Monday, February 1, 2016

Launch of the Lever Press - a new player in open access publishing

Today I’m pleased to be writing about an exciting new venture that is the result of several years of work and study {1}, a new open access publishing press that has just gotten underway.  On January 8, 2016, Inside Higher Education announced the launch of the Lever Press, an open access, peer-reviewed, digital-first publisher for scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This press, conceptualized and developed by academic libraries in private liberal arts colleges, is founded on one of the basic principles of academic libraries: collaboration.  As stated on the Lever Press website: “Unique among open-access publishing initiatives, Lever Press is conceived, governed, and funded by a consortium of liberal arts college libraries.” The press is also a  collaboration with publishers, as it is a partnership with Amherst College Press and Michigan Press.  As shared in the Inside Higher Education article:
“Amherst College Press and Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library, submitted the winning proposal to found the press. They proposed a three-way partnership: Amherst College Press, launched in 2014, would supply its knowledge of getting a digital-first open-access publisher off the ground; Michigan Publishing would chip in its experience with developing tools for digital scholarship and its connection to a research university; while the Oberlin Group would keep everything grounded in the liberal arts.”

Lever press is dedicated to the principle of increasing access to scholarship and will therefore be open access.   As a platinum open access press, there will be no costs for authors nor for readers.  In this new funding model, libraries are sharing the costs of publishing.  Although most see the role of libraries as purchasing and preserving books, our role here at the DeWitt Wallace Library has evolved in the past decade to include scholarly publishing.  Our work with our institutional repository, the Digital Commons@Macalester, has expanded from preserving the work of faculty and students to publishing student online journals and  one multi-media monograph, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers. While many research institutions have their own publishing programs, the opportunity for smaller college libraries to publish has been more limited.  Recently, the University of California Press launched Luminos, their open access publishing venture for monographs, but their model is based on a shared cost model with membership fees that vary and there are still costs for authors and institutions that wish to publish.  Our model is based on pooling our money for the purpose of “purchasing” future content and paying the costs to produce that content.  

You can see an example of how the press will work by looking at the Digital Culture Books, a series from the Michigan Press.  Books in this series are freely available in a digital format, and a print copy is also available for purchase.  The Amherst College Press is just getting started with their open access, born digital publishing program.

The first meeting of the Oversight Committee for Lever Press took place on the Amherst College campus on January 25th and 26th.  I am pleased to be one of the 12 members from the colleges supporting Lever Press on the Oversight Committee.   In addition to 11 librarians, we have the Dean and Provost of St. Olaf College, Dr. Marci Sorter on the committee. One of the first tasks of our group is to select the Editorial Board will consist of faculty members from supporting institutions.  If you are interested in being considered for the Editorial Board, please let me know and I’ll explain the process.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lever Press, Charles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian for publishing and director of the University of Michigan Press, will be speaking on campus, Wednesday, March 2, at 3:30 in the Harmon Room of the Library.  

The origin of “Lever” for Lever Press was based on a quote attributed to Archimedes in which he is said to have stated, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”   We are hoping that our efforts will make significant changes in the scholarly publishing world.  I look forward to speaking with anyone who is interested in learning more.

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1
Lever Press Initiative.  The work and study included a survey that was administered to faculty on this campus at the end of 2013.   You can read more at the website - https://leverinitiative.wordpress.com/