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Library perspective: balancing investments and sustainability in Open Access

The Opening the Future team interviewed Annie Johnson at U of Delaware Library 

Published onApr 11, 2022
Library perspective: balancing investments and sustainability in Open Access
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The COPIM Opening the Future team recently caught up with Annie Johnson (formerly of Temple University Libraries, now at the University of Delaware Library) for a Q&A on balancing investments and sustainability in Open Access. 

Annie Johnson was until this month the Assistant Director for Open Publishing Initiatives and Scholarly Communications at Temple University Libraries and Press in Philadelphia. In this position, she led initiatives within the Libraries and Press to advance open access and open education. Beginning in April, she will be the new Associate University Librarian for Publishing, Preservation, Research, and Digital Access at the University of Delaware Library, Museums, and Press, where she will direct the Library’s programs, policy, and outreach in the areas of publishing, scholarly communication, and open access. 

The team at COPIM recently shared your CommonPlace blog post “Balancing Investments in Open Access: Sustainability and Innovation”. We found it really interesting to see evidence of libraries grappling with how to evaluate the proliferation of new OA models. What has the response been to your article?

One response was that Sharla Lair and Curtis Brundy edited a series of articles in CommonPlace, called “The Global Transition to Open.” It was gratifying to see that other libraries are also struggling with some of the issues I mentioned in my piece–how to keep up with all of the new open publishing models, and how to choose which initiatives to support. One potential way to combat this, as Marco Tullney and others noted, is to develop established workflows and evaluation criteria. I thought Alexia Hudson-Ward made a particularly compelling case that DEIA should be a core component of any such criteria. 

I’m also intrigued by the fact that some libraries seem to have dedicated, separate budget lines for supporting open scholarly initiatives. At the same time, I’m not convinced that having a dedicated budget line would really make the decision making process and administrative issues easier for us at Temple, as Demmy Verkebe says it does at KU Leuven. And honestly, I worry that separating open from the rest of collections might prevent us from seeing the big picture around how exactly this transition should happen. 

Temple University has its own press. What way - if at all - does this Press help to further the OA aims of Temple? 

Personally, I see Temple University Press as a key part of our overall OA strategy. Currently, we don’t have the money to fund an OA book series through the Press–as MIT Libraries does, for example,–but it’s certainly something that would be great to do in the future. In the meantime, we started a joint Libraries/Press imprint, North Broad Press, which publishes open textbooks written by Temple faculty. I also work closely with Temple University Press editors to identify funding opportunities to make Press books open access. Finally, we’ve been thinking about how to make other types of Press content (data, supplementary files) openly available via our institutional repository. 

The MIT D2O seems like terrific value for money. Many of the smaller university presses can’t compete as they don’t have such a large backlist to offer. How do libraries evaluate the smaller offers? What are the main features you are looking for in any OA offer?

We subscribe to MIT’s D2O through our local consortium PALCI, although it was an individual decision to do so. The decision to subscribe to D2O was relatively easy because we already bought a lot of MIT Press books. So while the cost was a bit more than we had been paying, it wasn’t substantially more. 

Although we now have a set of evaluation criteria we use when looking at open publishing initiatives, I have noticed that our group discussions around what to support often come back to the content itself: what are these books about? Will our faculty and students read them? As a result, I would like to see smaller presses do more to talk up the books they are publishing: why they are important and unique, who their authors are, and why we should support them…especially if our library isn’t currently buying them. Currently, I find that I have to do this leg work myself, which can be quite time consuming. Bonus points if you can get a faculty member from our institution to ask us to support your initiative. 

You gave a joint presentation with a collections colleague at The Charleston Conference 2021 on “The Open Road: Mapping Your Library’s Path Through the OA Publishing Landscape." Do you perceive a divide between Schol Comms and Collections departments in libraries - and, if not, what might be the difference at her library? 

I have an excellent relationship with our collections team, including our head of collections Brian Schoolar and our collections strategist librarian Karen Kohn. They have taught me a lot, and I think my ideas about how to best support OA publishing initiatives have become more nuanced thanks to working with them. I’m lucky in that they’re both very receptive to using the collections budget in new ways–and they value the knowledge and expertise around OA that I bring to the discussion. 

I think any divide between scholarly communication and collections is largely due to the fact that these areas are usually separate departments within a library. If there’s no larger vision for OA within an institution, it’s easy to stay siloed. 

Where do you see the state of OA monograph funding and publishing in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years, I hope to see a greater diversity of models for OA monograph funding, and in particular, a model which will allow more small university presses to make their books open access. I am not sure exactly what it will look like–but I have recently been thinking about a kind of exchange with libraries, where university presses could post books they plan to publish and would like to make OA–and libraries could look at the list and choose to support individual books each year based on how the book relates back to their local collections or faculty specialties. Perhaps something similar to LYRASIS’s Open Access Community Investment Program but for books? To get to where we want to be we’ll need more robust information for each new initiative so they can be evaluated and where possible improved.

I do worry about the consequences of the books at only the most well-resourced presses being made open access. How are we simply reinscribing traditional notions of whose voice matters and whose does not? We cannot forget about small university presses. 

 

Thank you for your time in answering our questions Annie, we value the thoughts of our librarian colleagues as we grapple with the challenges of OA monograph publishing that maintains a healthy publishing and library ecosystem. COPIM is developing a ‘one stop shop’ concept and will soon be launching the Open Book Collective platform where a lot of the transaction issues around open monographs will be streamlined. We hope this will contain robust information and become a useful tool for librarians around the world - Scholarly Comms as well as Collections - to help them find, evaluate and subscribe to OA monograph deals and initiatives. 

Best wishes in your new role!


Opening the Future is a collective subscription model that, through its membership scheme, makes library funds go further: achieving the dual objectives of increasing collections and supporting Open Access. Put simply, library members pay a small annual fee to get DRM-free, unlimited access to a selection of a publisher's backlist, with perpetual access after three years; the membership revenue is used by the publisher solely to produce new OA monographs. For more information and/or to sign up to one or both of our partner publishers running the scheme, go to openingthefuture.net



Image credit: ‘Sunlight Through The Trees’ by Darren Bockman on Unsplash.com

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