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Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the Library Publishing Coalition project hosted a forum in Kansas City, Missouri, immediately following the SPARC 2014 meeting. This Library Publishing Forum (#lpforum on Twitter [archive]) is expected to be the first in a regular series of events for the member institutions once the coalition itself is formalized later this year. The inaugural forum theme was alignment opportunities for library publishing allies in areas like infrastructure, policy, and organization; and attendees from a variety of institutions, organizations, and sponsors descended upon the City of Fountains for an extremely engaging (if densely packed) two days. Sample topics covered at the forum: publishing activities in libraries; the interplay of activity among libraries and publishers such as university presses; advancements in the vision for and realization of publishing platforms (see Scalar* and mPach); and support beyond traditional research outputs. Participants and attendees guided a multithreaded discussion through a series of panel discussions and interactive breakout sessions bookended by keynotes from John Unsworth (coiner of pubrarianyes?) and Peter Berkery, Executive Director of the AAUP (sharing insights gleaned from the first few legs of his listening tour [h/t Elliot Shore]).

I won’t attempt a proper recap here**, although I found myself inspired in a couple of significant ways that merited comment:

  1. The energy and enthusiasm among the attendees was as present and infectious as I have really ever experienced at a conference of this type. [Although I may need to get myself to an un-conference as some of the forum breakout sessions were modeled after these]. Despite sub-optimal weather and travel conditions, there were very few of the 160+ registered attendees who failed to reach the conference venue. And despite the fact that many of the attendees had just been through two extensive days in deep consideration of the state of Open Access, Open Educational Resources, and Open Data at the preceding SPARC conference (three days if you count Sunday’s COAPI meeting), all of the sessions were full and Q&A was quite lively through the session time, even running over in some places.
  2. The broad community of information professionals in attendance visibly embraced the occasion of the forum to wrangle with the heady issues of collaboration, new service development, the call to professionalization of practice, and the charge to embrace publishing as a vehicle for mission-based access to and preservation of scholarly content. It seemed to me at many points as though this community was finding its feet, seizing a sense of collective ownership in a venue dedicated to the consideration of issues treated as curiosities and sidelines at conferences with a broader scope. If the coalition project was conceived to harness a growing current of energy, give it a place and a name, and invite everyone to a join a participatory organization designed to focus and cohere, then the forum may have been its very first win.***

I’m feeling pretty fortunate to have been able to be present at what felt very much like a foundational moment for a new community, and I’m hoping the programming and discussion solidified latent interest among attendees in the formation of the coalition proper. I’d be very interested to hear reflections from others, both project members and otherwise, where experiences coincide or diverge from those described here.

* Curtis Fletcher of ANVC pronounces it Scay-LAHR, so I suppose we all ought to as well.

**  There’s an open call for presenters from each of the sessions to formalize their contributions to the forum in the form a paper submission to a special issue of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

*** A conceit, clearly, and a terrifically biased one at that. See also the tremendous work done on the Library Publishing Toolkit, the LPC Member Directory, and more done within and without the coalition project. Just scratching the surface.