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VCU Libraries launches VCU Publishing, a digital press for faculty, students and the community

June 10, 2020
Collage of works that VCU Libraries has published.
Caslin Applewhite

VCU Libraries is launching an initiative that will spearhead the digital publishing of scholarship by Virginia Commonwealth University faculty, students and the community, including books, peer-reviewed journals, digital scholarship and more. 

The initiative, VCU Publishing, aims to amplify scholarly and research findings from the VCU community, and provide publishing opportunities and experiences for students and faculty. 

“Scholarly publishing is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of unsustainably increasing costs for scientific publishing combined with reduced publishing opportunities for humanities and social sciences (in part because of the vast increases in pricing for STEM journals),” said John Ulmschneider, dean of libraries and university librarian. “VCU Publishing directly addresses these challenges by creating new publishing venues, technologies and opportunities for the VCU community, supporting and amplifying scholarly and creative expression from VCU communities in cost-effective ways.”

Across the country, university libraries are increasingly expanding their capabilities to support scholarly expression in response to high costs of scholarly journals and declining publishing options for scholarly work in humanities and social sciences. In Virginia, libraries at the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and George Mason University have robust publishing operations.

“With VCU Publishing, VCU joins this growing effort among research universities to support scholarly communities, to reinvest funds toward undersupported disciplines and scholarship, and to expand open-access scholarly expression,” Ulmschneider said. “It is noteworthy that a significant private gift from visionary VCU community leaders, who recognize the importance of published scholarly and creative expression to the future of VCU, has helped make VCU Publishing possible.”

The initiative will rely on existing staff and resources. VCU implemented a universitywide hiring freeze on April 20 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

VCU Publishing combines several of VCU Libraries’ existing publishing enterprises, including:

Journal publishing: VCU Libraries publishes a number of peer-reviewed journals that have editorial board connections to the university. In addition, VCU Libraries offers publishing services to journal partners at VCU including digitization of back issues, digital preservation, dissemination and more. These journals include the Journal of Hip Hop Studies, the International Journal of Lifelong Learning in Art Education and the Journal of Mathematics and Science: Collaborative Explorations.

Book publishing: VCU Libraries book publishing includes digital reprints and original scholarship as well as ISBN/DOI assignment, author rights and rights reversion, digital preservation, editorial services, book chapter reprints, multiple formats and dissemination. The book publishing initiative recently published a newly formatted edition of the 1982 book “The Politics of Annexation: Oligarchic Power in a Southern City.”

Digital scholarship: VCU Libraries works in partnership with VCU scholars to develop web-based projects, along with preservation of underlying datasets. These have included “Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, 1915-1940,” in which VCU Libraries worked with VCU history professor John Kneebone, Ph.D., to create an online, animated map that shows how the second Ku Klux Klan spread across the United States. 

VCU Scholars Compass: This is a publishing platform for the intellectual output of VCU’s academic, research and administrative communities. Its goal is to provide wide and stable access to the exemplary work of VCU’s faculty, researchers, students and staff. Its content includes published or unpublished faculty research and presentations, conference papers and proceedings, theses and dissertations, multimedia, datasets and more.

“VCU Publishing will have a number of different publishing platforms, imprints and services. Scholars Compass will be a big part of the platform (specifically for journals, books and data),” said Jimmy Ghaphery, associate dean for scholarly communications and publishing. “VCU Publishing also includes more dynamic web platforms for certain materials such as the Social Welfare History Project or faculty led digital projects like Mapping the KKK.”

As part of VCU Publishing, VCU Libraries staff will help faculty and students make decisions about copyright and fair use, understanding and retaining their rights as an author, use open licenses to share their work, evaluate traditional and open-access publishing opportunities, and avoid publishing scams.

“Since VCU Publishing is based in the VCU Libraries, all of our efforts are built on the technological and social strengths of libraries,” said Erin White, head of digital engagement. “We have a deep understanding of knowledge description, dissemination and long-term preservation. Beyond technology, as a social and intellectual hub within the university we have a record of success in bringing people together both in person and virtually. Many of our current publishing successes are the result of our librarians’ involvement in their communities.”

VCU Libraries found inspiration for VCU Publishing in the university’s strategic plan, Quest 2025: Together We Transform, as the initiative is an engine for student success, national prominence, collective urban and regional transformation, and diversity driving excellence. 

“VCU Publishing creates new options for broader exposure of VCU scholarly and research findings, and provides publishing opportunities and experiences for VCU students and faculty,” said Sam Byrd, scholarly publishing librarian. “We are especially interested in opportunities for students to learn about contemporary publishing and to share their research.”

VCU Libraries is eager to work with partners across both campuses, as well as in the community. 

“We want to hear from potential partners, and are actively seeking new projects,” Ghaphery said. “No idea is too small or big. We would love to hear from faculty, researchers, artists, students and the community. Contact us.”

 Image Credits for VCU Publishing Collage 

Politics of Annexation book jacket designed by Jeff Bland; British Virginia by British Virginia (screenshot of journal page); Journal of Social Theory in Art Education: Sub/Verse Issue 39; Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, artwork Performing Statistics Volume 6 Issue 2; Journal of Hip Hop Studies Volume 6 Issue 2: If I Ruled the World: Putting Hip Hop on the Atlas; Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, 1915-1940 project (screenshot); The Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive (screenshot of homepage); Open and Affordable course content illustration by Jeff Bland; Social Welfare Image Portal - High school seniors embark by bus to voter registration, Atlanta, Ga., 1959, John Mitchell Brooks Collection of NAACP Files 1957-1978.

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