Libraries as Publishers in the Early 1990s

In recent years, there has been an upsurge in interest in academic and other types libraries acting as publishers and considerable discussion about how this will transform them.

What is sometimes lost in the excitement over the library publishing movement is historical context: this trend started over a quarter century ago at the dawn of the Internet age. While most e-journals published in the early 1990s were produced by scholars acting as digital publishers, at least two academic libraries established formal digital publishing programs in this period: the University of Houston Libraries and the Virginia Tech Libraries.

In August 1989, the Director of the University of Houston Libraries, Robin N. Downes, authorized the establishment and announcement of The Public-Access Computer Systems Review (PACS Review), the first open access journal in the field of library and information science. The journal began publication in January 1990, became refereed in November 1991, and ceased publication in August 2000. Authors retained the copyright to PACS Review articles. Unrestricted copying of PACS Review articles was permitted for educational, noncommercial use by academic computer centers, individual scholars, and libraries.

Only partial use statistics are available for the journal. It was initially distributed using the LISTSERV software, and LISTSERV use statistics were not tallied. From 1994 through 1996, the journal received over 81,000 Gopher requests. From March 1995 through 2005, the journal received over 3.5 file requests via the Web.

In October 1996, Robin N. Downes authorized the establishment of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, an open access, updated electronic book that provided references to new works related to scholarly electronic publishing, such as books, journal articles, magazine articles, technical reports, and white papers.

Between October 1996 and October 2006, 64 versions of the e-book were published by the University of Houston Libraries. There were over six million file requests for it during this period.

In the fall of 1989, Virginia Tech's Vice President for Information Systems, Dr. Robert Heterick, established the Scholarly Communications Project. The project was subsequently moved to the University Libraries, and it was directed by Lon Savage until December 1993, when Gail McMillan took over.

Since 1990, the Virginia Tech Libraries have published a number of e-journals, some of which were previously published by other entities prior to being migrated to the Libraries. Notably, the Scholarly Communications Project published the first issue of The Journal of the International Academy of Hospitality Research in November 1990. The journal was published in cooperation with Virginia Tech's Department of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. It ceased publication in 1998. It is described in "The Journal of the International Academy of Hospitality Research."

The Virginia Tech Libraries' Scholarly Communication department currently publishes e-journals, conference proceedings, and open educational resources.

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Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.