Libraries supporting local book publishing: One more time

Back in February 2009, I outlined four possible medium-sized spare-time projects (in addition to Cites & Insights, the “disContent” column in EContent, “Crawford at Large” in ONLINE Magazine, this blog and my part-time contract as Editorial Director of Library leadership Network) and asked for feedback as to which might make sense.
That was before we decided to move this year. The move made it easy for several months: There was no way I was going to take on any of these. But, although we still have lots of decisions to make about the new house, time is starting to open up again, at least a little…

Clearing the undergrowth

Based on early feedback and, just as important, book sales, I’ve pretty much dismissed two of the four projects, as noted here. To wit:

  1. Although Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″ continues to get hundreds of downloads every month, there’s no indication that anyone would pay for it as an integral part of a revised Balanced Libraries (which, by the way, continues to sell at a modest pace).
  2. Blogging for Libraries, a combined and better-thought-out update of Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples and Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples, drew the same silence those books have. In that case, I’m preparing an explicit coda: The September Cites & Insights (out sometime in August) will include mini-updates on both 2007 studies, looking at the same blogs as of May 31, 2009 and measuring three easy metrics: the number of days prior to May 31, 2009 that the last post (before June 1) appeared, the number of posts during May 2009 (if there were any) and the number of comments during May 2009 (if there were any). The two articles–one for each category of library–will include quintile reports and brief overall comments; there may be specific notes on some public library blogs. (The article on public library blogs is written, absent specific blog notes; I’ve done the actual research for the academic library blogs article and will start writing it after I finish procrastinating writing this entry.) The articles will also point to Excel spreadsheets that anyone with funding and an interest can use as the basis for future research, requesting only a note as to the source of the 2007 & 2009 data.
  3. The current turmoil (if that’s what it is) in liblogs is such that I really can’t give up on Liblog Landscape Revisited, even as book sales continue to be dismal. I may yet do it, but probably as a special issue of Cites & Insights–$0 revenue as compared to, say, a big $200 or $300 from a book, but probably ten to 100 times the readership.

Then there was one

That leaves the idea that drew the most positive attention: Libraries and Publish on Demand.
And here’s where I need your help.
Go read the initial proposal.
This time, though, I don’t need to hear “this is a great idea.” I need to hear “my library would sign up for this workshop/would buy this book” or “my library association, consortium, whatever would definitely run this workshop and could reasonably assure X people would pay for it.”
I know that’s a lot to ask–and, realistically, I’m not asking for contracts here. The thing is, the more I talk to people about this possibility, look at what would be needed to do it properly, and think about what I’m hearing and seeing, the more I have a feeling this falls into a never-never land as far as actual widespread acceptance. To wit:

  • It’s not hot or sexy enough to be This Year’s Sensation–it’s not Second Life or how folksonomy will transform your online catalog or anything like that. Assigning styles, tweaking templates, copyfitting, etc… those all sound suspiciously like work. (The typographic and other choices are absolutely fascinating for type geeks–and pretty much snooze material for most folks, including most librarians.)
  • On the other hand, it’s “far out” as compared to the most down-to-earth topics–it won’t get books cataloged faster, it won’t improve staff morale, it won’t get your community to comment on your library blog.
  • Libraries directly supporting local book publishing–either by doing their own books or by providing templates and tools–is one of those ideas that sounds great, but that most libraries might find more cumbersome than useful.

There it is. Unless I have some real reason to believe that I could sell hundreds of copies of the book as a self-c0ntained workshop and example, or that hundreds of librarians would pay for online or conference workshops (including the book) over the course of two or three years–well, the project just isn’t worth it, either financially or in terms of impact. (Liblog Landscape Revisited will almost certainly not be worthwhile financially–but I believe it will have an impact, and at this point chronicling the ongoing liblog field is, to some extent, its own reward.)

Over to you

I’d have dropped this already except that I don’t believe anyone else will do it–both because others are more sensible and because few in the field have my peculiar set of interests and experience.
So, tell me, is this something you (your library, your neighbor’s library, your consortium’s libraries) would actually sign up for?

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