The University Record, March 25, 2002

Library establishes scholarly publishing office to aid authors

By Wanda Monroe
University Library

“Publish or perish” has been the credo of educators and researchers in institutions around the world for years. But with ever-changing technology, rising costs for scholarly publication and distribution, not to mention increasingly restrictive copyright agreements imposed by commercial publishers on their authors, how will publishing survive?

In Jan. 2001, the University Library established the Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO) to offer the community alternative venues for publishing. An outgrowth of the University Library’s tradition of ensuring the integrity, accessibility and longevity of all forms of information resources, SPO assists members of the academy in addressing the many issues surrounding the dissemination of scholarly information. The office provides the University and the greater academic community with cost-effective tools and methods for electronic distribution of scholarly content.

“The Library, with its well-established stewardship of output and its intense engagement in questions of intellectual property, long-term retention and archiving, as well as its general support of scholarship in all forms, is ideally poised to provide publishing services in an academic context,” says Maria Bonn, senior associate librarian and head of the Scholarly Publishing Office. “It is our goal to support authorial and editorial control of the production of the finest scholarship, and to keep the costs of publications as low as possible.”

The SPO specializes both in creating new electronic publications (those that are “born” digital and have never been issued as printed materials) and in developing and enhancing electronic versions of conventional print publications. Whether an SPO publication is digital or is derived from print, the final product offers users and authors capabilities designed to serve the scholarly community, including editorial and referee tools, publication schedules no longer tied to the traditional journal volume/issue concept, and the ability to incorporate a variety of multimedia elements. The SPO also develops mechanisms for publication and distribution of scholarly digital projects (such as scholarly databases or Web sites with significant scholarly content) that move beyond the traditional forms of publication into new forms of scholarly expression.

A little more than a year after the launch of the Scholarly Publishing Office, 25 electronic publications are completed or are under development, with most available to the public freely over the Internet. SPO authors and clients include U-M faculty, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Michigan Ethnic Heritage Studies Center, and several staff from U-M departments and colleges. Publications and projects range from converting the back files of journals to digital format, to creating multimedia exhibits featuring rare materials, to developing new online scholarly resources.

One of the first projects undertaken by the SPO was the conversion to electronic text of the University’s scholarly and literary journal, Michigan Quarterly Review. The site, www.hti.umich.edu/m/mqr, is fully searchable and retrievable, and now includes all content published in the journal since its founding in 1962.

“The Philosophers’ Imprint,” a new publication edited by U-M philosophy professors Stephen Darwall and J. David Velleman, was the first refereed resource created by the SPO ( www.philosophersimprint.org.) The mission of the Imprint is “to promote a future in which funds currently spent on journal subscriptions are redirected to the dissemination of scholarship for free, via the Internet.” As Stephen Darwall points out, “journals like the ‘Imprint’ will help ensure that quality scholarship is broadly available to readers anywhere, not just at the dwindling number of libraries that can absorb rapidly rising costs of traditional serials.”

For more information about the SPO visit the Web at http://spo.umdl.umich.edu/. To schedule a meeting to discuss a project, contact Maria Bonn, mbonn@umich.edu, or Brian Rosenblum, brianlee@umich.edu.