University Presses and Libraries forming a New Collaborative

by | Oct 25, 2021 | 0 comments

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By Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Hub

On Wednesday, September 29, I was invited to sit in on a community meeting between the University Press Library (UPL) stakeholders, hosted by De Gruyter.  The UPL is first initiative of its kind, consisting of 19 university presses and 70 libraries and 9 consortia forming a coalition with the goal of bridging the gap between libraries and publishers and encouraging other presses and libraries to act more collaboratively. There were 139 attendees present, including 95 libraries and 44 university press representatives.

The first presenter was Steve Fallon, Vice President, Americas and Strategic Partnerships at De Gruyter, who went over the agenda and made it clear that the intent was not to sell or pitch a product, but to foster open communication between stakeholders; a day of dialog, so to speak. He went over some of the history of the pilot program, as well as some of the challenges that both University Presses and Libraries face that the UPL seeks to address:

This pilot program led to the UPL collaborative after five years, proof that “collaboration can lead to change,” Steve said. He also covered some previous UP and Library interactions that led to the formation of the UPL, including a headline from the Charleston Hub (“University Press eBook Acquisition: A Q&A Session with Stakeholders – Plus more ATG Conferences, Meetings & Webinars”) as well as a paper from the 2013 Charleston Conference Proceedings from a plenary session titled “University Presses and Academic Libraries Demystified: A Conversation”:

Next, Dave Celano, Sales Director, Americas, at De Gruyter, spoke on the present impact of the UPL on stakeholders, including a time for open discussion. The discussion of the present impact included the UPL model, including unlimited, DRM free access with perpetual rights and more, and the C.A.R.E. quality standards of the program:

They used Mentimeter polls to ask the audience several questions and generate word clouds with the responses. The first set of questions was directed at the University Presses who were UPL stakeholders. Question 1: What are three words that come to mind when assessing the UPL’s impact on your Press? Top answers included sustainable, impactful, significant. Question 2: What percentage of your annual revenue for all products comes from academic libraries (your best guess)? Answers ranged from less than 10% up to 70%.

Then the first question was directed to Libraries and Consortia groups: “What are three words that come to mind when assessing the UPL’s impact on your library/consortia?” Top answers included access, accessibility, value, DRM free, stability, and convenient. This question generated a lot of conversation in the attendee chat from participating libraries who spoke about the benefits of the program. Kathleen Folger from the University of Michigan made a comment here that it was a point of pride for their library and a good marketing opportunity for them to be able to say they have all of these collections.

The next question was again directed at UP’s: “What three words come to mind when considering the challenges in the institutional market for your Press?” Top answers included budgets, pricing resistance, sustainability, resources, and sales models. There was a comment made here from Kim Williams at Princeton University Press about how incredibly helpful it is to hear directly from the libraries on these topics. Complexity is a big problem for them, with multiple 3rd party agreements and even small policy changes causing issues downstream. It’s important to have a clear, concise message to all libraries and this collaborative helps them achieve that.

Question for librarians/consortia groups: “What three words that come to mind when considering challenges you face when acquiring UP content?” Top answers were budget/pricing, sustainability, DRM, metadata, licensing, and scattered/multiple platforms, or “platform proliferation.”

Michael Zeoli, Senior Advisor Publishing Strategy at De Gruyter, closed this portion of the program with a look towards future challenges:

There was much discussion and feedback on the problems and challenges portion of his discussion, opening the floor on “balancing publisher and library requirements in a shared environment.” Steve Fallon asked, “How do we see these things through and address these problems together?” He posed another poll question for whether there was a demand for more meetings such as these, “Should we have more frequent, ongoing collaboration among UPL stakeholders to identify and addresses shared challenges?” 97% of respondents indicated “Yes.”

Brian Bishop, VP of Digital Transformation at De Gruyter, shared some technical details of their new website at Degruyter.com, as well as some of the strategy behind the changes and the results of their improvements.

We at the Charleston Hub look forward to hearing more from this initiative and have requested an interview to provide further context and information to our readers.

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