A tale from the inside of ALPSP

Guest post from Megan Redmond, Academic Liaison Librarian, London Metropolitan University

Earlier this year, SAGE once again supported the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) International conference, by offering a travel grant to a librarian to attend the 2014 conference. This year’s recipient was Megan Redmond, Academic Liaison Librarian, London Metropolitan University. We caught up with Megan after the conference to find out her take on the experience, seminar debates and what she has taken away.

The SAGE travel award to attend the 2014 ALPSP conference provided me with a great opportunity to learn more about the world of scholarly publishing. The conference programme was packed with interesting and relevant presentations, making it difficult to choose from the options available in the parallel sessions and I look forward to also reading about the presentations I wasn’t able to attend.

This era of publishing is one of such seismic change and uncertainty and that was reflected in the showcasing of imaginative technological innovations and possibilities for future development, as well as debates about the various challenges faced by publishers in the current economic climate.

I learnt a huge amount about all aspects of open access publishing. Often we are so busy getting on with our job that there isn’t enough time to delve very deeply into how the journals we buy are published. Who could have imagined the volume and nature of customer care queries that BioMed Central deal with, operating on a 24 hour basis in order to turn queries around in a day. I took copious notes to feed back to colleagues and will continue to increase my knowledge of all aspects of scholarly publishing. The Wikipedia entries that we were directed to are also very helpful! Dear authors, please keep them updated. Several delegates also encouraged me to go to the UKSG conference, so I looked UKSG up on the web up and will definitely try to attend or be involved in some way.

The international aspect of the conference was so special. I spoke to people from around the world involved in all aspects of publishing. Challenges are similar everywhere, though dealt with differently at a national and corporate level. Because of the large scale possibilities of electronic publishing, the level of support from government in drafting legislation and policies, and providing financial support for developing repositories and research into supporting technology, is crucial in laying foundations for the storage and future access to academic writing and research. Valuing education as a public good is key and Latin American countries collectively sound very progressive in this regard.

There were many suggestions of possible alternative business models for journals. The high proportion of the UK population who are now graduates increases the potential to sell granular amounts of scholarly reading material. A growth in people learning outside traditional institutions in higher education, engagement in MOOCS, discovery by lay people of academic material on the web and the necessity of lifelong learning in maintaining careers will probably result in an increase in potential readers of scholarly material.

The presentations on text and data mining were fascinating, particularly to learn of the creative ways that researchers such as Lars Juhl Jensen approach text and data mining to search the notes and records kept by doctors and nurses and make new discoveries about health care in Denmark. With the recent changes in UK copyright law regarding text and data mining, it struck me that helping researchers know about and engage in TDM would soon become a niche area of specialism for librarians. The sophisticated nature of new technologies will probably result in librarians becoming specialist in several new areas, such as data gathering and impact measurement.

The presentations on discoverability gave librarians a platform to stress the importance of databases and publishers working with libraries and discovery tools to make content easier for readers to find – or the materials would simply not be read.

Electronic publishing is facilitating the revival of university publishers and university librarians are participating in the publishing process by sitting on editorial boards and dealing with copyright. There is also more scope for libraries to publish in their own right.

A thread running throughout the conference was the importance of co-operation between publishers, librarians and technology platforms or providers, in order to thrive. There is also a greater need for global standards in publishing and collaboration across borders.

What struck me about ALPSP, a society I had not previously been aware of, was the camaraderie between members. Some publishers only employ 4 people, all working from home and on different continents. Meeting at this conference each year is an important time to catch up in person.

Chatting to Kelly Nicholls from SAGE I discovered more about the history and ethics of the company. SAGE’s support for open access, education, and recognition of the value of librarians is reassuring as libraries grapple with a refocusing of our roles and vision. We are the ones making reading material available and helping readers find what they need. Fostering dialogue between publishers and librarians will help to remove barriers between readers and the materials they want to access.

I’ve come away feeling inspired and optimistic about our profession. The uncertainties ahead will also reveal unexpected and interesting areas for development and growth.

The presentations from this year’s conference can all be viewed here.

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