Popping the ScholComm/LibPub bubble


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Editor’s note: I knew Micah was working on a reorganization/re-imagining of his Scholarly Communication office at FSU, so I asked him to give us an update. I liked it so much that I’m starting a new series about new library publishing programs in development and existing ones that are evolving. They will all be published under the “Program development” category. Thanks, Micah!

Ripoll in a bubble / Ripoll en una bombolla

I’m tired of talking about “scholarly communications” and then having to define it for whatever audience I am standing in front of. Luckily, we’ve recently hired a new scholcomm librarian, Devin Soper, so I don’t have to talk about it too much anymore. That switch-over has given us the opportunity to rethink and restructure our office, and I think we’re developing something unique.

First of all, we made a conscious decision, for now at least, that we will not be launching any sort of digital publishing unit, digital scholarship center or digital humanities lab. At Florida State University Libraries we are calling ourselves the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS), with goals to be a “multidisciplinary research support unit in the libraries that will engage the campus in a new way and represent the future of an academic research library deeply integrated with the research production lifecycle at the University.” Buzz words, anyone? In true academic rigor, let me unpack that for all y’all.

DRS does not hold any official, hierarchical body on our org chart. We are a misfit gang of functional specialists, librarians and archivists with primary and/or secondary responsibilities that have a “digital” bent, and technologists with big picture ideas. Personally, I am mostly interested in “engaging the campus in a new way,” meaning working diligently to redefine the perceptions placed on us by campus admins and researchers. We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from our colleagues at the University of Central Florida, who sketched out the research lifecycle, and marked clearly the libraries role in each aspect of taking a project/paper/idea to “production.” Speaking to a group of students from our iSchool recently, I harped on the fact that how we work in DRS is as different as the kind of work we do. We are project teams and informal collaborative groups. We are #metalmonday, #tacotuesday and #meatdata experts. And, we aren’t afraid to try new things, quickly, even if they might not succeed.

Our focus is not on doing more publishing, or fighting for open access, or 100+ data management consultations per semester, or offering Omeka to every budding digital humanist that walks in the door, but on developing a group of people that work together well, enjoy trying new things, and then welcoming our campus community to join us in rethinking this whole research activity thing.

How, you ask, is that any different than what research libraries are or have been doing for years? To be honest, I have no idea, since I’ve only worked in libraries for 4 years. In my mind, what we are trying to do is get ahead of some curve that libraries seem to be just a little behind too often. In publishing, we’re starting to talk about web-ready, beyond the PDF, media rich, platform agnostic. In data, we’re using words like campus-wide census, meta-repository, collection development. In digital projects, we’re catching up with our colleagues and peers, working toward “first of a kind” ideas, integration into projects from the get-go, innovative interfaces, and thinking outside the tools. Finally, at FSU we have the opportunity to move into what I’m calling “Researcher Development,” i.e. everything a faculty development office and/or Teaching and Learning center might do, but we don’t have here.

So what does all this mean for our office formerly known as “Scholarly Communication” that did things we liked to call library publishing? We’d not yet invested a ton in establishing a journal publishing presence, but we’ll continue to do that at low levels. What I’d like to see is a holistic approach – every publishing project we take on gets the digital project treatment, meaning we think about how it plugs into to every aspect of research and scholarly productivity, for our partners and for the author/contributors. I don’t want to just spin up OJS sites for anyone and talk about modifying their publication contracts for openness, I want to substantially alter what it is that we call publishing. If the system is broke, lets not fix it, lets build a new system. We don’t need more journals, we need a revolution. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I’m trusting that Devin, our DRS colleagues and the rest of us in the LibPub sphere can break out of that mold and transgress the boundaries that bind us.

Putting all these random activities under the banner of digital research and scholarship at a R1 university library might be stretching, but right now, here, it makes a lot of sense. Our focus is not on doing more publishing, or fighting for open access, or 100+ data management consultations per semester, or offering Omeka to every digital humanist that walks in the door, but on developing a group of people that work together well, enjoy trying new things, and then welcoming our campus community to join us in rethinking this whole research activity thing. At the same time, we are of course dealing with credentialing quandaries and other political university things that cannot be ignored. Overall, we’re focused on connecting people to people, building collaborative partnerships beyond the library, and providing platforms (technical and metaphysical) for new forms of research and scholarship. At least, that’s what I’ve put in our “Elevator Pitch” Google doc, and moved the “What do we do?” Trello card to the Complete list, which sent an IFTTT post to our #GTD Slack channel.


Accessible journal publishing, Part 1: HTML

Now that we have our high-level musings on accessible publishing in libraries out of the way (check out the ‘accessibility’ category to see the previous posts on the topic), I think it’s time to start talking about the nitty-gritty. Sure, we all agree that providing accessible digital content is good, but how do we do it? It should be pretty obvious by now that I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share. I’m starting off with what I know best – publishing in HTML – but I’m hoping to also write about accessible publishing in PDF form, as well as accessibility in retrospective journal digitization projects.

Some background

Much of my experience with making web content accessible comes from working with Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ).  DSQ was the first journal to partner with OSU Libraries’ Publishing Program, and as a result, it has been strongly influential in how our program has developed. Because of the field of study, accessibility was front-and-center from day one: the journal content had to be accessible to readers, and the journal platform had to be accessible to authors, reviewers, and editors. Unfortunately, I wasn’t around for the initial work with Open Journal Systems, so I don’t know what the conversations about platform accessibility looked like. If we were to adopt a new publishing platform today, I would ask the director of OSU’s Web Accessibility Center (in the Disability Services Office of Student Life) to check it out, so maybe that’s what happened.

Choosing a format

What I do know is that, to avoid the accessibility problems you tend to find in PDFs (more about that in a future post), we decided to take on the labor-intensive task of converting DSQ articles into HTML for publication. Continue reading

WVU’s Access/ibility in Digital Publishing 2015 Summer Seminar: A library perspective

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts about accessibility. The first two posts were Access/ibility in Digital Publishing: Summer Seminar at WVU (Melanie Schlosser) and Accessibility: A Role for Libraries (Sarah Kennedy). 

Hello, readers. I’m Susan Ivey, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Mississippi, and guest blogger today on Lib Pub as part of the series about the “Access/ibility in Digital Publishing” seminar that took place last July at West Virginia University. Let me first apologize for my delayed post. There have been a lot of conferences, seminars, and presentations in my world since then, and I count myself lucky that the West Virginia Summer Seminar was first on my dance card, because it’s really influenced the way I’ve been thinking about my work. This also seemed like the perfect opportunity to reflect on my time at the Access/ibility seminar, as I’m currently flying over the beautiful West Virginia Mountains.

Much like Sarah Kennedy, previous guest blogger in this series, my interest in the seminar was related to a current project that my Web Services Librarian and I are undertaking, which involves re-envisioning our digital collections website (the top level website that brings the user into our content management system, which houses our digitized and born digital archives and special collections objects). We currently use an out-of-the-box webpage provided by our proprietary content management system, and we have found that this has proven quite unfriendly for a variety of our users. Though my Web Librarian is educated in web accessibility issues, I myself have little background. I knew the West Virginia Seminar would be a great way to educate myself for this project, and also to educate myself in general, as the web (and thus accessibility) plays such a large part in what we do today as librarians.

Access vs. Accessibility

As the other bloggers in this series have mentioned, one main takeaway from the seminar was differentiating between access and accessibility. Continue reading

Accessibility: A role for libraries

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sarah Kennedy, and a continuation of the discussion about the Access/ibility in Digital Publishing seminar at WVU this past July. Read Melanie’s first post here.

Greetings, readers. I am acting as a guest blogger today to contribute some thoughts on the recent summer seminar on Access/ibility in Digital Publishing at WVU, which I was fortunate enough to attend along with Melanie and about 20 other scholars. By way of introduction, I am the Librarian for Agriculture, Natural Resources, Design, and Extension at West Virginia University’s Evansdale Library. I attended the seminar in part because I am co-chairing a task force that is charged with re-thinking WVU Libraries’ digital presence in the 21st century, and I would like to educate myself on how we may build in accessibility from the ground up as we design new services and re-vision old ones. I also wanted to attend because I am generally interested in the topic, and yet I feel I know very little about it. I did not study accessibility concerns in any depth when I was in graduate school (2011-2012), and since that time my self-education has consisted mostly of occasional readings and conversations.

Like Melanie, I am definitely still trying to assimilate all that I learned from the other attendees. I was very grateful that, while librarians were certainly in the minority of attendees, the library was never very far from any of our thoughts during the seminar. First of all, it was really great to have the seminar located in the library space. I think just walking through the stacks each morning on our way to our meeting room served as a reminder to all attendees that the library as an institution has a great role to play in accessibility concerns. Also, kudos to Cheryl Ball and the other librarians in the room who pointed out opportunities for partnerships between librarians, faculty, and campus technology staff and also for addressing concerns that are perhaps unique to the library context.

Having said all that, I will provide a quick summary of my major take-aways from the seminar: Continue reading

Date and location announced for 2016 Library Publishing Forum

It’s time to mark your calendars, because we have a place and time for next year’s Library Publishing Forum! It will be held May 17-19, 2016, at the University of North Texas (in Denton, TX), in conjunction with the annual UNT Open Access Symposium (May 20-21). You may notice that we have staked out three days for the Forum this time, up from two in 2014 and 2015. The program committee is still in the early stages of planning, but I believe the idea is to have workshops or other preconference activities on the 17th.  A call for proposals will go out in early November of this year, so stay tuned.

If you are new to the Forum, here’s some background info:

The Library Publishing Forum brings together representatives from libraries engaged in (or considering) publishing initiatives to define and address major questions and challenges; to identify and document collaborative opportunities; to strengthen and promote this community of practice; and to advance this vibrant subfield of academic publishing.

We welcome participants from a broad, international spectrum of academic libraries, as well as groups that collaborate with libraries to publish scholarly works including the digital humanities. You do not need to be a member of the LPC to attend.

Please read the full announcement on the LPC site.

Access/ibility in Digital Publishing: Summer Seminar at WVU

West Virginia mountains, blue sky and clouds

West Virginia mountains. Image by flickr user arvisbest, licensed under CC BY.

Last week I attended an interesting seminar on digital publishing at West Virginia University. It was organized by Cheryl Ball, the long-time editor of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogyand sponsored by the Department of English and the WVU Libraries. Among other things, the seminar was meant to inform work on the new Vega Academic Publishing System, an open source software platform that will support publication of media-rich scholarly work.There were about 20 attendees, including scholars of rhetoric and disability studies, publishers and librarians. Over four days, in a loose, unconference-y format, we pooled our collective knowledge about publishing, Open Access, access for individuals with disabilities, and digital preservation and sustainability. We shared projects and theories, taught each other practical skills, and identified areas where more attention is needed.

I wore a lot of hats during the seminar: librarian, open access advocate, digital publisher, and journal editor. The closest I came to ‘presenting’ something, however, was an overview of library publishing. I shared my understanding of how publishing in libraries came about, what its goals are, and what it tends to look like. Given the focus of the seminar, I also included my thoughts on the accessibility challenges of library-published content – namely that we often rely on open source and out-of-the-box publishing platforms and tend to publish in PDF. Library publishing is a very small subset of the scholarly publishing world, but I think it makes a nice case study, because it so closely resembles a lot of journal publishing in the humanities and social sciences – shoestring operations relying heavily on volunteer labor. I also chimed in periodically throughout the week on OA and archiving-related issues, and asked lots of pragmatic, librarian-style questions.

I’m still trying to assimilate what I learned into a set of useful takeaways that I can share. One thing I can say for sure is that, even within the constraints of platform and resources, there are things we can do to make the work we publish more accessible if we make it a priority. I will also say that I think that the library publishing community needs to take a closer look at accessibility as an issue that impacts everything we do. In two years of participating in the Library Publishing Coalition, I don’t recall seeing it brought up in any venue. The seminar group is putting together proposals for an edited volume and a handbook that should serve as resources for those working in this space. In the meantime, I will be thinking about ways to promote dialogue within the community of library publishers. I would like to see – for example – a workshop at next year’s Library Publishing Forum or an LPC webinar, so if you are interested in working on either of those things, let me know. Closer to home, I’ve invited the other librarians who attended the seminar to guest post on this blog with their reflections and takeaways, so stay tuned!

Dotting i’s and crossing t’s

Brace yourselves, fellow library publishers, because I’m about to call us onto the carpet.

I’m working on a research project where I look at the copyright information on library-published journals to see: a.) if it’s there, and b.) what it can tell me about our general practices around rights. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s based on a similar study I did of digital library collections years ago.) I’m using the institutions represented in the Library Publishing Directory as my sample, and I’m only up to the C’s, but I’m already starting to notice some interesting trends. I’m not going to tell you about them now, because that would spoil the surprise, but I have also noticed some things outside the scope of my research that I wanted to ruminate on, publicly. Before I do so, I should set the stage a bit:

First: Library publishing is like the underdog in your sports movie of choice – we do a lot with very little. We work hard to make scholarship accessible, and we do it without much in the way of funding, or staff. The editors we work with are usually working on a volunteer basis, and often filling multiple roles – editor-in-chief, managing editor, copyeditor, layout editor, person who goes for coffee, etc.

Second: I’m a firm believer in ‘good enough.’ Things really don’t have to be perfect, and anyone who dismisses your journal because a few copyediting errors crept in obviously does not have a realistic understanding of how academic publishing works. We could each publish one journal, which we would lavish with all the care and devotion of new parents, and it would be shiny and perfect. Or, we could set up platforms and processes and policies that allow us to support any number of journals. Will each one be perfect? No, but they will be good enough. We’re librarians and we have many users to think about – typically, we go for option #2.

None of this is news to any of you. I’m only saying it because I don’t want you to take what I’m about to say next the wrong way. What I’m about to say is:

We could maybe do a little better quality control with regards to the basic information that should appear on a journal website.

In looking at our publications, I’ve come across some pretty glaring omissions. For example:

  • A journal site that did not name the editor of the journal. The entire editorial board was there, and I eventually deduced the editor’s identity based on who had been writing the introductions, but if there was a masthead, I couldn’t find it.
  • Issues published without a date on them anywhere. I’m trying to limit my sample to journals that have published something within the last three years. For more than one journal, I honestly can’t tell if I should include it, because the one or two issues that appear are identified only as ‘Volume 1, Issue 1’, and there is no indication of when they appeared.
  • OJS or Bepress boilerplate text left in place. Often that’s fine – it’s boilerplate for a reason. Sometimes, though, it contradicts other information on the site – a sure-fire recipe for confusing readers, who probably won’t look at it and say, “Oh, that’s the standard statement that comes with the software – I can disregard it.”

I should also say that I am not immune to these kinds of problems. I’m sure if I were brave enough to over our journals right now, I would find omissions, and mistakes, and all kinds of weird stuff. It happens for the reasons I listed above, and because we are often just providing the platform and leaving the editors to their own devices, and because most of us have librarian training, not editor training, and we just don’t always think of these things. I don’t ever expect us to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. However, I think we – as a community of practice – could probably do a bit better. In fact, if we are going to take on the role of publisher for the journals we work with, it’s probably fair to say that the QC buck stops with us; if we don’t catch these things, no one else will.

So this is me, thinking about what would help me ensure that the journals I publish are meeting some minimum standards for presentation and description. I’m picturing a tool or a checklist that lays out what should appear in a journal, and at what level (journal website, individual issue, article). If you have something like this that you use internally, maybe you share it on the Library Publishing Coalition’s Shared Documentation Portal. If such a thing doesn’t exist, I think it would make a great project for an LPC committee or task force to tackle.

What do you all think?

Library Publishing Forum: Keynote speakers and submission deadline reminder

The keynote speakers for the 2015 Library Publishing Forum (March 29-30, Portland, OR) have been announced, and I think they’re going to be excellent. The opening keynote will be given by Dr. Martin Paul Eve from the University of Lincoln in the UK (and founder of the Open Library of Humanities), and the closing by Dr. John Willinsky from Stanford University (and Simon Frazer University, where he directs the Public Knowledge Project). Each is a significant player in the world of new-model scholarly publishing, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say to a group of library-publishers.

We are also creeping up on the December 31st deadline for submissions to the Forum, so get yours in soon!

Dr. Martin Paul Eve

Dr. John Willinsky

CFP: 2nd Annual Library Publishing Forum

It’s time to start working on your submissions for the 2nd annual Library Publishing Forum! For those of you who weren’t able to attend the first one last March in Kansas City…it was an excellent conference. The first Forum was made up almost entirely of invited proposals. This year, we are opening it up to the community, so show us what you’ve got! (Side note: You do NOT have to be at an LPC member institution to attend or present.) If the date and location look familiar, that’s because it is co-located (but not officially affiliated with) ACRL. I hope to see you there!

Date: March 29-30, 2015

Location: Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

Conference Website: http://www.librarypublishing.org/events/lpforum15

We are pleased to announce the second annual Library Publishing Forum and issue a call for presentation proposals. This year’s theme is Creating and Supporting Sustainable Publishing Programs and we invite proposals for a variety of formats and relevant topics. Please see the full Call for Proposals for details.

This event will bring together representatives from libraries engaged in (or considering) publishing initiatives to define and address major questions and challenges; to identify and document collaborative opportunities; to strengthen and promote this community of practice; and to advance this vibrant subfield of academic publishing.

We encourage library publishers (and friends of library publishing) to submit proposals and/or attend the Forum, including both administrators and technical staff charged with this important scholarly communications function. The Library Publishing Forum will include representatives from a broad, international spectrum of academic library backgrounds, as well as groups that collaborate with libraries to publish scholarly works including the digital humanities. You do not need to be a member of the LPC to attend this event.

Please check the website for registration information.