How can publishers help academic librarians? Let's all count the ways!

The STM Publishing News Group is a professional news site for the publishing industry which bring together a range of science, technology and medicine publishing stakeholders with the idea that they'll be able to share news amongst themselves as well as beyond the publishing world to the broader constituency of academics and librarians and others.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to see a post with the words, "How can publishers help librarians?" in the title? I was a little disappointed to find the entire title of the post is "How can publishers help librarians? Cambridge University Press leads the way with a metadata revolution."

Nothing wrong with metadata revolutions, of course, I'm all for them. But the promise of those first few words lead me to believe that perhaps the post had some sort of loftier revolutionary purpose in mind. That somehow publishers were finally considering ways that they could be truly helpful to academic librarians as a whole, and by extension, to our constituents of students, faculty and staff at our institutions.

Sadly, since I'm not a metadata librarian, I was disappointed. (And even if I were a metadata librarian, isn't state-of-the-art metadata part of what we pay publishers for in the first place, not some sort of "revolutionary" extra?)

But that doesn't mean I can't dream big dreams. Nor does it mean that you, my faithful readers, can't dream big dreams.

The original post begins with the line, "It’s no secret that library budgets have been slashed in recent years, and the burdens of trying to do more with less are growing for librarians and information professionals." Which is certainly very true. However, not one single idea in the rest of the post has anything to do with helping librarians with their budgets. Almost as if helping us with metadata issues will distract from those other kinds of problems.

Let's see if we can't come up with some ways that publishers could help librarians with those other kinds of problems, ones to do with budgets and licenses and sustainability and openness and fairness. I have a few ideas, of course, but I'd love it if all of you could pitch in with some more in the comments.

  • So many of libraries' budget problems are due to publishers' unsustainable pricing increases. How about you help librarians by stopping those pricing practices.
  • Stop over-reacting to "predatory publishers" as a way of distracting from your own far more serious predatory pricing behaviour
  • Hey, rational and sustainable ebook licensing models. For public libraries too, please.
  • Non Disclosure Agreements are bad for libraries and librarians. Stop requiring or even suggesting them.
  • Stop playing chicken with Big Deal negotiations as a way to pit librarians and their researcher communities against each other.
  • And a big one here, why not partner and engage completely and wholeheartedly with all the various scholarly communications stakeholder groups to build a fairer and more open scholarly communications ecosystem.
  • Your answer here

What are your ideas and suggestions? Certainly this topic would be a good one for an upcoming Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting.

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