The future of the academic book: Interview with Liz Waller

In the third RLUK interview for the Academic Book Week (23-28 January 2017), Liz Waller, Head of Library and Archives, and leader of a team of senior managers at the University of York, shares her views on the future of the academic book.

Liz Waller

Liz Waller

Christina Kamposiori: Please describe briefly your role and responsibilities in the library.

Liz Waller: I am Head of Library & Archives and lead a team of senior managers delivering Library and Archives services to the academic, student and wider community at the University of York.

CK: What does the future of the academic book look like for you in terms of format, purpose and use?

LW: I believe there will be an increase in born digital books which will offer new ways of engaging with the content, and new ways of presenting ideas. Whilst the idea of the book as the output for a sustained period of research will still hold good, I believe that the purpose of the book, the communication of ideas, will remain but may manifest itself in different ways – perhaps, offering a platform for presentation of ongoing research and academic debate. The book will become a more dynamic platform in the future, offering the opportunity for multi-media presentation and interactivity.

CK: How will the future academic book be shaped by your community’s needs?

LW: I think the shape of the future academic book will be formed by a number of factors. One of the cornerstones for academic progression, success and recognition is publishing – the academic book one of these publishing formats. The way in which academics share their work is beginning to change with new technologies and methodologies being embraced by a minority, but this will become more prevalent as the richness of this transmission is acknowledged and further developed. The academic book is produced by the community for the community – therefore the community needs to be at the heart of its development.

CK: What will the impact of the future academic book be on libraries’ and librarians’ role in academic research? Please comment particularly on any differences (if any) between the libraries’ role and that of other stakeholders (e.g. authors, publishers, booksellers).

LW: A more dynamic, media rich, interactive format for an academic book of the future will necessitate new publishing models and new publishers. Libraries already support open access publishing in their institutions (e.g. UCL Press and White Rose University Press) and, with new formats, the potential for the library to become involved in supporting publishing increases. The library should be well placed to partner with the academic community in exploring new dissemination outlets. Finally, the lines between author, publisher, bookseller and librarian may become blurred as we explore the potential for new and innovative partnerships.

CK: What additional skills will librarians or library professionals need for dealing with the future academic book?

LW: Librarians supporting academic publishing will need a deeper understanding of the research process and of academic practice and thinking as well as a knowledge of publishing processes and of new platforms and technologies which might be exploited. New publishing formats will require us to think about how we support discovery and, potentially, curation and preservation challenges presented by fluid, digital formats. It will be an exciting new world in which librarians can utilise existing skills sets in new ways and embrace new skills, knowledge and understanding.

This interview was initially conducted for the purposes of an article published in the British Academy Review (no. 29).

Christina Kamposiori, Programme Officer, RLUK

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