir-
ing faculty member, selected papers from a one-time conference held on campus, or niche
projects that a faculty member wants to see published even though they will have a small
audience. In fact, festschrifts and conference volumes generally don't need peer review at all
(because contributions were invited or have already been reviewed), and the author of a pas-
sion project with a niche audience generally doesn't seek peer review. This makes them all the
better a fit for a library publisher.
SHOULD THE PROGRAM CHARGE FEES?
Should the library publishing program charge fees to users? As argued previously (Hawkins,
2016b), in order to answer that question, you must first ask whether the library publishing
program will be seen as an essential service for users, comparable to other services that librar-
ies provide for free. More generally, is there a desire to limit obstacles to authors making use
of the public service? If the publishing program will be seen as essential, and disincentives to
use it are to be avoided, the service should be made entirely free to all eligible authors. (This
does not need to mean that every eligible author's manuscript must be accepted for publica-
tion: a library publishing program could require potential authors to apply for selection, with
the library choosing only the worthiest publishing projects.) Alternatively, if the publishing
program is not seen as an essential service of the library, it should consider charging for the
services, drawing on the business models of other for-fee services offered in the library.
A free service for which users apply for selection creates challenges for effective operation.
As discussed above, library staff must create mechanisms to assess quality, whether involving
subject specialists on the library staff or suitable outside peer reviewers. In addition, if the li-
brary has ambitions of recovering some of its costs after publication through sales of print or
electronic editions, the library staff may not have the expertise to assess the market potential
of a proposal, even if they deem it worthy of publishing.
Assuming the library will fully recover costs by charging for its publishing services and publish
works in any field, I recommend offering a cafeteria menu of services for authors rather than
a standard fee for publishing projects (either a flat fee or a fee per word). Cafeteria options
allow authors to pay for the level of service that they feel the project deserves (and which their
Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication
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Hawkins, Kevin S. Creating a Library Publishing Program for Scholarly Books: Your Options Are Limited, article, 2019; Forest Grove, Oregon. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1438965/m1/4/: accessed June 24, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .