Open Access and the importance of institutional marketing

For a while now we’ve been hearing from some publishers that they’re focusing their marketing efforts on researchers and authors, and that institutional marketing is no longer important.

We’d like to offer a different viewpoint. Open Access (OA) doesn’t change the fact that publishers need to keep this vital channel with institutions open. At the heart of this crucial relationship is the library, and the continuing importance of the library’s role is evident in the increasing numbers of OA and Open Science (OS) Librarians we’re seeing. By focusing our marketing only on researchers and authors, we’d be missing an important constituent who helps maximise the deal, advocating for the uptake of transformative agreements.

First up, what do libraries and OA/OS librarians do?

Librarians have a busy life. Accustomed as they are to constant change, digital transformation has thrown a whole new set of challenges at them, not least OA. As you’d expect, they manage these extremely well, but they’re under significant strain. Budgets are, at best, remaining static, if not shrinking, and workloads are increasing. With these increasing demands on their budgets, libraries are looking to new models, such as transformative agreements that balance the costs and ensure fairness.

Essentially, libraries are doing exactly what they always have done – managing information to meet the needs of their institutions. OA doesn’t change this – in fact the OA ethos of facilitating the sharing of knowledge lies at the heart of their mission. What has changed is how libraries achieve their goals, and the problems they encounter along the way. Librarians whose remit covers OA/OS are the campus experts on the adoption and creation of open and affordable content, playing a central role in the daily operation and management of the library circulation, reserves, collection access, and bookkeeping functions.

Nurture your librarians

Librarians are the ones who know the most about OA at their institutions and are a source of knowledge and guidance for faculty. They advise on identifying high-quality OA publications and avoiding predatory journals, and support researchers in navigating the OA publishing process. They’re the ones who will make the difference in whether a transformative agreement is successful, as they are responsible for ensuring faculty make use of the many agreements they have in place to maximise their investment – all of which takes a lot of work. What librarians say they need here is guidance and clarity about OA going forward, which is where publishers can help.

How marketing to institutions can help

Maverick associates speak to many librarians in the course of their work and, as a result, we hear common themes emerging. What comes through loud and clear is how much they appreciate publishers reaching out to them. If there are any ways that publishers can make their lives easier, we should grab the opportunity, both to provide help and to strengthen our relationships with them. Establish what challenges librarians face and see how you can help. Here are some examples of areas where publishers can play an active role:

  • Work processes.
    The amount of work involved for librarians in managing the many different and complex, transformative agreements with publishers is huge. We recommend conducting some research and then reaching out to them to see how you can improve work processes for the current deal you have with them with the goal of making things as simple as possible. If you’re working towards an agreement, find out what works best for them.
  • Marketing transformative agreements to faculty.
    Libraries market these deals to faculty to ensure they know where they can publish free of APCs. If faculty don’t take up a deal, it’s at risk of failure in the long term as its value to the institution is diminished, especially given the very crowded market. Make your deals discoverable, so that researchers know what’s available to read, and that faculty engage and utilize content in their learning spaces. Offer help with marketing materials for faculty.
  • Coordinate marketing campaigns with faculty and libraries/researchers for maximum impact.
    This will make libraries’ lives easier, as you’re creating a three-way conversation with all interested parties.
  • Workshops/webinars on OA.
    Libraries play a central role in the dissemination of research. With OA an increasing priority in this process, librarians are closely involved in outreach across campus, educating researchers and students on all things OA. Here’s an opportunity to claim the space and offer them tools that provide vital help and advice, perhaps in the form of webinars and forums.

The final message? If you want to maximise your deals, then nurture your librarians and keep making yourself known to them. Given the increasing competition for institutions’ ever decreasing funds, this is a positive way to cut through the noise. By offering them help where they really need it, your institutional partners/libraries will help differentiate you from the competition and play a role in your success.

How Maverick can help

Maverick can help you with a wide range of marketing activities to institutions – from advising on strategy to creating and implementing marketing plans. With our vast industry knowledge and extensive understanding of OA and transformative agreements, we are well placed to help you get the most out of them.

To learn more, read “The road to Open Access is paved with unintended consequences,” and download Maverick’s Communications, PR, and Social Media Service Sheet.

By Jenny Drey, Maverick Senior Associate

Jenny Drey has over 25 years of experience in the academic publishing industry. Fluent in French and German, she has extensive experience marketing journals, newsletters, and books, both academic and professional and fiction/non-fiction. For the past 12 years Jenny has provided marketing, PR, and research expertise to a range of clients in publishing and other industry sectors, including legal and entertainment. In her career, she has worked for Chapman & Hall, Elsevier Science, Dorling Kindersley, and PJB Publications. An ideas person, Jenny continues to enjoy the creative aspects of writing, research, and translation.