The Oberlin Group of Libraries is committed to studying the field of scholarly communication in the 21st century to decide whether or not to enter into that field with a new publishing venture.
This is why the Lever Initiative was set up – to help us investigate the feasibility of launching such a publishing venture. This investigation has two phases:
Phase One focuses on identifying the broader, strategic questions of whether or not there is indeed a place for such a venture in the existing, evolving scholarly communication marketplace;
Phase Two focuses on the financial, operational, logistical, and governance issues that would attend to actually starting this venture.
Phase One is running from August through December 2013, and Phase Two is dependent on the outcomes of Phase One.
Why we wished to launch a study
The current model of scholarly publishing is inherently flawed and nearly broken. Most of the scholarly narratives published today are accessible to only a fraction of the world’s population. Poorly endowed institutions in the United States and most institutions in the developing world cannot afford to purchase or otherwise obtain quality work. At the same time, much is published that should not be published.
We propose to produce ourselves what the current model of academic publishing is unable to produce: good academic literature—literature that people want to read—made freely available to all. And to do so efficiently, sustainably, and making full use of technology and new media.
Assumptions to be tested
Such an endeavor would support our institutions’ commitments to life-long learning; it will promote research in the fields taught at liberal arts colleges; and it will inspire our alumni, thus strengthening support for our institutions themselves.
We also believe this to be an altruistic endeavor, an attempt to make scholarship available to all, without regard to affluence, location, or ability to travel. We envision over time that our work may dovetail nicely with allied work taking place in the development open access textbooks. It also has the potential to become a source of scholarly literature for students enrolled in free, online classes.
We believe liberal arts college libraries can support authors and readers better than they are supported now. Our colleges can also provide a model and a testbed for nimble, innovative, sustainable, and collaborative academic publishing.
Freed from old assumptions and old technology centered around the production of print publications, we can enjoy a unique chance to rethink what constitutes a “publication.” The opportunities afforded by new media—audio, video, crowd-sourcing, mash-ups—are all opportunities this venture can easily embrace.