Celebrating 10 Years of Open Access

Celebrating 10 Years of Open Access

Realizing the Vision for Open Access Publishing at the University of Calgary

By Thomas Hickerson, Vice Provost and University Librarian, University of Calgary, 2006-2018

In the publishing and distribution of academic monographs, university presses play the principal role, aligning closely with their university’s mission to disseminate scholarly knowledge. Having an academic Press is a highly regarded asset of those universities with a Press. The University of Calgary Press, founded in 1981, published its first Open Access (OA) title in October 2010. In the following ten years, books published by the Press have been downloaded more than a million times by viewers worldwide without cost to the reader.

Traditionally, because commercial publishers sold books to generate revenue, university presses were expected similarly to generate sales of their books to support the costs of operation. Scholarly works, however, often marketed primarily to academic institutions, most often to their libraries, seldom generate substantial sales, and such sales to libraries have been steadily declining in recent years, as institutional budgets shrink.

This quandary has led to the demise of some university presses. It is both ironic and confounding that this is happening at a time when the quality and value of university press publications remains high, and an expanding audience can easily be reached through networked electronic distribution. The sad outcome is that the result of years of a scholar’s creative effort, enhanced by skilled editing and design, sometimes sells only a few hundred copies in print, and presses struggle to confront the financial pressure of requiring “subsidies” from their universities to fulfill a vital element of the institutional mission.

During a period of severe financial constraint in the 1990s, the President of the University of Calgary decided that the University of Calgary Press would be closed. In response to this proposal, the University Librarian, Alan MacDonald, asked that the Press be transferred to the Library. This was agreed to with the understanding that no funds to support its operation would be added to the Library’s budget.

With my appointment in 2006 as Vice Provost and University Librarian, I sought, with the support of Provost Alan Harrison, to re-envision the combination of the libraries, the university museums and galleries, and the University Press as a rebranded Libraries and Cultural Resources (LCR). In seeking to create a new integrated model, I was surprised to find that the Press was administered in a manner entirely separate, financially, managerially, and operationally, from all other aspects of LCR. As a result, there were no opportunities to achieve synergistic benefits from the larger organizational infrastructure. I began to break down these conceptual and administrative divisions at once.

While maintaining financial reporting necessary to managerial accountability, new staffing configurations were implemented in LCR Finance allowing personnel and sales costs to be managed centrally. Aspects of design, communication, and copyright management were integrated with similar roles elsewhere in LCR. In this new conceptual framework, the role of the Press in the dissemination of scholarly knowledge was recognized as a function of LCR to be fostered and supported in the same manner as the many other functions of the Library. And this function would not be seen as “subsidized” any more than were the reference and research services.

Having achieved new organizational alignment and enhanced production efficiencies, innovation in publishing and dissemination could be addressed. While there was not a long tradition of digital monographic publishing, many of the new searching and linking capabilities were making this format ever more valuable for scholars and students.

The other major publishing innovation was Open Access. A critical foundation for the OA movement was the establishment in 1991 of arXiv.org by Paul Ginsparg at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, making physics preprints freely available worldwide. The arXiv was a remarkable success and managing its operational support after it moved to the Cornell University Library was for me an inspirational experience.

With the leadership of a newly hired director of the University of Calgary Press, Donna Livingstone, we began planning an initiative to make the Press an Open Access publisher. Part of the motivation to do so, as described by Donna, was that we were publishing excellent books, some of which offered vital information to developing nations, but we were not making a difference because “it costs $50 to ship a book to Africa.” Open Access was the solution, since direct free digital download obviated shipping of print books. “Making a Difference” became Donna’s mantra, and our first OA work was published in October 2010.

That first book, Grey Matters: A Guide for Collaborative Research with Seniors, exemplifies another attraction of OA publishing. The University of Calgary co-authors, Nancy Marlett and the late Claudia Emes, used OA as a means to stimulate and organize coalitions of academic and community researchers, providing a framework for research projects conducted by and about seniors. Providing a common communication framework is one of the reasons that OA works are often chosen as texts for university courses. It can also support broad academic and community networks addressing broad issues. Our partnership in a series of books with the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) is a thriving example of this.

Augmented by a dedicated staff and a broad team of contributors, by publishing Open Access the Press has achieved outstanding success in disseminating scholarly knowledge. Open Access publishing enhances the impact of every author’s work and magnifies its societal value by making cutting-edge research and scholarship available far beyond academe.

Considering the immense value of Open Access publishing and the Open Science Movement, it is remarkable that so few university presses are OA publishers. The University of Calgary Press provides an exemplary model that is operationally successful and aligns well with the evolving role of universities in society. As more university presses are being organizationally assigned to university libraries, there is reason to believe that a shared sensibility will enhance the vision for both libraries and presses in contributing to this broader mission.

Open Access is For Everyone—That Means You!

By Alison Cobra, UCalgary Press Marketing Specialist

When people learn that I work in academic publishing, they inevitably ask the same question: why are textbooks so expensive?

It’s a reasonable question. Scholarship can be difficult to obtain. Academic books can be expensive, and even books with market prices can be out of reach for students on shoestring budgets, scholars juggling their responsibilities with ever-decreasing resources, or a reader who isn’t sure that the topic and approach will hit the spot.

Over time—and after more than a few glazed expressions—I’ve refined my response from giving a complicated history of the past ten years of for-profit scholarly publishing to a run-down of the differences between academic monographs and textbooks to one simple answer: where I work, they’re free.

By making peer-reviewed scholarly work available to read, for free, by everyone, Open Access publishers like the University of Calgary Press remove the barrier of cost from the pursuit of knowledge. Anyone, from top researchers to the most general reader, can follow a thread of inquiry without being cut off by paywalls, article limits, or the hold-list at the university library.

When scholarship is free, good things happen. Open Access publishing fosters interdisciplinary connection, allowing scholars in different fields to freely read each other’s work and creating the opportunity for cross-pollination. General readers can seek scholarship at its source, rather than relying only on secondary reporting, which often obscures the scholarly process in the pursuit of eye-grabbing headlines.

Open Access publishing means scholarly books are available to read, to reference, and to share. Go ahead—read the first three chapters of an academic book just to see if you like it. Bookmark a series and flip through each title for inspiration. Share one chapter of a collection with your students and your friends. Textbooks are expensive, but Open Access is free,

Open Access and the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Series
By Hendrik Kraay, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Series Editor

Launched in 2002 as a partnership between the University of Calgary’s Latin American Research Centre and the University of Calgary Press, the Latin American & Caribbean Series issued its first open-access (OA) title in early 2014. Since then, chapters from Joanna Page’s Creativity and Science in Contemporary Argentine Literature: Between Romanticism and Formalism have been accessed thousands of times by readers around the world. This is what OA publishing is all about: making scholarship available to those who may not otherwise have access to the University of Calgary Press’s books.

Anglo-American scholars of Latin America and the Caribbean face particular problems when it comes to distributing our work. Our books often have only limited circulation in the countries about which we write. University libraries in the region typically have restricted acquisition budgets and cannot afford costly international purchases and the associated shipping charges, while our colleagues in the region inevitably must be selective in what they purchase for their personal libraries. Our author copies are never enough to give to all the libraries and colleagues whom we would like to thank. Spanish and Portuguese translations of our work typically take years to come out, and many books are never translated. Much the same, of course, goes for scholarship published in Latin America and the Caribbean, but inequalities in library budgets and established scholars’ incomes mean that Anglo-American scholars have easier access to their Latin American counterparts’ work than vice-versa.

OA publishing, already well established for academic journals (especially in Latin America), levels the playing field. So do initiatives like the University of Calgary Press’s early commitment to publishing OA books. While maintaining established standards of peer review, copyediting, and production quality, the University of Calgary Press’s OA books are freely available in pdf format to anyone who does not wish to purchase a printed volume. Authors increasingly seek us out. for this reason. Joanna Page (University of Cambridge) explains that, back in the early 2010s, few presses published OA books, and this was something that she was “actively looking for. ” She felt that “it was vital that Creativity and Science circulate in Latin America and that scholars there had the chance to read it.” Since then, OA publishing has become part of what she calls her “ethical commitment as a researcher working on another part of the world where libraries are generally not well funded.”

Juliette Storr (Pennsylvania State University), author of Journalism in a Small Place: Making Caribbean News Relevant, Comprehensive and Independent (2016), likewise explains that OA “was a key factor in submitting my manuscript [to the University of Calgary Press] as it meant that more people, especially from the Caribbean and throughout the world, would be able to access my work. ” She attributes the more than 200 citations of her book to date to its OA availability.

Dan Russek (University of Victoria), author of Textual Exposures: Photography in Twentieth-Century Spanish American Narrative Fiction (2015), initially did not consider OA an important factor in choosing a press, but he “increasingly appreciate[s] the importance of OA.” He adds: “I can see now how important OA is for students and scholars. I myself have profited greatly from the works of researchers whose work is accessible online, and I hope my work has also benefited my colleagues nationally and internationally.” Indeed it has. For a three-month period in 2016, Textual Exposures had over 20,000 page views. Evidently, it was being used in a course somewhere in the world. Such numbers testify to OA’s value.

Since publishing The Road to Armageddon: Paraguay versus the Triple Alliance, 1866-70 in late 2017, Thomas L. Whigham (Emeritus, University of Georgia) reports: “I’ve received all sorts of queries from interested people around the world, more than normal, asking me questions about the Triple Alliance War. It’s striking the places that I’ve received correspondence from – many places in Europe, a great many places in South America, and even a guy from Morocco. I see in all this correspondence a major success for the OA model…. [I]t also helps spur greater intercommunication between scholars and the interested non-professional public. This, it seems to me, is where scholarship ought to go in the 21st century, and the OA model will facilitate that process.”

After a decade of OA publication, the University of Calgary Press looks forward to many more years of sharing peer-reviewed scholarship – books that make you think – around the world. The next title in the Latin American and Caribbean Series will soon be published: Annik Biolodeau’s Belonging beyond Borders: Cosmopolitan Affiliations in Contemporary Spanish American Literature. If you would like to explore the publication of your manuscript in this OA series, contact series editor Hendrik Kraay at kraay@ucalgary.ca or visit press.ucalgary.ca/authors.

Open Access Publishing Inspires Great Books
By Helen Hajnoczky, UCalgary Press Editorial CoordinatorOpen Access became a matter of daily discussion in my life when I started library school and began a job in academic publishing the very same week

That was years ago now, but as someone who holds an MLIS and who has made their career in scholarly publishing I’m always particularly interested in and excited by the ways in which OA publishing and open, online library resources can respond to and complement one another, and provide unique and engaging access to primary sources and scholarship about those resources at the same time.

One of my favourite examples from UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources (LCR) and UCalgary Press (which is part of LCR) is the history of The Rocking P Gazette. Sisters Maxine and Dorothy Macleay created this newspaper beginning in 1923 when they were 12 and 14, using it to recount their lives and experiences on their family’s ranch in Alberta, and to gather stories and insights from those around them, from their teacher to the ranch hands. The Rocking P Gazette. is in an incredible resource, offering a rare glimpse into the lives and perspectives of children from this place and time.

Thanks to the families who inherited The Rocking P Gazette., and UCalgary’s LCR, all the issues of the newspaper are available for perusal online. The issues of the newspaper are available for perusal online: By digitizing this collection, these delicate ephemeral items can now be widely used and enjoyed, whether for research or pleasure. Personally, I’m always enchanted by the beautiful covers and illustrations in The Rocking P Gazette., and find that the scanned notebook pages bring a wonderful immediacy to this resource—one can imagine the authors sketching and writing and pasting in the bits and pieces found in the newspaper. Being able to see the pages brings this resource to life.

The University of Calgary Press is the publisher of Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada by Clay Chattaway and Warren Elofson. As an Open Access publication, a free PDF of the book can be downloaded from our website or readers can purchase a print, ePub, or mobi version of the book if they prefer. This book provides a rich history of the Rocking P Ranch and its historical context, informed both by Clay Chattaway’s personal family connection to the ranch and Warren Elofson’s expert scholarly research on Western Canadian and ranching history.

Because both The Rocking P Gazette and Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada are available online, readers with internet access can easily consult both simultaneously. One can fashion a personalized approach to the works, moving between them, leaving them and coming back to them, spending time with one then the other at will, shaping one’s own experience of how to work through or enjoy these two open resources.

I think this combination of material—the primary resource and the peer-reviewed scholarly book on that resource—both being available together is an exciting example of how open resources from the publishing and library world can be brought together for the benefit of readers.

Open Access Publishing: A Leap of Faith

The solution seemed so logical.

Donna Livingstone, director of the University of Calgary Press in 2010, was faced with a dilemma: “We were publishing really important research, for example, research that could change public policy and education in Ghana or Botswana. But no one could read it because it cost $50 to mail a single book to Africa. Our motto at the time was ‘Making a difference. Making you think.’ We couldn’t make a difference if the people who wanted to read our books couldn’t access them.” Open Access seemed the natural solution to that problem.

The Open Access movement initially caused concern among scholarly publishers who were being pushed to increase sales. “We were fortunate,” says Livingstone, now CEO of the Peter & Catharine Whyte Foundation in Banff, “that Tom Hickerson, the University Librarian at the time, believed that academic publishing was part of the purpose of a university. People come to be inspired, to research, to create, and finally to disseminate the results.” Just maybe, Open Access could be the most efficient way to achieve the latter.

Ten years later, that leap of faith has proven prescient. Readers from around the world have downloaded the University of Calgary Press’s more than a hundred Open Access books almost a million times.

The first Press book to be published Open Access was Grey Matters: A Guide to Collaborative Research with Seniors, written in collaboration with seniors who had been part of a national research project to teach them skills in patient-led research aimed at influencing programs and policy affecting seniors’ health and medical treatment. Nancy Marlett, now Director, Patient and Community Engagement Research at the Cumming School of Medicine, and co-author of Grey Matters with Claudia Emes, recalls, “When Donna asked if I would be willing to have my manuscript published in Open Access, I was thrilled. It seemed the ideal combination: the university reaching out to non-traditional learners and teaching an innovative research method that built social capital. Without this unimposing and free book, our research would have been impossible.” The program is now a university-approved professional certificate offered by continuing education across Alberta and increasingly across Canada.

But Open Access comes at a cost and requires strong institutional support–as a principle and as a business model. “As a pathfinder in Open Access book publishing in Canada,” says current Press Director Brian Scrivener, “we have been privileged to enjoy the sustained support of our University.” Looking forward, as Open Access gains greater acceptance in scholarly publishing, its benefits are becoming more and more evident.



Open Access Highlights

2010  UCalgary Press publishes its first Open Access book, Grey Matters: A Guide for Collaborative Research with Seniors

2011  A Century of Parks Canada, the first book in the fully Open Access series Canadian History and Environment is published.

2012  The Press joins the Directory of Open Access Books, beginning a decade of cooperative discoverability.

2013  The Open Access Backlist Project is begun, making previously unavailable books open to students and scholars everywhere.

2014  OA Books published in 2013-14 achieve a a remarkable 10 award wins and rankings over a single year.

2015  Over 50 Open Access book availalbe through the Press website, PRISM, and Open Access indexers.

2016  The Press celebrates the authors that make Open Access publishing possible at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities.

2017  Arts in Action, a groundbreaking OA series in collaboration with Mount Royal University, begins with Understanding Atrocities.

2018  The Press partners with the Calgary Institute for the Humanities to bring books about the environment of Calgary to the community of Calgary.

2019  UCalgary OA books are downloaded over a million times.

2020   UCalgary Press celebrates ten years of Open Access publishing with 113 OA books accessible online . . . and counting!



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