Over the past few years, the notion of “libraries as publishers” has gained steam.
“Digital, open-access publishing is changing the way people create and disseminate scholarly works,” says Scott Walter, university librarian. “Libraries house the expertise to help faculty, students and academic departments get their content out into the world and make sure that it’s findable by search engines, both in the short term and over the long term.”
While some scholars might have anxieties about digital publishing—Is a digital publication recognized as equal to a print version? Are editorial standards comparable? Does a digital article have the same weight for promotion and tenure?—its upsides are significant, contends Walter.
“Digital publishing can give an author more ownership of his or her content, and it gives the scholar access to a much larger audience. Traditional print journals, and even books, have started to become invisible to potential readers. For many people today, if content isn’t available digitally, it just doesn’t exist. At the same time, authors can see—for the first time—just how many people are reading their articles, and this metric is becoming recognized as evidence of the reach and impact of one's work.
“From an institutional standpoint, digital publishing can organize and preserve works that might be lost otherwise. Let’s say a department printed monographs going back to the 1940s. They might have been circulated among a very small group of people, and now they’re sitting in boxes in a basement. Why not publish them as a series and as part of the historical record?”
As people open to the idea of digital publishing, the next question is how.
“That’s where we come in,” says Megan Bernal, associate university librarian for Information Technology and Discovery Services.
“The library has a soup-to-nuts digital publishing function in place right now. We’re bringing printed journals, such as those produced by the law school, into the digital environment, and we’re providing the tools and expertise to help others create new journals and magazines that are digital from the start. We’re also letting colleges and departments know that we can capture and preserve content from conferences, and we’re helping faculty navigate the still-emerging international structure of online indexing. There’s a lot going on in the digital world at DePaul.”
A few examples prove the attraction of digital publishing.
The Journal of Religion and Business Ethics—started in 2009 by Thomas O’Brien and Scott Paeth, both associate professors in the Department of Religious Studies—is already recognized as a leading publication for serious scholarship in the field. The journal is completely online and open-access. “We would not have been able to publish without the library,” says O’Brien. “The electronic format made producing a niche journal both possible and practical. In fact, we’re really on the cutting-edge of academic publishing.”
Mille-Feuille is a French literary magazine sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science, the Department of Modern Languages, and the Study Abroad and Student Life offices at DePaul. Each year, students enrolled in third-year French do all the production: getting grants and advertising, choosing the cover art, reading and selecting submissions, providing editorial suggestions, and doing the layout and typesetting.
DePaul Discoveries, the student research journal from the College of Science and Health (CSH), is published in print and online. “We’re taking undergraduate student research to a rare level of professionalism and sophistication,” says Chris Keys, a professor in the psychology department. Mona Shattell, associate dean for research and faculty development in CSH, agrees: “To be published, a paper has to be scholarly, rigorous and well-written. Only a few colleges publish anything like DePaul Discoveries. But digital and open-access? That’s truly cutting-edge.”
Coming soon is a Map of the Month site, which will publish GIS maps being made by students in the geography department. “The maps are very interesting, and they’re tangible evidence of the students’ serious academic research. But without the site, they’d disappear,” says Walter.
“Digital publishing is a new world,” says Bernal, “and we’re here to help.”
Read DePaul's digital publications: