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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1996

ACRL TASK FORCE ON ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION. FINAL REPORT

SUMMARY OF MAJOR CONCLUSIONS:

   I. 	General Conclusions
  II.	Quality and Imprint Conclusions
 III.	Copyright Conclusions
  IV. 	Production/Management/Financial Conclusions

FULL TEXT OF REPORT

  I.  INTRODUCTION.
        A. General Introduction
        B. Introduction to ACRL Current Activities
        C. Introduction to ACRL Goals and Electronic Publication
  II. Discussion of Issues
        A. Overview of Issues
        B. Quality/Imprint Issues: Discussion
        C. Copyright Issues: Discussion
        D. Production/Management/Financial Issues: Discussion
  III. Conclusions
        A. General Conclusions
        B. Quality and Imprint Conclusions
        C. Copyright Conclusions
        D. Production/Management/Financial Conclusions
  IV. Afterword

SUMMARY OF MAJOR CONCLUSIONS

Some of the conclusions reached by the Task Force call for action, while others require more study; all are summarized below.

I. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

  1. The goal of ACRL publications, in whatever form, should continue to be to support ACRL's services to its membership and to the academic community at large.
  2. ACRL should further develop its program of electronic publication because of the ability of electronic publication to distribute information widely, more quickly, and in some cases, more cheaply; to encourage participation among our members; and to reach the broader academic community more effectively.
  3. ACRL should continue efforts to convert existing print publications to electronic format, with the following phased program:
    Phase One: Continuation of efforts to convert appropriate types of materials as quickly as possible. Such materials would include internal documents, reports, standards, etc., and section newsletters. The advantages to converting this type of publication are clear. However, runs of paper editions may need to be maintained for some publications until (a) the electronic version can reach the entire membership of ACRL and other relevant audiences, and (b) a secure archive has been developed.

    Phase Two: Continue the study and testing of electronic alternatives for news magazines (C&RL News) and review sources (e.g. CHOICE), and begin study of electronic alternatives for research journals (C&RL, RBML.) An interim report will be presented at the Midwinter Meeting, 1997. Such study and testing should include a detailed financial analysis and a consideration of whether publications should exist in electronic format only; in parallel print and electronic formats, or should remain in print exclusively.

  4. ACRL should investigate opportunities to develop new electronic-only publications which will serve our goals.

II. QUALITY AND IMPRINT CONCLUSIONS

  1. ACRL should maintain formal peer-review as a way of maintaining the quality of our research journals.
  2. ACRL should examine ways of maintaining quality over non-peer reviewed electronic publications through editorial boards and the Publications Committee. New structures may be required to bring this about. Our goal should be to encourage widespread exchange of ideas while maintaining the quality of the ACRL imprint.
  3. ACRL should offer support to units creating electronic publications by offering training in electronic publishing, techniques, style guides and templates, archiving services, and a "home" for such publications at ACRL's site, and by establishing standards and procedures. Such support services can also provide a contact point for quality review.
  4. ACRL should explore ways of allowing for both quality-reviewed materials under the ACRL imprint and for free-flowing discussion.
  5. ACRL should work to ensure that the content of electronic publications remains stable and secure, as originally formatted.

III. COPYRIGHT CONCLUSIONS

ACRL should work with ALA to develop new copyright policies for the electronic age that offer the widest possible access for educational and other noncommercial purposes.

IV. PRODUCTION/MANAGEMENT/FINANCIAL CONCLUSIONS

  1. Any conversion of print publications to electronic form should be preceded by a financial analysis.
  2. ACRL should develop an archive of all electronic publications produced by ACRL which ensures that the information is maintained in a stable, reliable form for the future.

FULL TEXT OF REPORT

I. INTRODUCTION

A. GENERAL INTRODUCTION
For librarians, the need to deal with new electronic resources has been a challenge in a variety of ways. In recent months, with the introduction of graphical Internet browsers, the nature of electronic publishing has been transformed. Since that time, the pace of change that we all face has accelerated and the pressures on us to participate in electronic publishing have mounted As librarians, we are producers as well as consumers and managers of information. How do we want to use the new electronic capabilities for our own publications? How can they help us to achieve our goals for our own profession? What are the implications for our professional organizations? In response to these issues, the ACRL Publications Committee established this task force in June 1995 to outline these issues for discussion by the ACRL Publications Committee. After review by the Committee, this paper was shared, still as a discussion document only, with ACRL's several Editorial Boards, with Section Chairs and Vice-Chairs, Committee Chairs, and others via the ACRL-Leads Listserv. A number of comments and suggestions were received and incorporated into this version.
B. INTRODUCTION TO ACRL RECENT ACTIVITIES.
ACRL, its sections, and other divisions of ALA are already engaged in a variety of electronic publishing activities that illustrate both the range of possibilities and the kinds of questions raised by electronic publishing. ACRL has been highly proactive in taking advantage of both the speed and economy of electronic means to communicate with its members. Of the six ACRL sections out of seventeen that responded to a query by the Publications Committee Chair in the Winter of 1995/1996, five had electronic newsletters, listservs or discussion groups, and the other was actively planning one. Two sections already have active Web sites, distributing material that would not be cost-effective to distribute otherwise, such as the ECLSS consultants list.

At that time, several of the sections were engaged in a variety of more innovative and collaborative efforts. The Instruction Section was working with CNI to develop a 'virtual collection' of Internet user education and training materials. The Bibliographic Standards Committee of the RBMS was revising rare book thesauri and Examples to Accompany Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Books that may be distributed as a part of the LC Cataloger's Desktop project.

For the organization as a whole there has been a lot of activity. Since 1993, College and Research Libraries News has published the C&RL NewsNet, an abridged version in electronic form. In 1995 a website was established to provide information on the National Conference. Standards and guidelines have recently been placed on the ACRL Gopher, now accessible from the ACRL homepage. Twenty-three of twenty-six standards and guidelines are now available and the remaining three will be available before the 1996 annual conference. In addition, ACRL Board actions are regularly made available on the ACRL Gopher.

Other ALA divisions, like ACRL, are poised to move forward with electronic publishing but appear not to have progressed beyond the bulletin board, listserv, Website stage. It also appears that ALA itself as yet has no formal policies on electronic publication.

C. INTRODUCTION TO ACRL GOALS AND ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION.
Electronic publication offers many potential benefits to ACRL. From results of the recent membership survey, we know that almost all of our members have access to Internet resources and that those who do not currently, anticipate having such access in the near future. The benefits of electronic publishing to ACRL will further several of our goals, and can be summarized as follows:

II. DISCUSSION OF ISSUES.

A. OVERVIEW OF ISSUES.
While the pressures for electronic publication are many, there are also powerful pressures and issues that may hold us back. These include:

The discussion of these issues and some preliminary recommendations form the remainder of this report.

B. QUALITY/IMPRINT ISSUES: DISCUSSION
The fact that ACRL and its parent organization are widely recognized and respected is particularly important in an electronic environment. There are many agencies and individuals making information available via the Internet without the kind of quality control that has been practiced by ACRL. Electronic publications of organizations which maintain high standards will become particularly valued on the Internet. ACRL should be able to capitalize on its reputation to take an active role in providing high- quality electronic publications.

Peer review procedures are in place for our research journals, while the various editorial boards and the Publications Committee provide more general oversight of the Association's publications. Currently, for example, all section newsletters are reviewed by ACRL staff before publication. Oversight by ACRL has guaranteed that publications serve the Association's goals, that they accurately reflect ACRL policy and philosophy, and that they represent a reasonable financial risk for the organization.

The decentralized nature of the Association--with many Sections and Chapters--has made it difficult for the Publications Committee to oversee all the publications of the Association even in the print (that is, print on paper) environment. However, in this environment there are certain production processes that require centralization and thus make central review easier.

In an electronic environment this is no longer the case. We anticipate that the task of review and maintaining quality will become more difficult in the future. While much of the appeal of electronic publishing is in its potential for decentralization--the ability of individuals or units of the Association to produce electronic publications--there are also liabilities. While we may want to put the power of publication in the hands of those working directly in the field, we do not want to lose our reputation for quality.

Despite this decentralization, however, individuals and organizations who are embarking on electronic publications have certain needs. ACRL may be able to provide support by training sections in electronic publishing techniques, by providing templates or style guides for electronic publications, or by providing sites for listservs, homepages and archives of electronic documents. By adopting a helpful posture, we can include ACRL in the process and continue to maintain editorial standards. The challenge will be to encourage electronic publication on the part of sections and chapters, while maintaining the quality of the ACRL imprint.

The role of the Publications Committee and the various editorial boards will need to be redefined. While some electronic publications will fall under the purview of existing editorial boards, others will not. One option would be to consider a separate editorial board to oversee all electronic publications not otherwise covered.

It is also clear that electronic publications will be more complex, dynamic entities. We will have to allow for free-flowing discussion, for individual comments, and for give-and-take between authors and readers. In order to accommodate these new capabilities, we may need to segment some of our publications--to maintain some (or parts of some) as open discussion lists as opposed to others which are "official" publications.

Finally, the quality control challenge includes ensuring that documents remain in their original form, as their authors intended them to be.

C. COPYRIGHT ISSUES: DISCUSSION.
No area of electronic publishing is fraught with more uncertainty than copyright. Despite the great uncertainty, we must be prepared with some interim policies to serve our needs over the next few years.

Increasingly authors will be asking about the ability to post papers on preprint servers or homepages. They will want to build links to and from their publications and a variety of other sources. How will we handle requests by others to "link" to papers in our publications? What will we consider "republication"? How will we protect the integrity of electronic copies of papers from our publications?

ACRL follows ALA copyright policy. We recommend that ACRL work with ALA to develop a new copyright policy for the transition period to electronic publication that will take into account these new issues.

D. PRODUCTION/MANAGEMENT/FINANCIAL ISSUES--DISCUSSION.
While one of the principal advantages of electronic publication is often advertised to be its low cost, a complete and accurate analysis of the relative costs of print and electronic publication is extremely difficult to develop. There are so many subsidies and hidden costs in both electronic and print scholarly publishing, and there are so many unknowns about the form of the electronic publishing of the future, that the jury is still out on this important question.

Other groups have noted this aspect of electronic publishing. The Association of American Publishers and the Council on Library Resources noted in a joint 1995 report: "The immovable object" of publishing costs is subsidizing the 'first copy' of a book or journal--all the costs before the printing press begins to run...This is the hard rock that will not be crushed by distributing information electronically. Although there may be some savings in individual steps of the pre-printing process, (by editing and preparing copy from author disks, for example), and in distribution, the effect on the overall 'first copy' cost will not be large because the process will require many of the same steps and highly trained professional personnel as traditional methods required. Some new methods of manuscript preparation and production may even require more steps and/or personnel."

There are certainly hidden costs in electronic publishing that are often overlooked. One of the most critical is the impact on existing print publication outlets. If we assume a gradual transition, with print and electronic publishing coexisting for some time, and a model in which electronic publications are provided free of charge, at some point financial considerations will become critical. Subscriptions to print will gradually decline, affecting advertising to the point where costs would exceed revenues. ACRL must decide how to support publications--through advertising and paid subscriptions (whether to print or electronic versions) or through membership subsidies.

Clearly there are some publications that can be moved to electronic publishing with less risk than others. Section newsletters and internal documents already incur costs for the Association rather than generating income. They can be distributed more effectively and cost-effectively electronically than in print, and we recommend that ACRL begin the move to electronics with such publications. The research and review journals currently generate income and thus raise much more complex financial issues which will need to be examined in more detail.

Related production issues are raised with a transition to electronics. Is there still a need for copy editing? For design and layout? In what form is the information stored and presented-- SGML, HTML, PDF, Postscript, etc.? What kind of an archive should be maintained--for how long? by whom? Archiving issues appear to be a major stumbling block in making the transition to electronics for formal journals. Authors want to make sure that permanent, stable copies of their works will be maintained and accessible for the future. As a library organization, ACRL should certainly take a leadership role on this issue. Multiple archive sites should be established for information in electronic form, backed up by print or microfilm archives in some cases.

III. CONCLUSIONS

A. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS:
  1. The goal of ACRL publications, in whatever form, should continue to be to support ACRL's services to its membership and to the academic community at large.
  2. ACRL should further develop its program of electronic publication because of the ability of electronic publication to distribute information widely, more quickly, and, in some cases, more cheaply; to encourage participation among our members; and to reach the broader academic community more effectively.
  3. ACRL should continue efforts to convert existing print publications to electronic format, with the following phased program:

    Phase One: Continuation of efforts to convert appropriate types of materials as quickly as possible. Such materials would include internal documents, reports, standards, etc., and section newsletters.

    The advantages to converting this type of publication are clear. However, runs of paper editions may need to be maintained for some publications until (a) the electronic version can reach the whole membership of ACRL and other relevant audiences, and (b) a secure archive has been developed.

    Phase Two: Continue the study and testing of electronic alternatives for news magazines (C&RL News) and review sources (e.g., Choice), and begin study of electronic alternatives for research journals (C&RL, RBML). An interim report will be presented at the Midwinter Meeting, 1997. Such study and testing should include a detailed financial analysis and a consideration of what publications should exist in electronic format only, in parallel print and electronic formats, or should remain in print exclusively.

  4. ACRL should investigate opportunities to develop new electronic-only publications which will serve our goals.
B. QUALITY AND IMPRINT CONCLUSIONS
  1. ACRL should maintain formal peer-review as a way of maintaining the quality of our research journals.
  2. ACRL should examine ways of maintaining quality over non-peer reviewed electronic publications through editorial boards and the Publications Committee. New structures may be required to bring this about. Our goal should be to encourage widespread exchange of ideas while maintaining the quality of the ACRL imprint.
  3. ACRL should offer support to units creating electronic publications by offering training in electronic publishing techniques, style guides and templates, archiving services, and a "home" for such publications on the ACRL gopher, and by establishing standards and procedures. Such support services can also provide a contact point for quality review.
  4. ACRL should explore ways of allowing for both quality-reviewed materials under the ACRL imprint and for free flowing discussion.
  5. ACRL should work to ensure that the content of electronic publications remains stable and secure, as originally formatted.
C. COPYRIGHT CONCLUSIONS:
ACRL should work with ALA to develop new copyright policies for the electronic age.
D. PRODUCTION/MANAGEMENT/FINANCIAL CONCLUSIONS:
  1. Any conversion of print publications to electronic form should be preceded by a financial analysis.
  2. ACRL should develop an archive of all electronic publications produced by ACRL which ensures that the information is maintained in a stable, reliable form for the future.

IV. AFTERWORD

We would like to conclude with some thoughts shared recently by Choice editor and publisher Irving Rockwood: "Things will continue to change in the future. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. Someday, perhaps fairly soon, technology will make it possible to produce and electronically distribute large, highly-formatted, interactive publications and to view these in an electronic format that matches or exceeds the functionality of ink on paper. If so, we can and should be prepared to act accordingly."

Submitted by the ACRL Publications Committee Task Force on Electronic Publication, January 4, 1996.

Discussed at the Publications Committee meeting at Midwinter in San Antonio, January 22, 1996, and subsequently by the Committee via e-mail.

Revised accordingly and then shared with ACRL's Editorial Boards and others within ACRL April 11, 1996.

Revised again, submitted to the Publications Committee, June 1996, and unanimously approved at Annual Conference, July 8, 1996.

ACRL Publications Committee Task Force on Electronic Publication

Ann C. Schaffner, Chair (Brandeis University)
Norma Kobzina (University of California at Berkeley)
Hugh Thompson (ACRL)
FEEDBACK
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