a shift in career direction

In over eight years at the University of North Texas, I’ve gone from creating and running a one-man shop for library publishing to leading a team of librarians in public services who serve as subject specialists for various departments and who operate various library services, most of which are aim specifically towards grad students and faculty. I’ve got a great team and extremely supportive supervisor, but outreach services and library instruction have never been my area of interest or expertise. I’m happy to empower a team to carry out this work, but I don’t feel I’m the right person to offer vision in this area. I’ve been pondering a couple of different possible directions for my career—thank you to all who have given me a chance to interview over the years!—but without fully committing myself to a particular direction, I wasn’t able to convince anyone to offer me a job.

So I’m thrilled to announce that beginning in late July I will serve as the first program director for the Opioid Industry Documents Archive, a rapidly growing, massive digital collection of publicly disclosed documents from recent judgments, settlements, and ongoing lawsuits concerning the opioid crisis. (Perhaps you read about it recently in the Washington Post.) This role will take me away from scholarly communication and into digital libraries—something I felt closer to earlier in my career—and the “collections as data” movement.

I will continue serving as vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Open Access Book Usage Data Trust and collaborating with colleagues on moving towards a launch of that effort. Stay tuned for details!

UPDATE (2022-06-29): Glad to see more in-depth reporting based on the Opioid Industry Documents Archive—this time from the New York Times!

author fees for non-OA publications

Back when academic journals only appeared in print, authors were sometimes charged by the page to have an article published (“page charges”), or charged extra for articles with color images published. With such fees, publishers aimed to limit editing, typesetting, and printing costs, thereby keeping the journal on sounder financial footing.

These charges aren’t actually something of the past though: even today, some journals charge fees for long articles and/or images. Some authors grumble about these, especially for online-only journals, but even without printing, there are still production costs for editing longer manuscripts and preparing images for publication.

These fees are different from article-processing charges (APCs), which are charged by some—though not all!—open-access journals in order to fund the costs of running the publishing operation, namely managing submissions and peer review, editing, typesetting, and hosting online.

A colleague at the UNT Libraries, Laurel Crawford, recently brought to the attention of me and some others a practice that I had not previously heard of: publishers asking authors to pay a publication fee to help keep library subscriptions affordable. This is separate from (and often lower than) a proper APC to make the article open access. Here’s an example.

I get that some authors have access to research funds that they can use to pay author fees, so if you’re a publisher, why not tap into those funds, even in cases where an author can’t afford your APC to make the article OA? The problem, though, is that you’re asking authors to trust you that the money they spend will, in fact, help keep the cost of library subscriptions lower. Unless the author is a member of a scholarly society that publishes the journal and that society is fully transparent about revenue sources and subscription rates, they are not going to be a position to verify how the money is spent.

I understand that higher education is full of cross-subsidies: for example, tuition for large lecture courses subsidizes small seminars, and profit from a coffee shop on campus helps pay core operations that aren’t fully funded from tuition or the endowment. Perhaps these optional page charges are essentially doing what journals with APCs have long done: offer waivers and discounts for authors who can’t afford them. If so, maybe this is essentially a waiver option for a page charge. Or, if the journal publisher is a US-based non-profit, you could also think of it as a non-tax-deductible donation. But in the end, it’s still a donation, without any expectation of receiving something in return.

I wonder how many authors feel altruistic …

staying current in scholcomm

Below I offer my suggestions for librarians looking to stay current in the field of scholarly communication (“scholcomm”). This list is primary aimed at people new to the field, but I hope it will also be useful to those who have been around for a while and may discover a mailing list, conference, or other resource they were unaware of. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Continue reading

why you should come work at the University of North Texas or Texas Woman’s University

I’m going to be hiring my first staff member at UNT soon (more details to come!see posting), and this has led me to think about recruiting people to work in Denton, Texas. I hope what’s below will help not only me but others at UNT and TWU recruiting job candidates: per the Creative Commons license attached to this posting, please feel free to adapt it for your own use.

Continue reading

special issue of ATG on academic libraries, university presses, and library publishing

Vol. 26, no. 6 (2014–2015) of Against the Grain was a special issue, edited by Bob Nardini (Ingram Library Services), on academic libraries, university presses, and library publishing. One-sentence summaries are freely available online in the issue’s table of contents, with full text available to subscribers. In addition, some authors have kindly posted eprints of their work. I’ve long been meaning to put together a list of links to these. Here’s what I’ve found; please let me know if you know of others.

Continue reading

cultural heritage materials and markup

I always enjoy the annual Balisage pre-conference symposium. This year’s, entitled Cultural Heritage Markup: Using Markup to Preserve, Understand, and Disseminate Cultural Heritage Materials, promises to be worthwhile: the call for participation includes a whole list of of interesting topics.

I was considering submitting a proposal, but I’m not sure that I have a whole presentation worth of material about any of the topics.  But I have a bit to say on most of them, so I’ll share those thoughts here.

Continue reading

preserving online news content

An upcoming event at the Reynolds Journalism Institute Dodging the Memory Hole: Saving Born-digital News Content (following on their Newspaper Archive Summit) looks like a great opportunity to bring together people who aren’t regularly in contact to think about preserving online news content. As the website explains:

One recent survey found that most American media enterprises fail to adequately process their born-digital news content for long-term survival. This potential disappearance of news, birth announcements, obituaries and feature stories represents an impending loss of cultural heritage and identity for communities and the nation at large: a kind of Orwellian “memory hole” of our own unintentional making.

The situation with news websites reminds me in many ways of the situation with university presses: each publisher is so preoccupied with trying to make ends meet that they can’t afford to invest in solutions that will help preserve their content. Preserving content is not only altruistic (ensuring that it’s available for historians) but also has the potential to lead to increased revenue—”monetizing your backlist” by keeping your products available for sale for longer and/or repackaging them in new ways.

Continue reading

“a cowboy’s gotta do what a cowboy’s gotta do”

It has been just over ten years since I moved to Ann Arbor to take up a position at the University of Michigan, and the institution and my colleagues here have provided me with an incredible opportunity to contribute to building a publishing organization that is widely thought of as as a leader in rethinking scholarly publishing.  Without any family ties to this area of the world, I could easily relocate to pursue professional opportunities, but I have found that the U-M Library, my colleagues here, and life in southeast Michigan have all been able to offer me better opportunities and a better lifestyle than I would find elsewhere.

Sometimes, though, life takes you suddenly in a new direction. The University of North Texas Libraries has offered incredible opportunities for Julie and me: she will become the Principal Archivist in Special Collections, and I the Director of Library Publishing, with a charge to collaborate with the UNT Press, the Digital Scholarship Co-Operative, the Digital Libraries division, and other parts of the UNT Libraries.  Both of these are new positions in an institution that with a rising stature and in a library system known for its entrepreneurial spirit.  We’ll be relocating to Denton in April. While North Texas doesn’t exactly have my ideal climate (literally or politically), I look forward to this exciting personal and professional change. As one of my coworkers said, “A cowboy’s gotta do what a cowboy’s gotta do”!

We’ll be only about a 30-minute drive from Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport and 45 minutes from Dallas Love Field (with lots of new non-stop destinations beginning in late 2014!), so we look to continuing our globetrotting adventures. And I hope you’ll get in touch if you find yourself in the North Texas area.

on the relative weight of libraries among members of the TEI Consortium

There has been occasional discussion in the TEI community for years about what member institutions actually want out of the TEI Consortium, with particular concern that libraries have been the main funders of the TEI but are failing to renew their membership. (The TEI Consortium offers various levels of membership, expecting larger, wealthier institutions to join at a higher level. It has often been asserted that libraries are overrepresented among the higher-paying membership levels.) The evidence for the drop in support by libraries has been anecdotal, and speculation for why this has generally pointed to two things: that libraries are under pressure to cut their budgets, or that they no longer see value in the work of the TEI Consortium.

Continue reading