At the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting earlier this month, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coaltion (SPARC) Forum on “Shaping the Landscape of Open Access Publishing: Individually, Locally, and Collectively.” One of the speakers was my friend Chealsye Bowley, Community Manager for Ubiquity Press, a U.K. based open access publisher. Bowley also happens to be a featured “Woman Working In the Open.”
During her talk, Bowley discussed what it means to be a “Community Aligned Service Provider.” Ubiquity, while a for-profit press, works hard to make sure its work, business model, and methods align with the values of its community, namely the scholars and libraries that use its content. Bowley noted, “Many in the academic community are concerned that commercial interests may be fundamentally misaligned with those of academic researchers.”
To combat against that misalignment, Ubiquity has created a Library Advisory Board (LAB) that helps to provide guidance and feedback to ensure services align with library and scholar values. However, unlike many other publisher advisory boards that exist, this one aims to actually and meaningfully incorporate feedback into Ubiquity’s practices. Thus far, based on feedback from the LAB, Ubiquity has initiated plans to make all its underlying code and platforms fully open source by the end of the spring and they are piloting the creation of an open source repository. Ubiquity is finding ways to shift its business model to meet the values of its users while still, well, keeping itself in business. Their thinking seems to be that if they make these important efforts, they can ensure long-lasting, and yes even profitable, relationships with their customers for years to come.
Going beyond the specific Ubiquity model, Bowley, herself a librarian and scholar, went on to discuss the ways that libraries can demand more from their content providers: “Service providers work for libraries, and should do the bulk of the work to align themselves with the communities they serve. . . . [Libraries can and should] be critical of every vendor [and] push back.”
For this librarian and scholar working in the open, Bowley’s presentation was a breath of fresh air and a source of hope for the future. It is possible for vendors and librarians to work together in mutually beneficial, value-directed partnerships. Ubiquity Press provides just one example of how we can get it right.
What’s even better, Bowley’s entire slide deck is available on the new LIS Scholarship Archive (LISSA) (of which Bowley is an advisory board member), an open access platform for sharing library and information science scholarship housed on the Open Science Framework (more about LISSA in a future post, stay tuned!).