Collating perspectives from a variety of regions and stakeholder positions, our workshop surfaced a number of crucial statements and questions to consider in developing a hub that would bring together open access presses and institutional libraries.
Through our conversations, a number of benefits and concerns arose around a hub for open access publishers and libraries. Publishers cited advantages in easing transitions to not-for-profit models as well as increasing efficiency and time spent on building and maintaining relationships with libraries. With the assistance of a hub, smaller publishers would feel more confident to transition to a not-for-profit model and reduce the resources needed to communicate and engage with libraries individually. At the same time, small presses expressed concerns and uncertainty in the market forces that would dictate support within a hub, as well as issues regarding their eligibility to join and ensuring homogeneity would not be imposed among presses. Could a multiplicity of approaches, workflows, and outputs be supported in a modular and contextually appropriate manner? How might such a proposed system avoid becoming a singular solution that would force everyone to bend their practices in compliance?
A predominant concern throughout the workshop involved standardization of organisational processes between libraries and publishers. Establishing and fostering relationships with libraries can be costly for smaller publishers. Designing a standardized workflow that takes into consideration each library’s policies and strategies would help both sides have a cost-effective, efficient collaboration and reduce decision making of individual institutions. It would also allow libraries to support OA holistically and not focus on individual book titles. Lyrasis, for example, is piloting a standardization process which if successful could come to scale. However, there are challenges regarding the number of staff needed to design these processes and in managing to create a workflow used in an international level. Can we reconcile the tension between systematizing this process and providing space for diversity?
Another focal point of the workshop was the need for more coherent funding models that support niche work and take into consideration smaller organisations. Shifting funding towards publishers rather than individual book titles or tool design would help smaller publishers feel more secure and evolve. Moreover, including new types of criteria, regarding book types, quality, and topics, when granting financial support might reward innovative ideas.
Another important point raised repeatedly during breakout sessions concerned the issue of culture change. It is increasingly clear that the challenge in facilitating relationships between OA presses and libraries is not in convincing librarians to support such presses - they are already entrenched in matters surrounding scholarly publishing and working to support open access. Instead, presses and librarians must collaborate to bring about culture change at institutions: encourage faculty to publish OA, inform students of issues around academic monographs, engage with new forms of monographs and move beyond administration to invest resources toward open projects.
In addition to collaborative library support, our discussions broached a number of concerns around digital archival processes for open access monographs. In particular, we asked who should ultimately be responsible for archiving, given the variety of stakeholders along development of a book. We also discussed a need for rethinking archival methods as digital archives to date are susceptible to multiple forms of obsolescence such as link rot, multimedia evolutions, and metadata discord.
As a whole, the Cambridge workshop served as an important space for framing major issues around the support and sustenance of open access books. We are grateful to all of the participants for joining us in this conversation.