Faxon Institute Colloquium

Electronic Publishing and the Scholarly Communication Process

January 7-8, 1998

The Faxon Company [formerly http://www.faxon.com] has for over 100 years been a worldwide leader in serials management and subscription services in the library marketplace. A decade ago, it was the premier agent providing such services to research libraries in the U.S. and it maintained excellent relationships with the scholarly-publishing industry. As electronic publishing began to emerge, Faxon saw an opportunity as an industry leader to create a forum in which all participants in the scholarly-communication process — authors, editors, publishers, distributors, librarians and readers — could discuss the changes that the new technologies would bring, so in 1989 Faxon established the not-for-profit Faxon Institute for Advanced Studies in Scholarly and Scientific Communication.

Our first program was presented in late 1989 in conjunction with the Society for Scholarly Publishing and was titled "Knowledge for Sale: the Future of Intellectual Property." It consisted of a small roundtable discussion among scholarly publishers and intellectual-property experts and it allowed them to explore that complex issue in a provocative and thought-provoking way. We may have raised more questions than we answered at that initial program, however, so we would return to that a topic more than once.

As the Internet began to emerge as a more-widely available means of electronic communication in 1991, the Institute presented a much more ambitious, lo nger program, "Creating User Pathways to Electronic Information," which attracted more than 200 participants. As we said in the conference program, the objectives of that meeting were to "review what is known about the behavior of users of scholarly, scientific, and technical information; provide a forum for the discussion of the key issues associated with providing information electronically, from technological, social, political, institutional, and legal viewpoints, and discuss the critical issues involved in moving from print-based to electronically assisted information retrieval." While we couldn't solve any of the problems, we were able to explore a number of issues in depth to help all parties adapt to the tremendous changes that were on the horizon.

In 1992, the Institute continued its focus on the people who actually use scholarly information with "Listening to Users: Case Studies in Building Electronic Communities." We heard from information professionals in both North America and Europe who were involved in projects designed take advantage of the new technologies. The highlight of that conference was a spirited debate, "Inventing the Future: How will Scholars Communicate in the 90's?" that kicked off the program. Again, it was too early in this new era to provide a lot of concrete answers, but issues such as user patterns and attitudes, full-text retrieval systems, the usefulness of networked information, and refereeing electronic journals became more clearly defined.


After the successful 1992 conference, the Faxon Institute became dormant. The original head of the Institute had left, the company had fallen on hard times financially, and the office was disbanded. In the meantime, electronic publishing increased, the World Wide Web became ubiquitous, and information technology became more critical to scholars, publishers and librarians. In 1994, Faxon was acquired by Dawson Holdings PLC, a large, successful British company that was engaged in many aspects of the information industry.

"Confrontation was never a goal of the colloquium series"

Renewed financial strength gave Faxon the opportunity to re-establish itself in the research-library market. Coincidentally, a noted academic-library dean and long-time Faxon client expressed concern about the many professional conferences that he and his peers attended on issues such as the cost of scholarly information, the potential role of electronic publishing, and intellectual property concerns. Typically, those programs offered papers or presentations by other librarians and/or scholarly publishers, and information technologists. What they did not offer, however, was the opportunity for academic-library deans to engage in an extended and meaningful dialogue with their publishing counterparts. Such dialog, he said, was the only way both parties could gain a better understanding of the capabilities and the constraints that affected the other. He suggested that only a company like Faxon, a broker between the publisher and the library, would be in an ideal position to develop a forum in which such a dialogue could take place.

The Colloquium Begins

In the summer of 1996, shortly after that conversation took place, I returned to Faxon after a brief hiatus. A major part of my new responsibilities was to develop strategies for rebuilding Faxon's reputation in the academic research-library market, so the idea proposed by the library dean was given to me to turn into something tangible. We decided to use it as an opportunity to resurrect the Faxon Institute, since it had been such a successful vehicle for presenting industry-related programs in the past.

The type of dialogue that was needed between library directors and publishing executives suggested the roundtable format that was used effectively in the first Institute program back in 1989. The new program, the Colloquium on Scholarly Communication Issues, was held in February 1997 in Washington, D.C., and was attended by more than 60 librarians, publishers, and other information professionals. It consisted of four consecutive roundtable sessions on creation of scholarly information, distribution of scholarly information, ownership of scholarly information, and economics of scholarly information. Each roundtable included representatives from both communities, and the consecutive scheduling allowed participants in each roundtable to observe the other three sessions.

Feedback from the attendees at that first colloquium was positive and encouraging. We decided that in the next program we would move the discussion from the general to the specific. Also, at the suggestions of participants, we decided to involve authors (the creators of scholarly information) and academic administrators. The roundtable format itself was popular, so we built the follow-up program around it again. In January of this year more than 70 library administrators and scholarly publishers (both for-profit and not-for-profit) attended the Faxon Institute's Second Annual Colloquium on Scholarly Communication Issues in New Orleans. Two university administrators, including our keynote speaker, Stanley Chodorow, professor of history and former provost at the University of Pennsylvania, attended the program as well, and added some new and valuable perspectives to the discussion. We were not as successful in reaching out to the university faculty community, however.

This Year's Colloquium

One of our goals with the second colloquium was to move from the general topics discussed last year to some more specific topics that were logical byproducts. Based on feedback from the participants at the first colloquium and from the Institute's advisory board, the following topics were selected for the four roundtable sessions:

  1. Electronic Publishing and the Scholarly Communication Process

    • How has electronic publishing affected the process?

    • Has electronic publishing improved the way scholarly information is produced, disseminated, and accessed?

    • Who are the primary beneficiaries of electronic publishing — scholars, publishers, librarians?

  2. Emerging Intellectual Property Models

    • Should universities receive compensation from publishers for their intellectual property?

    • Should intellectual property that is disseminated via scholarly publishing be treated in the same fashion as patented information?

    • Should scholars retain "shop rights" in order to share freely published information within their own institution or society?

  3. Evolution of Licensing Models for Electronic Information

    • How are licensing agreements changing?

    • Have libraries successfully communicated the need for licensing changes to publishers?

    • Can librarians and publishers agree on standards for license agreements?

  4. Funding Issues and Scholarly Information

    • What is the long-term outlook for research libraries — academic, medical, corporate and federal?

    • How are library budgets changing to accommodate the growing availability of electronic resources?

    • Are institutional funding priorities shifting away or toward library resources?

Again, the discussions were intelligent and well-directed, although not as confrontational as some participants would have liked. Confrontation was never a goal of the colloquium series, however. What we were after was to build a forum for reasoned, rational dialogue on the issues. A positive change that occurred this time, on the other hand, was the involvement of more publishers in the actual discussions. At the first colloquium very few of the publishers chose to participate in the roundtable sessions. This year, almost twice as many publishers contributed to the roundtables, greatly enhancing the discussion.

"It is very difficult indeed to attract the attention of faculty and university administrators"

What We Have Learned

So what has the Faxon Institute and the Faxon Company learned from the colloquium experience thus far? Several things, I think. The most important lesson learned with the second colloquium was that it is very difficult indeed to attract the attention of faculty and university administrators to an event such as this. It's not only a publicity issue, it's an issue of getting their attention. Only a handful of administrators, such as Stanley Chodorow of Penn and David Shulenburger of Kansas, are intimately familiar with the issues that were discussed at the two colloquia and feel the same urgency for solutions that can be found in the communities that were represented. While those issues are critical for faculty as well — for they are both the creators and the consumers of this information — most of them leave them to the librarians and the administrators to work out.

Format issues should also be addressed for the next Institute program. During the wrap-up session at the end of the second colloquium, many expressed the opinion that the usefulness of the roundtable-discussion format probably had run its course. A number of suggestions regarding format changes were made by participants, and changes undoubtedly will be made in upcoming programs. Most likely future programs will feature a variety of formats, depending on the topics being addressed.

As for this year's topics, I offer these observations:

Electronic publishing appears to be a phenomenon that has been more or less accepted by all parties as an inevitable direction in which scholarly publishing should go. Intellectual-property issues are of great interest to librarians, but less so to publishers at present. That could change, however, if scholars and academic administrators decide to alter the way in which the academy regards ownership of its scholarship — and there is growing sentiment for this change in the academic community. Licensing issues continue to be of great interest to librarians and publishers alike, but the question remains open as to whether both parties can reach agreement on a "standard" license agreement. While funding questions remain an internal library/institutional issue, the rising cost of scholarly information and the continuing financial challenges faced by libraries ultimately becomes an issue that affects all participants in the scholarly-communication process as well as the taxpaying public.

Adrian W. Alexander is Director of Strategic Development at the Faxon Company, where he has served in various sales and marketing roles at since 1985. He also serves as Head of the Faxon Institute. He holds an M.L.S. and a Certificate of Advanced Study in library adminstration from the University of North Texas, where he also served as a reference librarian and head of administrative services. He presently serves on the editorial board of Serials Review and previously served for six years on the board of Library Acquisitions: Practice & Theory.

He is a past chair of the ALA/ALCTS Library Materials Price Index Committee, for which he co-authors the annual U.S. Periodical Price Index. He also serves on the ALCTS Publisher-Vendor/Library Relations Committee and is an active member of the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG). In addition to a number of Faxon pricing studies, Adrian's other publications include articles on collection development, intellectual property rights, EDI, and customer service strategies.

In March he will take the position of Executive Director of the Big 12 Plus Library Consortium — 16 large academic research libraries in the central United States.