Academic Publishing, Apprentices

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – Part 2: The Apprentices

In last week’s blog post, we gave an overview over the UK apprenticeship scheme and explained how apprenticeships are a valuable addition to Academic Publishing.

This week we have asked some apprentices to speak for themselves. Gerda Lukosiunaite from the Royal College of Physicians [RCP] and Kaya Spencer from Cambridge University Press [CUP] kindly agreed to tell us about their experiences.

When talking about their experiences as apprentices, both Gerda and Kaya were full of enthusiasm. They both found themselves in similar positions: they had finished school and were unsure about what they wanted to do next. Gerda had been made aware of the apprenticeship scheme by a friend and decided to take that route to become a dental nurse. After qualifying, she decided that she would prefer a more office-based job; discovering that the RCP was looking for an apprentice in its publications department, Gerda decided to apply. She got the place and worked on the RCP’s medical journals and monograph publications. She wasn’t sure what to expect from working in a publishing environment.  She hadn’t really considered publishing before, but found she wholeheartedly enjoyed it. “I never thought I would work in publishing, because I always assumed that you would need a lot of experience to get into it. I was absolutely thrilled when I learned I had got the apprenticeship position in the RCP’s publications department. It was such a great place to be and I was very involved in most of the tasks there: I did some basic admin, arranged for meetings and travel for the team, I was responsible for copyright permissions and liaison with the print room and was even allowed to do some proof-reading  and attend editorial meetings. The apprenticeship did exceed my expectations and I have loved working for the RCP so much, that I have recently changed to a permanent role as Membership Engagement Coordinator. I am still able to finish my apprenticeship in Business Administration at the same time”.

When she finished Sixth Form, Kaya had never imagined that she would work in publishing. “I wasn’t quite sure what to do after my A-Levels and wanted to set myself apart from graduates going for similar jobs to me. After working in some part-time jobs for a while, I was very excited to see the apprenticeship advertised on the CUP website. I had previously unsuccessfully applied for an Editorial Assistant role with the Press, but getting a place as an apprentice was fantastic, because not only was I able to get into a publishing job, it also allowed me to gain another formal qualification. I did my first apprenticeship in recruitment as an interview coordinator, where I worked with colleagues at all levels; this enabled me to gain great knowledge of the Press and a better understanding of the business as a whole – the different kinds of jobs people do, from entry-level positions to board members.”

Kaya finished her Business Administration apprenticeship within the HR department at CUP 4 years ago and has continued to work at the Press. She is currently a Communications and Community Executive and has recently started on a degree-level apprenticeship. The “Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship” [CMDA] is provided by the Open University and runs for the duration of 4 years alongside her current role, offering her continuous development whilst working. “This is a great opportunity to develop myself and build on the skills I already have as well as gain more skills in the managerial area.”
Looking to the future, Kaya says she would like to use the skills and knowledge she has gained to move into a managerial role where she can continue to help others. “I hope to develop the CSR programme at the Press that supports social mobility in Cambridge. I would definitely recommend apprenticeships to young people – we actively promote them to local schools in our area, as we feel apprenticeships are a great alternative to university and an invaluable opportunity to gain more skills whilst gaining real experience.”

Gerda also has ambitions beyond her apprenticeship. She has developed a keen interest in marketing and would like to develop her skills in this area. As she says, “it is never too late to go to university. I may well one day decide to do a marketing degree, but then I will be 100% sure that’s what I want to do and the money and efforts that I put into this degree will be well placed and thought through.”

Many thanks to Gerda Lukosiunaite (Royal College of Physicians) and Kaya Spencer (Cambridge University Press).

We also spoke to an apprentice in Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been well established for several decades – look out for our next blog post, where you will be able to read all about it.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Apprentices, Students

Apprenticeships in Academic Publishing – Part 1: The Scheme

National Apprenticeship Week featured prominently in the media earlier this month, which made us think about the scheme and how it is represented in Academic Publishing. We therefore decided to speak to several people involved and have received so many good responses that we have decided to create two blog posts about it.

This is the first, which introduces the scheme.

In the UK, the Education and Skills Act was passed 12 years ago; it makes education or training compulsory until the age of 18. This means that all young people are expected to continue learning after they have reached school leaving age at 16, and the government has since put various schemes in place to give everyone opportunities to shape this learning according to their interests and needs. This does not necessarily mean that everyone has to continue going to school – the training can, for example, be fulfilled by taking up on-the job training; and later this year the new T-Levels will be introduced, to provide qualifications for 16 to 18 year olds who do not want to go down the route of  (more academic) A-Levels. Whilst T-Levels will offer a mixture of classroom and “on-the-job” learning, apprenticeships offer an additional option to school leavers. These are mainly focused on the workspace (like other workers, apprentices earn a salary and have the right to paid holidays), but allow the apprentices time off for academic learning, in conjunction with a Training Provider.

With the high increase of university tuition fees 8 years ago and the government’s strong support of a newly-created apprenticeship scheme, apprenticeships have become an attractive alternative for some students who have completed their A-Levels. The government has introduced nationally recognised standards and in recent years, apprentices have become more and more part of the workforce, including the Academic Publishing industry.

So, what is the scheme?

Apprentices usually work in a full-time post at a company, receiving on-the-job training and gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for the job. However, unlike an untrained or unqualified member of staff who will simply learn a job by doing, apprentices are supported by the Training Provider – they are enrolled on a course that provides theoretical learning needed for the job (up to 20% of the time); an independent mentor who is in weekly contact with the apprentice to monitor their progress and answer questions; and pastoral care. Apprentices receive a basic salary (in Academic Publishing it usually is somewhere between £14,500 and £19,000 pa) and get the course fees paid via Apprenticeship Levy funds.
These entry-level apprenticeships usually take around 18 months.

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the government in 2017, to support more apprentices. The Levy is a tax paid by every business that has an annual pay bill of more than £3million and the money is held in a fund that the employer can access to train staff who are doing an apprenticeship. Surplus money is used to cross-fund apprenticeship courses at smaller companies. These companies do not pay into the levy, but can still appoint apprentices – the cost is then split between the government (which covers 95% of the cost through the levy) and the employer, which covers 5% of the cost, plus the apprentice’s salary.

When talking about apprentices, many people will think of school leavers who join the workforce for the first time through their apprenticeship. These are usually called “Level 3” apprenticeships, and there are many different courses to choose from. The ones typically offered in Academic Publishing might include Business Administration, Customer Services, Accountancy, Project Management or – a newly accredited standard – Publishing Assistant.  However, employers also have the option to use the levy to offer apprenticeship learning to existing colleagues to further their education in work-related qualifications. These apprenticeships range from mid-level qualifications (such as Data Analysis or Operations Management) to a degree-level apprenticeship such as a Senior Leader Master’s Degree, which is the equivalent of an MBA. Like entry-level apprenticeships, these are studied for whilst the apprentice is working; the apprentice doesn’t pay for any tuition fees and continues to earn a salary, but is given 20% of working time off to study.
The courses are taught in block seminars, or through online learning; and it is a statutory requirement that all apprentices are given “20% off-the-job” learning during the working week. This might be done one day per week, or spread across the week, depending on individual circumstances.

Why do companies engage in the scheme? In an interview with Heidi Mulvey, Head of Community Engagement at Cambridge University Press, she made the reasons clear:

“We started employing apprentices in 2012, before the levy was introduced, initially with roles in shared services such as Customer Services, HR and IT. Now we employ apprentices in departments right across the business and we currently have 28 entry-level apprentices, plus more than 50 colleagues who are using apprenticeships to further their development.

Apprenticeships are helping us to attract fantastic new people into the business, many of whom, for a variety of reasons, did not go to University. Most of our apprentices have A-Levels or equivalent, though in some cases candidates as young as 16 have been successful in their applications, which really demonstrates how much they have to offer: their potential is more important than their formal qualifications, and the apprenticeship provides training around the skills and knowledge needed for their role, whilst they also learn their role. Apprenticeships are playing a big part in helping us attract diverse new talent into publishing, and our apprentices are bringing in fresh and innovative thinking.

Most of our apprentices stay at the Press when they have finished their apprenticeships and have opportunities to continue their development and gain promotions.  One of our earliest apprentices now manages an apprentice herself and two others are doing a degree apprenticeship. This opportunity to earn while you learn has become a very viable and attractive alternative to the classic career path of a university degree and graduate training.”

…please also read our next post, in which three apprentices in Academic Publishing will tell us about their experiences.

Many thanks to Heidi Mulvey, Cambridge University Press, who provided a lot of the insight for this article.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Mrs Lee Cheng Ean: a profile

I first met Mrs Lee Cheng Ean in January 2013 at dual advisory board meetings which I facilitated in Shanghai and Beijing, but her reputation long preceded that.  She is extremely well-known in both the East and the West as one of the world’s most competent and inspired librarians.  I have since met her at least once each year, and sometimes several times; each time she has been unfailingly courteous and kind; and passionate about all aspects of librarianship.  Between our meetings, she never fails to offer help, advice and insight to research projects or respond when requested to supply information.  She is an important global influencer as well as an impeccable source of knowledge about all matters connected with librarianship.

As an advisory board member, she is an excellent contributor, always abreast of new developments in libraries globally and shrewd at seeing how they can be applied both at the National University of Singapore, of which she is the University Librarian, and more widely across S E Asia and by the other world-class universities in all parts of the globe with which she is in contact. 

In all her dealings, she never forgets that, first and foremost, her role is to support researchers, academics and students at NUS and to supply the ambience and materials that help them to achieve and even surpass their very best.  She is constantly aware of the pivotal role the Library plays in pushing out the boundaries of research; and she equally understands the importance of equipping tomorrow’s graduates with state-of-the-art scholarship to enable them to excel.

She is kind and encouraging both to librarians from other libraries (across many regions) and gracious but firmly professional in her dealings with publishers.  She wears her workload lightly, but it is evident that she must devote long hours to her job every day in order to achieve the fine results that she always produces.  She has a good sense of humour, but at the same time makes it clear that she will stand for no nonsense.  Her integrity shines out; she has no time for equivocation or false dealing.

Mrs Lee is a librarian at the top of her profession, one of a handful of truly outstanding librarians across the world who have changed the face of librarianship in the twenty-first century. She has achieved well-deserved acclaim both within her profession and outside it, in the wider communities of academia and publishing.

Linda Bennett, founder of Gold Leaf
Facilitator of several librarian advisory boards; industry researcher. 

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries, Open Access

White Rose University Press: the Library as Publisher

Triggered in part by the Open Access movement and also by the desire of early-career researchers and students (undergraduates as well as postgraduates) to find reputable publishing outlets for their work, in recent years there has been a steep increase in the number of university libraries setting up or encouraging the foundation of presses for their own universities.  (In 2015-16, Gold Leaf conducted research to determine the feasibility of one such project, on behalf of the University of Manchester.)

Most of these presses support the publication of new journals. Less common, but also steadily increasing, are publishing projects started by university libraries for the creation of Open Access monographs.  White Rose University Press [WRUP], founded jointly by the libraries of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, publishes both journals and monographs.  WRUP was created to ensure academic quality, support Open Access and support innovation in publishing. It welcomes proposals across all disciplines and from across the academic community, not just from its host universities.

There are four live WRUP journals (JACHS, JESLA, UJPIR and BIOJ), with another on Contemporary Chinese Writing in development. Each journal has its own website, from which articles are available to access and download without charge. 

WRUP’s first monograph, Star Carr, published in two stunning volumes, was released in April 2018 and has now had more than 20,000 views/downloads.  Three more monographs have since been released with the most recent, Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics, seeing nearly 1000 views/downloads since publication in Sept 2019. Further monographs have been commissioned, with three expected to be published in 2020.

Books are made available in a variety of e-formats, (HTML and downloadable PDF, ePUB and MOBI files). These are offered through the book listing page on the WRUP website, as well as via other content providers like JSTOR, and are free to access, download, etc. WRUP also offers print versions (via POD), so that for a modest fee people can obtain a hard copy of the book.  This means there is no embargo period; authors retain copyright; the Open Access version is the published Version of Record; charges apply: both APCs and BPCs; and, as WRUP is not-for-profit, the charges levied are enough to cover production costs only.

Sarah Thompson, Head of Content and Open Research at the University of York, was involved in early conversations about the possibility of establishing a shared university open access press and is also one of its board members.  She says that setting up and working with the Press has been very exciting and has involved a steep learning curve.  In common with more commercial publishers, WRUP has found that monograph publication schedules are hard to stick to.  Many academics have still to get to grips with the concept of Open Access and need support in navigating the choice of OA licences and in e.g. securing the right permissions for images. 

Sarah says: “White Rose University Press has been a very worthwhile enterprise.  We are fortunate in having been able to secure the support of our Vice-Chancellors and other senior administrators at the WRUP universities.  We were also lucky to be able to supply the relevant expertise in-house.  We are looking forward to continuing the White Rose University Press adventure in 2020.”

For more information about White Rose University Press, please go to https://universitypress.whiterose.ac.uk/

Sincere thanks to Sarah Thompson and Kate Petheridge, WRUP Manager, for providing the information for this article.

Sarah Thompson
Academic Publishing, Audiobooks, Digital Publishing, Trends in Publishing

Audiobooks in Academic Publishing – Princeton University Press

In September we published a short blog post on audiobooks in order to offer a short overview of this topic.

We have since had the opportunity to speak to Kim Williams, Digital and Audio Publisher at Princeton University Press, who kindly gave us an interesting insight into the world of audiobooks in academic publishing.

When Princeton University Press announced its new audiobook programme in 2018 it was the first University Press to do so.  Kim Williams told us that they had been licensing rights for audiobooks for several years – first primarily to Audible, later also to others, including Recorded Books, which is the largest independent producer of audiobooks in the world.

However, interest in audiobooks had evolved into something of a trend, with the US market seeing its 7th consecutive year of double-digit growth in sales. Taking this on board together with the increased interest in audiobook licences, Princeton University Press saw an opportunity to enter the market and not only license, but also produce, audiobooks for their readers. After a lot of investigation and costing, a business case was made and in July 2018, Princeton University Press announced the launch of PUP Audio – an audiobook programme aiming initially to publish 24 titles each year. Princeton chose Sound Understanding as its production partner. It is an audio production company that specialises in non-fiction. A great deal of care needs to be taken with the choice of titles to be converted into audiobooks, as Kim Williams explains:

“When choosing the titles for PUP Audio, we first of all have to think about the potential listenership for the book – will an audiobook increase the audience for the title? I then read the book to check if I can ‘hear’ the text; we also have to make sure that charts and diagrams can either be omitted or explained in a simple way without a visual prompt. And then we have to check that the length of a book is right for audio – we don’t want the audiobook to be either too short or too long – and we have to bear the intended readership in mind. In our portfolio, economics books, biographies and big histories tend to work quite well, but we are excited about the potential for our trade science list.”

PUP decided still to maintain its business relationship with Recorded Books; and last month  announced an exclusive partnership with Recorded’s mother company, RBmedia, for the audiobook licensing of further titles (approx. 40 per year).

Kim Williams believes that there is a need for academic audiobooks as well as the various print formats. Audiobooks can support different learning styles, especially now that accessibility of learning content plays an ever more important role at universities. People for whom English is not their native language can find audiobooks a helpful complement to the print book, and of course listening to a book can be time-saving, as it can be done whilst driving a car, exercising or doing other activities that allow you to listen. She thinks that, like e-books, there is a time and place for audio and that having the choice of multiple formats – including audio – ensure a “frictionless reading experience”.

The distribution of audiobooks has not caused difficulties, as they are treated in a similar way to e-books and all big e-book wholesalers will also include audiobooks in their distribution channels. Princeton’s current wholesaler also has good distribution agreements with large audiobooks platforms like Audible, audiobooks.com, Kobo and many independent platforms.

Princeton University Press is not the only academic publisher who publishes audiobooks, but it was certainly one of the first – and the first University Press to do so. Since the publication of their first titles 13 months ago, many others have taken the leap, including Cambridge University Press and Kogan Page.  

So, who are the readers, or should we say listeners, of audiobooks?
“Students of course, but also lecturers who commute, policymakers, the interested public – anyone who wants to save time or who prefers the spoken word over the written one. That stresses the importance of a good narrator: it is crucial to get the right person, someone who is an authority on the topic; they need to show confidence in what they read and therefore must understand the subject, and at the same time have a likeable and clear voice.  Many of our authors have considerable experience in public speaking, but not always the vocal stamina to read a whole book over five or more days. Several of our authors have narrated their own audiobooks, but we have had wonderful readings from professional narrators, too,” says Kim Williams.

Only one year after launching an audiobook programme of its own, Princeton feels that there are many aspects to success as an audiobook publisher.  The production costs of audiobooks are not inconsiderable – on top of hiring studios and the associated costs of this, the narrator puts considerable time and energy into the preparation of an audiobook and deserves fair compensation; and as a publisher that takes pride in the quality of its content PUP (with Sound Understanding) appoints proof listeners for all audiobooks to ensure that the quality control is as rigorous as it is for its print publications. But even though the revenue may not yet exceed the production costs, Princeton University Press has gained many positives from this first year beyond the obvious marketing advantages, as Kim Williams explains: “It certainly has given us a new lens and has opened ways to reach new readerships. One of our missions as a University Press is to reach diverse people across the world, and the audiobooks initiative lets us frame books in new ways and helps us in achieving this goal. Part of our role is to educate people, not only through the content we publish, but also in the way this content is being accessed. Audiobooks are still an evolving model, but we want to be part of shaping this as part of our effort to educate. We have had great feedback from readers and authors alike; and, after all, they are the ones we are here for.”

Academic Publishing, Case Studies, Trends in Publishing

Grown out of dispute: how collaboration removed frustration – and DRM!

Last month, De Gruyter announced the launch of a new initiative, called University Press Library. From early 2020, De Gruyter’s re-launched e-book platform will provide access to the digital book content of 10 American University Presses – with some of whom De Gruyter has long had distribution agreements; others have newly signed with the Germany-based publisher for this project. So far, so good.

What is so special about this project is its background. It all started as a pilot project back in 2014 (very imaginatively, called “the pilot” within De Gruyter!) to get University Presses and their readers to collaborate. At the time, De Gruyter had digital distribution arrangements for America with some of the participating Presses and was therefore aware that one University Press had decided to implement a strict DRM policy for its e-book content. As a direct result of this, 65 subscribing American libraries cancelled their subscriptions and caused a lot of disruption and frustration on both sides of the distribution chain.

At this stage, University Presses were very concerned about piracy and the cannibalisation of print sales. It was for this reason that many had implemented strict DRM rules for e-books, which in turn for the subscribing libraries was difficult to manage and administer. Particularly difficult to deal with was the fact that the Presses implemented different DRM rules on different platforms and for different formats (sometimes even introducing variations on a title-by-title basis).  This caused headaches for the librarians. One knotty issue that emerged was that the duplication of content purchased became unavoidable. For their part, the University Presses had to cope with receipt of inconsistent revenue streams from e-books whilst trying to sustain the publication of scholarly monographs.  (Despite being of high quality, the latter often only generate low usage.)

De Gruyter embraced this situation by turning it into an opportunity; by collaborating with all stakeholders, it developed a solution that worked for everyone: the University Presses, the University Libraries and the consortia.

To tackle the problems, three University Presses – Princeton, Harvard and Columbia – agreed to work with De Gruyter, the consortium LYRASIS and a group of 10 selected US university libraries to start “the pilot”.

In the pilot, all front list e-book content published in 2014 or later, whether user rights had been restricted at title level or not, was made available to the 10 university libraries without DRM. It was agreed with all stakeholders that the pilot would only last as long as it would take to collect enough data to measure the implications of going DRM-free and to evaluate the success of the pilot itself. Eventually it took 5 years to gather enough data, but the outcome was overwhelmingly positive. It turned out that there was no evidence that providing unlimited access to e-books would cannibalise the print sales. User behaviour amongst the 10 participating libraries was very consistent and showed that usage and adoption rates were not dependent on DRM.

This collaborative approach has now led to the development of a product which serves the needs of University Presses as well as consortia and university libraries; all the stakeholders have agreed to a solution that works for them. Even more, it is promising to be so successful that another 7 University Presses have already signed up to become part of the initiative. Each will have its own microsite to keep its branding and profile distinct, but will enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger platform.

When the programme is rolled out globally, it will be interesting to see how many university libraries within and outside of the USA will be interested in participating.  It will allow front-list e-books access (and in some cases also back-list access) on a DRM-free platform.

This blog post is based on an interview with Steve Fallon, Vice President Americas and Strategic Partnerships at De Gruyter.

More information on the Pilot Project and the University Press Library can be found on the De Gruyter website.
University Press Library: https://www.degruyter.com/dg/page/2001
Pilot Project: https://www.degruyter.com/dg/page/2003

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Changing sides: From Publisher to Library

In the academic publishing world, every now and again you meet librarians who have moved across to work for a publisher, or vice versa. We wondered about their motivations and experiences, so we decided to talk to some of them.
Three weeks ago, we spoke to Tash Edmonds, who left her job as a librarian to join ProQuest. This week, we spoke to someone who used to work for Cambridge University Press and moved from the UK to Sweden to become a librarian.

Jonathan McCrow

  • Please give us your name and describe your role.

Jonathan McCrow
License Coordinator – Librarian
Licenssamordnare – Bibliotekarie
Stockholm University Library

  • What makes your library a special place to work?

At Stockholm University we all work in diverse working groups in order to meet the needs of our patrons and to support the university. My working group is the Licensing Group – looking after all e-resource acquisition and Open Access. I, fortunately, get to work within a small team of very experienced librarians with a wealth of knowledge for me to slowly steal, bit by bit.
Within the license group, we aim to meet our Media Plan strategy as best we can. A strategy that we treat as our standards guideline – laid out by the library director and steering committee. With a straight-forward strategy focussing on patron and usage-driven acquisition, we have a clear pathway and game plan as to how we will meet our users’ needs with regards to academic resources. This, of course, doesn’t fend off the usual challenges acquisition teams typically face – budget restraints, inflexible sales models, etc. – but it does give us reasoning and focus.

  • Why did you choose to become / what do you enjoy about being a librarian?

Brexit. If the UK had not voted for us to leave the European Union, then I would not have applied to Information Science MSc courses in Europe – wishing to squeeze in some last-minute free studying as an EU citizen. Without one thing leading to another, I would not have studied for a librarianship master’s degree and I would not have ended up in Stockholm, Sweden.
The work I now do as a librarian has been a true eye-opener. Although there were many practices on this side of the fence that I have always known about, it has been a joy to watch them in motion. With the knowledge and experience I garnered in Academic Publishing I now get to discuss the industry of academic research/publishing without any blinkers on – this is quite refreshing.

  • What was your responsibility when you worked in publishing?

During my years working in academic publishing, I have almost exclusively worked in e-resource sales. The years spent selling e-resources in the Nordics were a particular highlight for me, as I got to meet many nice librarians and visit many gorgeous libraries.
Following my years as a sales rep, I worked as the development manager for the journals team – sat in between the sales teams and the journals editorial teams. Half of my work was assisting sales teams globally with transitions to new sales models. The other half of my work was to assist the editorial teams with the management of the academic journals from a sales and financial point of view. With so much change going on, it was imperative the two teams had a bridging employee to direct conversations and link working practices together.
My work with journals was extensive – as was the sales work for ebooks, with a strong focus on Evidence-Based Acquisition. Working with a varied set of different tasks and slightly different fields of interest gave me a nice balance to keep me interested and on my toes.

  • How does your experience of working in publishing help you in your current role?

My years of following the journal editorial and production processes allowed me the good fortune of learning all the general intricacies of journal publishing, plus many irregular matters. Trying as we are to transition to a world of Open Access publishing, we in my working group are tasked with assisting researchers as they attempt to author their articles as Open Access. My previous experiences with journals publishing and knowledge of Open Access has given me a real boost in this field, allowing me to assist our authors as best I can.

  • How does the work as a librarian compare to what you used to do in a publishing company?

Working for an academic institution feels quite different from working for a commercial publisher. Not to suggest things are more relaxed working in a library, but there sure are fewer people rushing and whizzing around – darting from one meeting to the next. We are of course kept extremely busy, working within similar cycles as academic publishers and sales teams – tied almost strictly to the terms of the academic year. Even during the ‘quiet’ months over summer outside of the academic year, we still had plenty of work to do to prepare for the new term starting in September. I remember doing similar things and waiting for the new term to start when I was working for a publishing company – not much has changed in that respect.

  • What are the particular challenges you face as a librarian?

In very similar fashion to publishers, we on the library side have to keep ourselves up to date with so many different aspects of scholarly communications. It is not just Open Access – although this does top the bill. The management of our catalogues and acquisition portfolios really does keep us busy, as we are expected to keep abreast of model changes and the different approaches publishers have. More so when adjustments to how e-resources are offered changes in one way or another – especially when we are not informed until after the fact. When it comes to data and information sharing, we all need to make improvements and streamline our information channels.

  • Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or your library)?

Librarians are cool. Never forget it. Librarians in Sweden more so than all the others – with all further librarians worldwide coming a close second.

Academic Publishing, Bookselling

Vale atque Ave, Tim!

(written by Linda Bennett of Gold Leaf)

People who are old enough to remember President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 nearly always say they can remember where they were when they heard the news; similarly, members of a different generation remember precisely what they were doing on the day in August 1997 when Princess Diana’s death was announced. 

For those of us working in the publishing and bookselling industries (and, again, of a certain age!), a similar indelible moment occurred when the demise of the Net Book Agreement [NBA] was first made public in 1996.  At the time, I was attending the Scottish Library Association’s Conference in Glasgow – so the delegates there were among the first to hear.  It was on the second day of the conference that the axe fell.  A speaker at the conference who had passionately defended the NBA on the previous day – I won’t name him, but he was the very prominent MD of one of the UK’s largest publishing houses – was one of the chief architects – or assassins, depending on your point of view – of its departure.  “The Net Book Agreement”, he had proclaimed earnestly the day before, “is safe.  It will be abandoned over my dead body.”  This was well before the era of fake news; but suffice it to say that the gentleman concerned managed to survive – and I believe is with us still.

For those too young to know what it was all about, the NBA was the legally enshrined practice of  price-setting their own publications by publishers. Booksellers and others selling these publications were not allowed to undercut the publisher’s chosen price, except in very particular circumstances: 10% discount could be offered to libraries and schools, and, with the publisher’s permission, old stock could be ‘remaindered’.  New stock had to be sold at the correct price. At the time of its demise, the NBA had been in force for the best part of a century.  It was designed to prevent booksellers from discounting each other out of existence – or other retailers from discounting booksellers out of existence.  Technically it was a restrictive practice, and in 1996, when a Tory government had been in power for well over a decade, ‘restrictive’ and ‘practice’, when seen adjacent to each other, were two very dirty words.

Everyone in the two industries knew the NBA was controversial, of course: it had endured a few nasty moments down the years and, to be fair, it didn’t enjoy unanimous support.  Everyone also knew, and hugely respected, the man who had been championing it, thus saving many booksellers from insolvency: Mr Tim Godfray, the already veteran CEO of the UK Booksellers Association.  Tim was and is a tireless supporter of all above-board initiatives to support proper bookselling; I still have in my possession two of his iconic and well-reasoned pamphlets on maintaining the NBA (Books Are Different) and not introducing VAT to print (Say No to VAT on Books).  He has prevailed on the latter issue, having campaigned against VAT on recurring occasions: VAT is still not applied to print books.

Why am I bringing all this up now?  Because today, after 47 years at the Booksellers Association, most of them in the top job of CEO, Tim is retiring.  Yesterday evening a farewell reception was held for him at the atmospheric, also iconic, London Library.  The event was attended by 250 guests of Tim’s own choosing, from across both industries.  Remarkably, he presented each with a handwritten letter telling him or her why they were special to him.

Tim has campaigned on many other issues to make life happier and more prosperous for booksellers and publishers.  Latterly and most extensively, and in league with his counterparts across Europe, he has lobbied the EU and individual European governments to close the loophole that allows large online retailers to escape or greatly reduce payment of corporation tax.  More joyfully, in 2013 he spearheaded the enduring and highly successful Books Are My Bag initiative, which is now in its seventh year.  Academic Book Week eventually became one of the offshoots of this campaign.

In many ways, Tim will be irreplaceable: he has combined tireless hard work with a fine brain, ready wit, genuine sympathy and unfailing patience when listening to others.  For those of us who have known him a long time, it has been a comfort just to know he is there.  He will leave a large hole in the fabric of our universe.  Yesterday evening, however, he hinted that he may come back – at least in a part-time capacity – in another guise.  I’m sure we all hope so.  Vale atque Ave, Tim!

Academic Publishing, Digital Publishing, Libraries

How to make your publications more discoverable: tips from Lone Ramy Katberg, Special Adviser to Aalborg University Library and the Royal Danish Library

In today’s academic library world, there are scores if not hundreds of companies offering every possible kind of solution for cataloguing, displaying and making the library’s holdings discoverable.  However, some of these are very expensive; and, as Lone Ramy Katberg, Special Adviser to Aalborg University Library and the Royal Danish Library points out, few will work unless publishers prepare carefully first.  Here are some tips from Lone on how to make publications more discoverable.  They are even more pertinent this week, which is Open Access Week.

Be distinctive 

Lone says it is a good idea to choose titles that stand out. Adopting the identical title other publishers have also used – e.g., Economics – will only work if the author is very famous in his or her discipline.  Subtitles are sometimes crucial: they are an easy way of directing content expectation. If the title covers some new or unusual ground, creating the right metadata becomes all-important.

Bibliographical descriptors must be accurate, but at the same time not “drown in detail”; e.g., Life in Cyberspace – is it about social media, cybercrime, psychology?

Think in buzzwords

Crafting the correct metadata to underpin a snazzy or challenging title is key. The short description or blurb, especially its first two lines, is also very important. There can’t be too many keywords listed, as long as they are a true reflection of the content.

My Google does not look like your Google

Google uses a lot of knowledge about the user individual when displaying search results.  This is information it derives from gmail, bookmarks and interactions.  Consequently, the list of articles a user gets from searches differs according to that user’s behaviour. The language used by the searcher also makes a huge difference to the search results. 

Google is easy, but is it enough?

Libraries have gone full circle in their approach to Google.  At first, librarians discouraged students and academics from using it; after some years, they realised that, in order to achieve maximum discoverability, their holdings had to appear on Google.  But is Google enough?  No, it is not… Google fathomed this quite early on and introduced Google Scholar to the market.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar was launched in 2004. If you feed “Dolly” into the Google search engine, you come up with information about a sheep and not a country-and-western singer: from the outset, academia was and still is its focus. But what is included in it and what is not is still a big issue.  It is by no means comprehensive.

Library systems and workflows

In an academic library setting there are two ways of being found.

  1. Via a link resolver which discovers via basic metadata – title, author and ISBN.
  2. By direct indexing, where you let your content be indexed by the provider.

If a publisher does not use link resolvers, although the publications may be indexed in Google Scholar, Web of Science, and so on, libraries can’t connect the reference to the content if no direct URL is provided. Addressing this issue is especially important for publishers wishing to make Open Access content discoverable, because otherwise libraries can’t switch on access and display the content as available.

Direct linking/indexing

There are several off-the-shelf discovery systems now available.  Each has its drawbacks: in some, the hierarchy of display order seems illogical, some are difficult for consortia to use, some seem to favour certain publishers over others.  In addition, these are add-ons and not necessarily an integrated part of the library system environment.  Nevertheless, unless publishers are brave enough and have sufficient resources to take on a great deal of discovery work themselves, working with third party discovery system providers may at present be the only practical way forward to maximise discovery.

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Changing sides: From Library to Publisher

In the academic publishing world, every now and again you meet librarians who have moved across to work for a publisher, or vice versa. We wondered about their motivations and experiences, so we decided to talk to some of them.

Tash Edmonds

  • Please give us your name and describe your role.

Tash Edmonds, Senior Book Sales Specialist at ProQuest

My role involves working very closely with library teams to aid them with their collection and acquisitions strategies and key purchasing decisions for books, both print and electronic. This can range from helping support Print to E initiatives, reviewing procurement policies and implementing new acquisition models. I am expected to have a very high level of sector expertise and product knowledge and the skills to be able to ascertain what is the right solution for a specific library to help them achieve their departmental and institution-wide goals.

  • What makes your company a special place to work?

ProQuest take a very customer focused approach and that appealed greatly to me and is one of the reasons I have stayed for the past four years and am proud to work here. We do listen to the market and endeavour to be as responsive to change and innovative with our products, as much as our libraries require us to be.

On a personal level, I have always felt that every colleague, regardless of role or position within the company does have a voice and there are channels through which you can be heard to make suggestions and share ideas. That’s so important when working for a large organisation and is something that I believe is a core value at ProQuest and makes it a special place to work.

  • Why did you choose / what do you enjoy about working for a publishing company?

I was intrigued about the inner mechanics of an aggregator and how the relationship with libraries worked from their perspective. As a librarian in HE I saw so many changes in the sector in terms of content, platforms, licensing etc, some which I found positive, confusing and at times, downright irritating, and so I wanted to gain some insight into the rationale behind certain decisions.  My interest was with ebooks and the advantages that they can offer researchers and library users in terms of access and collaboration, and I liked the direction ProQuest was heading with their ebook platform.  I’m an inquisitive person so it did feel like being in The Wizard of Oz and seeing what was behind the curtain!

My biggest enjoyment is getting to work with my libraries and trying in some small way to help them with their day to day roles, as well as supporting them with larger initiatives and collection polices that they are working towards within their institutions. Librarians have a high level of expertise and tend to be very generous with sharing knowledge so I’m lucky to be able to learn a lot from them as well.

  • What was your responsibility when you worked in a library?

I was a member of the Acquisitions Team, starting off as a library assistant before becoming one of the team leaders. I worked on pretty much all aspects of Collections from managing access and resourcing material types for print and electronic journals and books, administering DDA programs and having responsibility for the accessible formats service which supported students with a variety of learning differences. I also was an active member of the library’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group working on ways to make the collection and library space as inclusive as possible for all users. My commitment to equality led me to take part in the Race Equality Charter Award where I worked as a lead on the area of professional staff recruitment and progression.

  • How does your experience of working as a librarian help you in your current role?

I think it has been a huge help to me during the past four years and made the transition easier, as it was a sector, I was familiar with and there were many friendly faces that I had either worked with or knew from conferences and courses attended over the years.

On a day to day level I think being able to share my own library experiences such as restructures, moving collections from print to electronic, implementing shelf ready, managing a DDA or coping with a flood have hopefully been a benefit to the libraries I work with. My background really helps with my conversations and building close relationships as I can emphasise and share their pain when things don’t go to plan! Thankfully, I’m also able to draw on many successful projects I was able to work on during my time in libraries, share advice and offer support when required.

  • How does the work for a publishing company compare to what you used to do as a librarian?

Overall it is very different as each day tends to be very different to the next which is one of the best aspects of my role.  I travel quite a lot so there are certain periods of time where I am never in the office and I’m sure I can regularly be seen with my travel bag trying to get a train out of Paddington or Euston. The variety and autonomy are probably the two main differences from the work I did in libraries which tended to have more of a rigid structure. I do miss my old library team but I’m thankfully still in touch with a lot of them.

  • What are the particular challenges you face in your role?

I would say that I am by nature someone who likes to fix things and find answers to a problem or a conundrum (which probably explains why I became a librarian), so if I can’t find a speedy solution, I can become frustrated. I have however learned to accept that not all fixes are quick, and patience is required, but I believe that’s a useful life lesson to use outside of work as well as in it.

  • Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or your company)?

ProQuest is a great company to work for and if you are a librarian looking to gain some insight into “the other side” so to speak, it offers so many career opportunities. There are a large group of librarians working throughout the company in a variety of roles so the probability of running into one is highly likely!

(Edit 7 November 2019: You may also be interested in our interview with Jonathan McCrow, whom we asked the same questions. He made the move the other way: he left his job with an Academic Publisher to become a Librarian)