Lousy Publishers!

Peter Brantley (whose interesting thoughts have been blogged about here before) has an interesting post on university presses, scholarly communication, and what it is that libraries don’t get when it comes to publishing. Putting it bluntly, he says “I am coming to the conclusion that librarians are likely to be lousy publishers.”

The publishing work flow is intense: it requires significant hand- and thought-work. Editors don’t sit around at their desks waiting for pretty, tightly-formed, well-argued drafts to come floating by. There is a lot of work in finding, attracting, grooming talent; encouraging the actual writing; producing coherent drafts; editing; presentation; administration; rights; marketing; and distribution. Some of these things are made easier by Web 2.0 and social computing, but in most cases, the workload has only increased, at least in the short term…. Not everything is going to be improved by being processed through a collaborative, social mill. The best things are always going to take somebody’s care, and love.

Peter’s excited about the possibilities – but it’s not going to be easy. “If either of these sets of institutions are to participate in a solution – libraries and presses – it will require serious, long-term, fundamental re-invention of their essence. There’s pain there; it won’t be avoided. And we’re not there yet.”

Comments are worth reading, too – do publishers do a good job of publishing? are the libraries that are involved in digital publishing succeeding, and how does what they do differ from the old model? what are the costs of the “human-factor” intangibles such as building a list, acquiring important books, keeping an educated ear to the ground?

I’d love to hear from organizations that have developed healthy library/university press partnerships. What’s working? What’s challenging? What do we need to know about each other?

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

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