Friday, June 15, 2007

Librarians' Knowledge of Publishing

Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation, recently made a provocative posting to his personal blog in which he argues that librarians often have little knowledge about the work of publishers, particularly university presses. He writes of the "serious disconnect" between the world of libraries and the world of publishers, labeling it "a potentially crippling one." It is an interesting posting that contains more than a modicum of truth. Still, I believe that Brantley is being overly harsh on librarians and, more specifically, misrepresenting how they view publishers. While librarians might very well, as he suggests, be "lousy publishers", this would more likely be the case with respect to the traditional paradigm/understanding of publisher and publishing, and particularly the business of university presses.

But librarians don't want to take over this traditional publishing world. On the other hand, while many librarians see a continuing role for university presses, at least for the near future, in the dissemination of scholarship, they are increasingly pondering the raison d’ĂȘtre of major commercial publishers whose business practices seem to run counter to the optimal diffusion of scholarship, presumably a primary rationale for their existence. Surely this rationale should be more than solely accruing exorbitant profits? Anyway, librarians don't want to become publishers. They merely want to facilitate a better, more egalitarian system of disseminating the results of research and scholarship. And increasingly such a system has little to do with traditional publishing. Certainly librarians, as Brantley desires, should know more about the complex work of a university press. However, that is a world that may soon end.

Peter Brantley's blog possing is accessible at

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