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ALPSP Conference

Kara Jones reports on the ALPSP 'Publishing and the Library of the Future' one-day seminar held at St Anthony's College, Oxford, in July 2007.

The provision of scholarly information is undergoing well-documented change, affecting libraries, publishers and researchers. The Association for Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) presented a one-day seminar to discuss these changes and their impact, with perspectives on the near future from an academic librarian, society publishers, a scientific researcher and library technology providers.

The seminar looked ‘at what the library will look like in the future, and how publishers will need to adapt to keep pace with rapid change, not only to the online content that they provide to their scholarly users, but to the way they retrieve and deliver it’ [1]. The seminar was designed for publishers from the sales, marketing and editorial sides of the profession as well as for librarians.

The event was chaired by Dr Diana Leitch, Deputy University Librarian at the University of Manchester. Diana opened the session by welcoming the group, and outlining a few of the challenges facing her library. These included removing print journals, the increased demand for non-English language material, the influence of the Research Assessment Exercise on staffing commitments and the reallocation of library space from storage of print to study and social areas.


The first speaker was Andreas Mittrowann from the Bertelsmann Foundation, speaking on ‘The Library User’s Perspective of the Future’. Andreas presented an engaging vision of libraries of the future, with the global trends of individuality, mobility and the portability of information. An important issue for library users of the future, said Andreas, is that information is experienced-based and always accessible. Interactivity, particularly for younger learners means that it is easy to consume knowledge. Possible futures were outlined with examples from the Bertelsmann Foundation’s work on designing the Sheikh Zayed Knowledge Centre in the United Arab Emirates.

Helen Cook from SAGE Publications was next to step up to the podium. Helen spoke on ‘How publishers are changing the way they deal with libraries’, noting that customer expectations are raising the game in terms of journal content and technology. Major issues for discussion were archives and back issues, usage data and pricing models. Pricing models, for example, are evolving with changing customer preferences for print to online provision of content. Usage statistics in particular are important when negotiating subscriptions, especially when it is difficult to see actual users anymore.

The next presentation came from Adam Marshall of Portland Press. Adam spoke on the impact of changes for small publishers, from changing pricing models with print and online to the increasing complexities of marketing costs (such as materials in other languages) and the need for sales staff. One of Adam’s key points was the difficulty in employing usage statistics to inform subscription decisions when articles are being accessed via repositories such as PubMed Central. Clearly moves towards open access are presenting challenges to society publishers, and questions were raised about the sustainability of OA without funder support. Portland Press have commenced looking at hybrid open-choice models and attempting to engage in debate on scholarly communication to inform decision-making.

Robert Bley from Exlibris spoke next, looking to the past to help make predictions for the future. Futurists of the past saw the library catalogue as central to library development, and failed to predict the impact of Intellectual Property Rights, and a competitive information landscape brought about by the Internet. Perhaps, Robert suggested, future-gazing needs to look outside the area we are in. He then offered a vision for electronic resource management systems of the future which focused on managing relationships (between interfaces, packages, licence terms) and a focus on standards such as Web services to build service-oriented features allowing the back- end records to be presented more neatly.

The first session after lunch came from Dr Sarah Coulthurst, a research biochemist at the University of Cambridge. Sarah outlined the processes likely to be used by a researcher to identify needed information and to gather targeted or speculative information. These were a combination of search and alerting services. Sarah stressed the importance of quality information, using peer-reviewed international journals and called for accompanying appropriate supplementary data depositions. Sarah also spoke on aspects of choosing journals in which to publish, with good communication and clarity of instructions for authors being paramount. The availability of the journal and accuracy of the final article were also important. Finally, she noted that the appeal of a particular journal goes beyond the scientific articles it contains to the other interesting information it contains such as funding and conference announcements and opinion or debate articles.

David Smith from CABI presented the next session entitled ‘A parallel universe - blogs, wikis, web 2.0 and a complicated future for scholarly communication’. David spoke on the opportunities presented by web 2.0 technologies and suggested publishers and libraries modify their approaches and look to build trusted, reputable communities in this new information environment. Issues associated with this include privacy, identity, authority, reputation and copyright.

The final speaker was Kara Jones from the University of Bath Library, presenting on the challenges for academic libraries in the future, and the evolving role of the librarian. Academic libraries were experiencing a plethora of influences on their provision of scholarly communication resources. Future decisions will revolve around collaborative efforts, preservation, standards and accessibility, findability and the changing demands on library space. The role of the librarian in the future is likely to be a varied one, ranging from traditional curation of print materials, to information skills instruction to research access advisors and coordinators. Challenges for the future include trying to keep up with new technologies and dealing with a deluge of information.


As often occurs at events such as this, the coffee breaks and lunch are often as useful as the presentations, allowing conversation with seminar attendees. The open panel at the end of the day was lively with comments on institutional repositories, publishing and librarians, obviously from various viewpoints. Comments and questions from the audience showed that many publishers are thinking outside the box in terms of how to evolve in a changing scholarly communication system. It was unfortunate there were not more librarians present to put forward their perspectives. As the chair commented at the end of the session, events like this go a long way towards breaking down silos and opening up a discussion between libraries, publishers and researchers to talk about the future of scholarly communication. Presentations and an additional summary of the event are available from the ALPSP Web site [1].

photo (44KB) : Figure 1 : Presenters at the ALPSP one-day seminar Publishing and the Library of the Future, from left to right: Dr Sarah Coulthurst, Kara Jones, Helen Cooke, Adam Marshall, Robert Bley, Andreas Mittrowann, David Smith, Dr Diana Leitch (chair)

Presenters at the ALPSP one-day seminar ‘Publishing and the Library of the Future’, from left to right:
Dr Sarah Coulthurst, Kara Jones, Helen Cooke, Adam Marshall, Robert Bley, Andreas Mittrowann,
David Smith, Dr Diana Leitch (chair)


  1. ALPSP Past Events. Publishing and the Library of the Future.

Author Details

Kara Jones
Research Publications Librarian
University of Bath

Email: k.l.jones@bath.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.bath.ac.uk/library/contacts/people/klj.html

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