The Public Library as Publisher

Scott William Carter   March 27, 2014  

As you’ve probably noticed, libraries becoming publishers is one of the developments I’m watching closely.  Here’s  Jennifer Koerber writing about “The Public Library as Publisher” at Library Journal:

Unlike previous library publishing efforts, Provincetown chose to follow a curated model, using a selection jury made up of staff from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Provincetown Art Association Museum, and local artists and authors. Provincetown Public Press will publish a small number of quality ebooks each year, primarily due to cost—the Library serves a population of 3,000 with a $300,000 budget —but also because the Press is “striving to become a respected outlet with the ability to provide exposure to up-and-coming writers and artists,” said Clark.

Well worth reading the whole article, which cover a number of libraries flirting with publishing.

Here’s the thing about publishing.  It’s taken on an almost mystical quality in the past fifty years or so, but at its Latin core, all that the word publish means is to make public.  The real game changer wasn’t print-on-demand or ebook publishing.  The real game changer was the Internet, which, as it has evolved today, allows anyone to make a blog, a website, a podcast, a YouTube video, and, yes, a print-on-demand book or ebook public with little or no middlemen in between.  That’s all publishing. The only difference is the format.

Now, as the article so nicely demonstrates, the labor doesn’t change, and whether you should publish something yourself is a different question than  can you publish something yourself, but as libraries move away from being purely information repositories, and instead information portals, then it makes sense that they become a place where that information can flow in both directions.