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Mapping the World of Library Publishing: Unveiling the Global Landscape and Collaboration behind the Scenes

Published onApr 16, 2024
Mapping the World of Library Publishing: Unveiling the Global Landscape and Collaboration behind the Scenes


This article is derived from the presentation titled “Mapping the World of Library Publishing: Revealing the Global Landscape and Collaborative Efforts” delivered during the panel discussion “Working Together to Expand Library Publishing Globally” at the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 88th IFLA General Conference and Assembly on August 22, 2023, held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. It provides insights into the background and collaborative dynamics among key stakeholders, including the IFLA Library Publishing Special Interest Group, the Library Publishing Coalition, and various international entities working behind the scenes of the Global Library Publishing Map project. The article delves into the project’s development, presenting a comprehensive analysis of all participating libraries and other organizations to unveil the global library publishing landscape as visualized on the Map. Moreover, it addresses the challenges encountered during the creation and maintenance of this Map. Finally, the paper explores the future directions and ongoing work in this important endeavor.


IFLA Library Publishing Special Interest Group

Founded nearly one century ago, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is a global organization that represents and champions the interests of the library profession, working to enhance services worldwide.

Within IFLA, the Library Publishing Special Interest Group (SIG) was formally established during the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. Its primary purpose is to promote the swiftly evolving field of library publishing, a subset of the larger spectrum of scholarly communication activities overseen by various types of libraries, including national, state, academic, public, and private institutions. Specifically, library publishing entails the dissemination of primarily open access journals, monographs, and various materials to diverse audiences and in multiple languages, utilizing either open-source or proprietary publishing platforms. The activities of library publishing are intricately connected to the strategic goals of institutions with regard to promoting open scholarship.

The SIG is actively working towards transitioning from a special interest group to a dedicated section of IFLA. Since its establishment, the SIG has organized a series of significant international events. These include Midterm meetings held in Dublin in 2019 and in Oslo in 2020, a virtual Open Programme conducted in October 2020, an online interview featuring Katherine Skinner and Brandon Locke of Educopia during the exclusive online WLIC 2021 event, and an in-person Open Session at WLIC 2022 in Dublin (O’Neill, Liu, & Shibaeva, 2022). In August 2023, the SIG held a Satellite event at the Royal Dutch Library, Den Haag, The Netherlands.

The SIG’s Global Library Publishing Map, which is the focus of this paper, was officially launched in April 2021. In 2023, the SIG also introduced a new blog post series titled “Library Publishing Through the IFLA Global Lens” (Buggle, 2023).

Library Publishing Coalition

The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) is a membership organization comprising primarily North American libraries engaged in publishing. The LPC conducts an annual survey for the landscape of publishing in libraries and has published the Library Publishing Directory since 2014. The Directory offers an annual overview of the publishing activities of academic and research libraries, including details about the types and quantity of publications they produce, their author support services, staffing, funding sources, and future plans.

IFLA SIG and LPC Collaboration

In 2019, the IFLA SIG and the LPC embarked on a collaborative effort to document library publishing initiatives within IFLA’s global membership, with a specific focus on inclusion in the Library Publishing Directory (Schlosser, 2019). The LPC has representatives on the SIG, while the SIG sent two representatives to work with the LPC Directory Committee and participate in LPC meetings relevant to the LPC Directory and its annual surveys. Since then, the SIG and LPC Directory Committee have joined forces to establish additional pathways for international libraries to engage with the Directory.

The Global Library Publishing Map Project

Data Collection through LPC Survey

Each year, the LPC Directory Committee administers a survey questionnaire to gather information on library publishing initiatives for inclusion in the Directory. This questionnaire has been adapted to facilitate and encourage participation from international members within the IFLA SIG community. Participating libraries have the option to complete the first section (short form) of the questionnaire, which allows them to become a part of the SIG’s Map project. Alternatively, they can choose to complete the full questionnaire, which will also include their entry in the LPC Directory.

The first survey section, shared with both IFLA SIG map and LPC directory participants, covers survey guidelines, general participant information, unit details, contact information, and program overviews. The second section, specific to the LPC Directory, requests comprehensive information on programs, staff, funding, publishing activities, publication quantities, disciplinary specialties, prominent publications, partnerships, library-administered university presses, media formats, software and platforms, digital preservation, services, supplementary details, and a statement on diversity and inclusion.

The LPC Directory Committee administers the questionnaire, while the SIG plays an essential role in promoting the survey within IFLA international communities to invite participation. Responses to the survey data are shared with the IFLA SIG and are incorporated into this Global Library Publishing Map Project.

The survey has been conducted on an annual basis through 2023 and disseminated to both the IFLA SIG and the LPC communities. However, based on the recent LPC Board meeting, the survey frequency will likely be changed to biennial starting from 2024. This means that the LPC Directory and the Map will be published and updated every other year, respectively, using the survey data. Additional updates to the Map may also be applied as needed when data or other requests are received through other channels.

System Development

In 2020, the SIG’s Communications Subcommittee took the lead in developing the library publishing database project. A core development team was formed, comprising the key personnel of the International Journal of Librarianship, an open-source academic journal published by the Chinese American Librarians Association.

First, the development team confirmed the desired functionalities of the library publishing database project with the SIG Communications Subcommittee. The confirmation made clear that the system needs to be searchable, intuitive, and easy to use. In consideration of time and resources limits, and also that the development team has been supporting open-source software, the team decided to search for an open-source project that could provide similar functionalities, instead of building a system from scratch. The development team evaluated two full-fledged web publishing platforms: WordPress and Drupal by installing the two softwares and their related modules and assessing the two demo systems. Based on the evaluation, the team found that the project can be built on either one of these two popular open-source softwares. However, such development requires considerable effort and time.

The development team also evaluated a list of open-source directory software and found the Open Business Directory is closer to fulfilling the requirements of the library publishing project. Due to limited resources and time, the team decided to customize and build the library publishing database on this directory, instead of choosing either WordPress or Drupal.

Svelte – a JavaScript front-end framework – was used to construct the directory. Leaflet – a JavaScript library for maps – was also utilized to incorporate a map along with the directory. The customization consists of two components: public interface and functionalities.

In consultation with the IFLA SIG and the LPC Library Publishing Directory, the development team discussed the fields included for each publisher and their look and feel on the website. Other contents and the layout of the website were designed and finalized within the development team and the IFLA SIG. Suggestions from IFLA Headquarters and users of the Map were also incorporated to improve the project.

The library publishers represented in the Map can be different from the LPC’s Library Publishing Directory. Each edition of the LPC Directory reflects only participants of the year of a given survey, while the Map retains those libraries that participated in the survey previously but did not submit one in the current year for some reason. Therefore, a field called “update year” is added to keep older entries and make the distinction clear to the audience.

After the public interface was developed accordingly, the team modified the source code for displaying each entry of the directory in the list and on a map, i.e., to show entries on the Map, and to display the detailed information of an entry of the directory. Although this is a small application, it provides a search box, a list, an interactive map, and a way to present necessary information of an individual entry of the directory. The modified code by Dr. Qing Zou can be found at github.

Once the customization was done, the deployment was straightforward. First, the JavaScript and HTML code for the directory is generated into a directory. Then, the generated code is published to a web server.  The team utilized the server hosting the International Journal of Librarianship for the directory. The server was configured to accommodate the changes and assure that the domain name of the directory was working properly. In addition, HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) was used for ensuring secure connections and no cookie data are collected.

Data Preparation

The accuracy of the data is the key to the success of the project. Each data set is shared with the SIG by the LPC Directory Committee. The data set contains detailed information for the Directory, more than the Map requires or utilizes. The Map project team needs to map the selected fields to the Map project, clean up the resulting data set, and get the data ready for the deployment of the Map.

Based on our experience over the past three years, the following four stages are essential for the data preparation for this project:

I. Data Mapping

The information included in the Map is not identical to that contained in the LPC survey data. When receiving the data set from the LPC Directory Committee, the Map team first needs to identify the relevant fields from the data set that correspond to the Map attributes and remove the unnecessary fields. Due to the slight variation of each year’s survey data, this mapping process can be challenging. For example, the social media fields within the 2022 survey data set were different from previous years. This required careful comparison of each data set and field and required a manual fix. Otherwise, there might have been a field mismatching issue in the Map update, resulting in inaccuracy of the Map.

II. Data Cleaning

The original data set had a lot of issues that needed to be fixed during the data preparation phase, such as name variations, formats, non-English languages, non-English characters, and issues with contents copied from PDF documents or other platforms.

Some of the issues were related to the inconsistency or ambiguity of institutional or library names. For example, some participants used the institutional name as the library name, such as “Dartmouth Library” versus “Dartmouth College”; some used all upper case, such as “LENIN LIBRARY [OGBUK - PALACE OF THE BOOK]”; and some spelled their names in different formats, such as “University of North Carolina@Charlotte” versus “University of North Carolina at Charlotte”, “SUNY College at Geneseo” versus “SUNY Geneseo”, “Royal Danish Library” versus “The Royal Danish Library”, “Institute of Art, Design & Technology” versus “Institute of Art, Design, + Technology”.

Some of the issues were related to the use of non-English languages or characters. For example, one library typed in Chinese characters along with English content; another responded to the survey using Russian. We needed to translate and clean up these entries to make them display correctly and consistently on the Map. There were also a lot of issues with the diacritics in German, French and other non-English languages, such as “Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH”, “Université de Montréal”, and “City Library of Pančevo”. These issues were prevalent throughout all fields in the data set, including the institution name, the library name, the unit name, the contact name, program overview, languages, and additional comments, etc.

Numeric information could also be a problem when transferring across different platforms. For example, telephone numbers were sometimes treated as numbers and truncated.

Moreover, survey respondents might have typed their names incorrectly by accident. When working with the latest survey data, we encountered one case where the institution name was entered incorrectly. Identifying such an issue required careful comparison and validation with other fields within the entry and the online information listed on the website. The data cleaning is time-consuming and iterative, but significant to the success of the Map.

III. Duplication Check

Incorporating the survey information from previous years was another challenge unique to this Map project compared to the LPC Directory. For instance, if a library participated in the 2021 survey but not in the 2022 survey, it would be excluded from the current year’s LPC Directory, but the Map would retain it with information of update year and the source of the data. Hence, we included an additional stage to the process to avoid the duplication of entries from previous surveys.

As mentioned above, there were variations for institution or library names. Survey respondents might have used different variations for different years. For example, one library publisher used its English institution name in the 2021 survey and its German name in the 2022 survey. We had to verify the entered content carefully, checking with online information and other sources to identify and resolve the duplication, correct contents, and ensure the accuracy of the content.

IV. Geographical Information Identification and Validation

To display an individual library publisher’s location on the Map, the geolocations - both latitude and longitude information for each entry - are required. The survey does not collect street addresses, so we have to obtain such information by cross-referencing the library publisher’s name, website, and other fields in the survey with online sources. Shanghai Library assisted us in finding the information.

This stage was challenging. Some institutions had multiple campus sites or street locations. Some consortia, such as Texas Digital Library and VIVA (Virtual Library of Virginia), did not indicate physical locations. To ensure the accuracy of the Map, we had to verify each location.

After verifying the locations, we enter the data transformation and data validation stages. The data must be converted to be compatible with the system. Issues could happen throughout the entire preparation process, so the data validation stage is critical, involving checking the data for any errors or anomalies after the transformation to verify its accuracy and completeness.

So far, we have received three years of data sets from the LPC survey, namely the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Library Publishing surveys. The data from each year vary slightly. It is important to check the formats, fields, and individual entries and validate all entries for the accuracy of the Map.

The Map was successfully launched in April 2021. It has been updated and refined a few times since then. Figure 1 shows a screenshot of the Global Library Publishing Map. Users can search or browse the library publishers on the Map.

Fig. 1: A Screenshot of the Global Library Publishing Map

Global Library Publishing Landscape

To unveil the comprehensive global library publishing landscape as depicted on the Map, we have analyzed entries incorporated into the project up to July 2023. In total, there are 254 library publishing organizations featured on the Map, comprising 225 academic libraries, 14 public libraries, eight library consortia, and seven other types of library organizations. Academic libraries dominate the landscape, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the organizations included in the Map (refer to Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Number of entries by library type

The prominence of academic libraries in this landscape is unsurprising, given that the LPC’s membership base predominantly comprises academic and research libraries, and they focus primarily on academic publishing. Nevertheless, discussions and explorations within the IFLA SIG have been ongoing to expand the Map’s coverage, encompassing a variety of library types and their diverse publishing activities around the world.

Figure 3 provides an insightful view of these entries. Out of the 254 entries, 165 were updated in 2023, 63 in 2022, and 26 in 2021. An intriguing finding is that 89 organizations, constituting 35 percent of the total number of entries, were included from previous LPC surveys, demonstrating the Map’s evolution over time in comparison to the LPC’s Directory.

Fig. 3: Number of entries by update year

The Map encompasses organizations engaged in publishing from diverse countries and regions across the globe, including but not limited to the United States, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Serbia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ghana, Italy, Malaysia, Namibia, New Zealand, Romania, and Ukraine. Figure 4 visualizes the distribution and density of these organizations worldwide. Notably, about 64 percent of the participants are based in the United States and Canada, indicating a significant North American presence. This North American prominence is understandable, given that the LPC originated in North America, with its primary membership base in this region. Nonetheless, ongoing discussions and explorations within the IFLA SIG aim to broaden the Map’s reach to include entries from more countries and regions.

Fig. 4: Number of entries by country/region

When examining the establishment year of these publishing programs, it becomes evident that 115 organizations, representing 45 percent of the participants in the Map, established their programs in 2010 or later. Additionally, 100 organizations, constituting nearly 40 percent of the participants, initiated their programs between 2000 and 2009, while the remaining 15 percent either were established before 1999 or did not specify their establishment year. Refer to Figure 5 for a graphical breakdown.

Fig. 5: Number of entries by established year

Furthermore, the Map provides information about the developmental stage of publishing programs in these organizations. The majority, accounting for over 70 percent, are reported as established, 62 programs are in the early stages, nine are under a pilot phase, and three do not indicate their stage in the survey. This data is presented in Figure 6.

Fig. 6: Number of entries by establishing stage

As an international initiative, the Map also details the languages supported by the publishing programs of these organizations. Figure 6 illustrates the seven IFLA official languages and the number of library publishers that support these languages. It reveals that English is the most widely supported language, with more than half of the organizations exclusively supporting English. This strong emphasis on English aligns with the LPC’s North American focus. To enhance international inclusivity, efforts are being made to engage more participants from around the world.

Fig. 7: Number of entries by IFLA languages

Beyond English and other IFLA official languages, participating libraries and organizations also offer support for a range of languages, including but not limited to Croatian, Danish, Gujarati, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Malay, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Ukrainian, among others. This rich multilingual diversity highlights the global reach and inclusivity of the project.

Summary of Discussion and Future Work

This project is a result of international collaborations among various bodies and individuals, such as the IFLA Library Publishing SIG, the Library Publishing Coalition, the International Journal of Librarianship, and Shanghai Library, etc. We hope to deepen the collaboration with the LPC Directory Committee in the future to reduce duplicate efforts for data cleaning, translation, and validation and to improve the quality of both the Library Publishing Directory and the Global Library Publishing Map. We also aspire to boost international collaboration and utilize the international knowledge of languages and institutions in the IFLA SIG communities to improve the Map.

We have faced various challenges in this project. LPC focuses on scholarly materials, while the IFLA SIG is more inclusive for contents not strictly scholarly. The Map development and maintenance are not one-time things. The contents need regular updates, and the systems need maintenance and upgrades. The SIG is volunteer based, which could be a challenge for the Map in the long run.

The IFLA SIG aims to reach out to under-represented countries or regions in the world, especially those outside of the US and Canada, to increase the diversity and inclusivity of the library publishing Map. We are exploring various ways for libraries to join our Map project, besides the annual survey by LPC. We would like to establish a way to update the Map regularly in addition to the annual survey, to include more library publishers via other venues, and to keep the information more current. We have also considered including languages other than English in the Map and the survey to encourage more participation and improve the diversity of the project.

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