The Compression of Authorship and the Library as Publisher

Over at Art Fag City:

So what are some of the changes in contemporary art making practice that are brought on by the net and worth noting? Here’s what I see:

5. Decreased importance of who did what first. Ideas expire more quickly on the web because they are absorbed with greater ease so who did what first means a lot less. Uniqueness of vision is important, originality less so.

In the professional academic world, I wonder if this is holding true. But in the library world, I believe that it is the case that since ideas expire more quickly and are absorbed with greater ease and speed, libraries are having to integrate more of the cycle of research/create/publish cycle into their being. Libraries have always excelled at the research bit, and with the increase in “info commons,” the creation of materials is coming under our domain of interest. But the publishing bit is only recently coming around. When Harvard’s Arts and Sciences faculty adopted an open access repository model, a library function intervenes at the same time as a publishing function.

The California Digital Library took the idea and ran with it:

At the CDL, we know that the ultimate goal of researchers is to create new knowledge. And so we embrace the entire lifecycle of knowledge creation including exploring, collecting, publishing, sharing, and saving data for use by future scholars.

There you have it: library as publisher. The additional role of publishing by libraries keeps them in step with the quickness of the wider world, while still maintaining the role of collector and protector of knowledge. The integration of these roles confronts the model that Rick Anderson suggested in his post “If I Were A Scholarly Publisher.” He makes the suggestion that publishers could go directly to the market (students and scholars) and bypass the library. While the strategy works well for publishers, it overlooks the simple fact that the publisher, not the library is the odd man out. Where is research performed? University libraries, or on resources provided by them. By whom is the writing done? Scholars at universities. Who edits and peer reviews? Scholars at universities. Who provides access to insanely overpriced products? University libraries. A look at the cycle of knowledge creation and dissemination shows that publishers are the major profiteers, and hence, the major blockage in the cycle. Universities and their libraries need to bypass publishers, not the other way around.

For further reading, check out Andy Haven and Tom Storey’s post over at OCLC:

Libraries and the Changing Roles of Creators and Consumers