Friday, August 2, 2013

Thoughts about librarians as publishers

This blog post is partially a reaction to a webinar I attended recently on the topic of librarians as publishers. The webinar, put on by the Ontario Council of University Libraries and the Public Knowledge Project featured three university librarians sharing their experience and knowledge from being responsible or library projects in hosting journals (See description of webinar at

While the webinar got me thinking more deeply about the topic of the roles that libraries currently play and can play in the future as publishers, I must mention however, that I have been thinking about this topic prior to 2013. However this event has motivated me to express some of my preliminary thought here in writing. As such, below I will outline five (5) current and future roles for libraries as publishers based on what I have observed and know about libraries:

  1. Journal hosting - was the one role that the webinar focused on. his include hosting journals for faculty, academic societies and even for student societies. I especially liked the idea of the library hosting graduate and undergraduate student academic journals.
  2. Monograph hosting - This too was mentioned in the webinar as a logical extension of journal hosting and possible future expansion opportunity for the university library with experience in journal hosting.
  3. Bibliographies of a university's research - This one comes from my own observation of the research and development bibliography developed by the University of the West Indies Mona Campus Library entitled Research for Development Vols. 2: A Bibliography of Staff Publications 1998-2002. Unfortunately, I cannot find a copy on the Web to link too, but only a  catalogue entry in WorldCat. This initiative from my memory has a foreword that indicates the importance of the library as playing a role in disseminating information about university faculty's research to the wider public.
  4. Bibliographic databases: This a logical extension of publishing bibliographies of a university's research. This too has been done by the University of the West Indies Mona Campus Library through the Mona Online Research Database (MORD).
  5. Out-of-print books and previously unpublished historical works or manuscripts: For this, I foresee librarians especially managing special collections, getting forewords from knowledgeable faculty as well as contributing their own forewords about manuscripts or other out-of-print works that are within the library's special collection. these can be published as e-books or as print copies on demand, using print on demand technologies such as book espresso machines. Szkolar (2012)'s blog post explores this issue of book espresso machines and how libraries can use these to enter in publishing.
Discussion (or viewpoint):

Academic libraries in particular have the options of becoming publishers of e-books, e-journals, databases as well as print on demand resources. Public libraries too can extend themselves into these opportunities by courting established authors and even local authors to let the library host their works and offer print on demand with book machines. A further even radical proposal is that libraries can even bypass copyright collecting agencies in paying fees directly to the authors for the books/resources that were downloaded and printed (especially the printed ones).

Hence, libraries could naturally extend into a royalty management role, that publishers currently occupy, but as a nonprofit institution that seeks to be equitable in balancing the need for access to information with the right of the author to benefit economically from his or her intellectual work. In order words, I am radically considering the opportunity for libraries to replace publishers and copyright licensing and collecting agencies. After all, publishers and such agencies are actually middle men between libraries and the author. Why not eliminate the middle men, and allow authors to interact directly with their readers through libraries, similar to how self-publishing platforms like Amazon also allows the author to eliminate the need for working with a publisher.


Szkolar, D. (2012, April 4). Espresso Book Machines: Should Libraries Offer On Demand Publishing?  Information Space [blog]. Syracuse iSchool. Retrieved at:

1 comment:

  1. Just discovered Self-Publishing At Windsor Public Library. So I blogged about this, but wasn't aware that a public library was already involved in this.