Open Scholarly Publishing and Libraries: Putting Conviviality into the Workflow for Monographs

Libraries and Open Access Dec 8, 2016

The immaturity of open access monograph publishing compared with that of its siblings of journal and article publishing is well known. This is in spite of the evidence that “open access monograph publishing could indeed offer researchers new opportunities” (Collins et al., 2015), broaden, and deepen the impact of such scholarship.

However, for many producers and end users of scholarly resources, the invisible complexities within the mechanics of open publication problematise this; it is not uncommon for libraries to need show the value and engagement of their service to the variant and nascent workflows for open publication, indexing, and discoverability, and this can be difficult where the complexities and distinctions for distinct scholarly outputs are not well understood.

Outside the research-intensive institutions, where a praxis of openness has been assisted through funding attributed through historic (institutional) grant successes to support open publication- particularly in terms of open access to journal articles- the opportunity to develop a culture of open scholarship can pose some real challenges. A persistent issue is where extant modes of legacy publication retain their prestige and authority. This is amplified where exorbitant ‘processing’ charges charged per publication serve as a material barrier to gold open access publishing.

In disciplines where monographs are a preferred scholarly output, the uptake of open practices has been hindered by these costs. This has helped to reproduce of the status quo for such scholarly communications, where historic power is maintained, even though the “removal of access restrictions […] would again admit the curious, rather than the orthodox, to the alchemist’s vault”. (Illich, 1973).

In terms of building prestige for open access monographs and to challenge the status quo, a process of ‘whitelisting’ through the DOAB, could help the curious and the experts to manage their perceptions of ‘risk’ when investing in such arenas. However, the extent to which administrators, library services, and publishers- rather than researchers- are responsible for shifting scholarly practices is debateable. Perhaps a more appropriate framework for understanding our roles in opening scholarship is by appreciating how such agents liaise with scholars and actively engage with the infrastructure and workflows that support of open access publication and open access to research.

Where scholars use non-institutional means of publishing and self-archiving, such as within subject repositories and social networks, there are logistical challenges for libraries to ensure that such content is accessible through institutional discovery layers and the infrastructure maintained by library services. It is not uncommon for researchers’ practices in this domain to develop a gulf of expertise surrounding the legal rights of scholarly communications and the licencing agreements to which they are subject.

Here lies an opportunity for libraries to develop their capacity to engage with open monograph publication by advocating around areas that we commonly service. For example, the management of resource licences for scholarly resources are already within the domain of the library. Here, building our relationships with open access publishers such as OBP helps to develop communities with greater awareness and knowledge. After all, “It is of critical importance that we continue to convey an upbeat, positive message about the value of open access to authors […] There is a real danger that authors lose sight of the good things OA can do for them, and a risk that it becomes perceived as a pointless bureaucratic exercise.” (Tate, 2016).

As Hoffman (2016) notes, the role of academic librarians and libraries is changing as we must engage “as true partners […] partnering to share information and services”. By operating in collaboration with publishers that are devising innovative ways for scholars and institutions to engage with open publication that is meaningful for their disciplines, libraries can show their value in the open publishing-discoverability-use nexus. We can help demonstrate our value by collaborating in research and publication processes in the pursuit of enhancing research excellence and impact.

OBP are garnering a strong reputation for rigid, high quality processes in the commissioning, reviewing, and production of monographs, and they are attracting authors that have published with some of the most prestigious scholarly publishers, and delivering an “absolutely exemplary” (Eve, 2016) experience for their authors. I believe that libraries can help to deliver on their convivial premise by supporting researchers and their institutions through advocating nascent, divergent publishing practices that interoperate with our technical infrastructure and by liaising with researchers about the cultural and professional benefits that open scholarship conveys.

In the realm of open access publishing, and it’s the current attempt to develop sustainable open monograph publishing models, the opportunities for libraries exist, but only exist if we see these as collaborative processes. Such processes should not feel particularly alien to libraries. As Illich surmises, “[a]t its best the library is the prototype of a convivial tool” (1973), but that in the neoliberal context, “[t]he skewed balance of learning explains why the radical monopoly of commodities has become imperceptible”. (Illich, 1973).

Eve, Martin. (2016). Why Open Book Publishers for my next book:

Hoffman, S. (2016). Dynamic research support for academic libraries. London: Facet

Illich, I. (1973). Tools for conviviality:

Tate, D. (2016). ‘Implementing open access across a large university: a case study’ in Hoffman, S. (ed). (2016). Dynamic research support. London: Facet

Collins, E., Milloy, C., Stone, G., Baker, J., Eve, M. & Priego, E. (2015). Guide to open access monograph publishing for arts, humanities and social science researchers. OAPEN-UK project:


Kevin Sanders

Kevin Sanders is the Research Support Librarian at St Mary's University, Twickenham