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Report Explores Revitalization and Sustainability of Library Publishing

Contact: Kathlin Smith


Washington, DC, July 31, 2015-A new report from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), The Once and Future Publishing Library, explores the revitalization of library publishing and its possible future, and examines elements that influence the success and sustainability of library publishing initiatives.

Authors Ann Okerson, of the Center for Research Libraries, and Alex Holzman, of Alex Publishing Solutions, trace the history of library publishing and factors that have transformed the publishing landscape, including changes in technology and the publishing economy, a desire for open access, and the challenges of balancing institutional priorities. The authors describe several significant library-press collaborations forged over the past two decades. Although some remain robust, others have been discontinued for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a sustainable business plan.

The authors conducted a survey to better understand how current library publishing activities are supported financially. They found that more than 90% of respondents rely on a combination of the library budget, funds from the parent institution, and grants; only about 7% charge end users for any of their materials. Ninety-three percent of respondents reported that their parent institution does not require their publishing programs to break even. The authors note that “current library programs seem confident that they are funded sufficiently to maintain what they are doing” but they will require further funding to expand.

The report concludes with a series of lessons learned about publishing initiatives in American academic libraries. They include the importance of leadership, the need to be part of the institutional mission and discourse, the importance of marketing, and the benefits of maintaining a long-term vision “without looking for next-quarter results.” Perhaps most importantly, the authors found no pattern showing which organizational structures are more effective than others in sustaining library publishing. They conclude that “work in library publishing is so diverse and innovative that success is much more a function of the quality of the initial idea and the energy and talent brought to bear on its realization than it is a matter of organizational structure.”

An extensive bibliography as well as detailed results of the library publishing survey are provided as appendixes to the report.

The report is available as a PDF download free of charge at

The report was supported with funding from the Goodall Family Charitable Foundation.

CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It aims to promote forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good.

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