A Year of Progress: Publishers and Libraries Collaborating in Crisis Times and Planting the Seeds for Sustainable Ecosystems

  • Mays, A. (Speaker)
  • Brittany Haynes (Speaker)


Increasing volumes of published research, proliferating research infrastructures, the rise of the Open Access movement, flat or declining library budgets, and inflexible purchasing and licensing models have led to growing fissures in the marketplace, especially exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crucial for sustaining research, education, inquiry, and professional development, the information ecosystem faces a sustainability crisis from these pressures. Yet, some publishers have taken an innovative stance in partnering with libraries through flexible purchasing and licensing options, various access options and benefits as ways for meeting actual content needs without forcing bundle purchases, openness to custom packages, growing and diversifying support for Open Access, and listening deeply to libraries’ needs. The authors further frame innovative approaches in the context of COVID-related triaging of technologies and online access as learning and research shifted online on massive scale. This paper outlines ongoing research and current library and publisher perspectives and summarizes the interactive exchanges from the 2021 Charleston Conference Lively Session.

The session kicked off with a publisher representative and a librarian sharing ongoing research and current perspectives on content, access constraints facing libraries, examples of publisher collaborations with libraries, evolving Open Access frameworks, and new publisher trends toward acquisition flexibility and access benefits sensitive to library needs. Next, the interactive portion engaged participants in lively discussion and brainstorming how publishers and libraries can work together toward sustainable solutions to issues requiring flexibility and collaboration. The audience included librarians, publishers, vendors, societies, consortia, and more represented roles in acquisitions, collections, digital scholarship, research, and publishing. Three participants commented ahead of time through the authors’ pre-session Qualtrics survey; 62 participants responded during the session via Mentimeter live poll.

Participants cited trends including marked shifts toward digital content away from physical formats, continued rise of Open Access, publishers’ efforts to provide access to content, exploration of flexible access models and the need for industry-wide flexibility, remote work and supporting infrastructures, loss of colleagues and effects on the organizations, and the pandemic’s impacts on workers’ and students’ well-being. Cited obstacles included cost structures, insufficient flexibility across the industry, declining resources while costs and needs keep rising, sudden sharp budget cuts, short staffing and staffing losses. Among positive collaboration outcomes, numerous participants called out the good citizens among providers who opened digital content to libraries early in the pandemic, exemplary experimentation with flexible options, and more conversations across the industry, leading to greater mutual understanding. Recurring themes among the open-ended closing comments include the need for open research to safeguard researchers’ rights to their own works, Open Access and equity, DRM-free access and world rights, appreciation for this conversation, and the need for more such conversations across the industry.
PeriodNov 3 2021
Event titleCharleston Library Conference
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Access features and benefits
  • Business Models
  • Collection Development
  • Content Licensing
  • Industry Collaboration
  • Library Collections
  • Licensing Frameworks
  • Open Access
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences