/ Library as Publisher: From an African Lens

This is the article length version of the authors’s presentation given at IFLA 2016. View the video recording of the authors’s presentation. The presentation begins at 24:20.


Africa is trapped in two paradoxical situations. The first is that the production of research is dependent on access to research - African researchers have been hamstrung by limited access to relevant and authentic scholarly literature to support the growth in their research output. It has been mooted that the saviour is improved access to open content. This gives rise to the second paradox - open access removes the financial barriers to the end user. In this new paradigm, the cash-cow for publishers is now the author via the payment of article processing charges (APCs). However, African researchers, in the main, cannot afford these exorbitant APCs, limiting their capacity to publish excellent research in leading international journals that have an OA publishing option.

Hence, it is incumbent on research intensive institutions on the African continent to take the lead in sharing scholarly output to engender and nurture a culture of research at those African institutions that are overwhelmed by low research output. To support the dissemination of trusted and relevant scholarly content, African libraries need to provide proactive ‘library as publisher’ services. These services must be delivered for non-profit purposes and must be underpinned by ‘philanthropic-social justice’ principles.

Some South African academic institutions, via their libraries, have stepped-up to the plate to make scholarly freely content accessible to both users and authors via suite of diamond open access services. The library as a publisher must gain traction quickly as a mainstream service provided by the higher education libraries in South Africa.

This paper will examine the new trend of library as a publisher from a developing world perspective. The benefits for the provision of ‘library as publisher’ service is colossal for development in the global South.


Academic libraries have transformed, over the decades, from evolving institutions to institutions that are in a state of revolution. The changing roles and responsibilities of librarians are at the epicentre of this revolution, for example, librarians are moving away from being supporters of the research process to being collaborators in that process (Tise, Raju & Adam 2015). Skinner et. al. (2015) testifies to this revolution pointing out that librarians are “moving away from being consumers of information to creators of information”. However, academic libraries in Africa are stuck in a paradigm that will fast render them irrelevant. To a large extent, these libraries are ‘victims’ of circumstances.

Africa is trapped in a bilateral paradoxical situation with regard to the stunted growth of its research output and its contribution to the world’s knowledge production. The first aspect of the paradox is that the production of research is dependent on access to scholarly content. Unfortunately, African researchers have been hamstrung by limited access to relevant and authentic scholarly content to support the growth of their research output. It has been mooted that the saviour is improved access to open content. This gives rise to the second paradox and that centres around the fact that open access removes financial barriers to the end user. The financial barrier has been transferred to the author or the author’s institution. In this new open access business model which is aggressively advocated for by large publishing houses, the author or the author’s institution has to pay article processing charges (APCs). The author holds the view that APCs are an additional cash-cow for publishers. This new business model severely prejudices African researchers who, in the main, cannot afford these exorbitant APC costs, limiting their capacity to publish excellent research in leading international journals that have an OA publishing option.

It is beyond debate that libraries need to become more proactive, through the provision of revolutionary services, in making scholarly literature available to African researchers. The author proposes that library publishing services must become a mainstream service as such a service will contribute positively to African researchers becoming significant contributors to the world’s knowledge production. However, it has to be noted that academic libraries in Africa have far greater challenges to mediate than their counterparts in libraries from the global North, limiting their capacity to make scholarly literature available to researchers. These challenges become abundantly clear when one juxtaposes the changing roles and responsibilities of libraries in global the North and Africa. It is these additional challenges that will define the direction that African academic libraries need to take to contribute to the growth of scholarly literature on the continent. The baseline motivation for engaging in the provision of publishing services is no different to academic libraries in the global North. However, the weightiness of the motivation resides in the additional challenges (to be discussed later) which are, for all intents and purposes, the significant drivers for academic libraries in Africa to render this new service.

Library as publisher

In the revolutionisation of library services, the author argues that some libraries have made it their mission to provide a publishing service. It is the desire of librarians to reduce sustained pressure on shrinking acquisition budgets and to ‘liberate’ academic publishing. This desire is not unfounded as Skinner et. al. (2015) points out that the role of the library as publisher is inspired by campus-based demands for digital publishing platforms to support e-journals, conference proceedings, technical reports, and database-driven websites. Bjork and Kunda (2015) add that the mission to provide a library publishing service is based on the core value of libraries and that is, to openly disseminate information and knowledge. Further, by providing this publishing services, libraries provide curation options for authors and readers, a service that is currently missing from today’s publishing market.

Library publishing are services and resources that support user participation in publishing. ‘Library publishing’ is a growing area of librarianship and is defined as a set of activities that support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and/or educational works. Libraries are using formal production processes to publish original works by scholars, researchers, and students (Skinner 2015; Boatright 2015).

In the African context, this services must delivered for non-profit purposes and must intended to advance the principles of social justice. The service may support a single element of the publishing process or it may be a comprehensive programme that support the entire process. Library publishing services are as diverse as libraries would want them to be and may include a variety of media formats and its intended audiences. Given that this is relatively new service, there are many African libraries that are still grappling with the institutional repository stage of publishing while there is a small but growing number that are offering a more advanced service that includes, inter alia, the publishing of journals and monographs.

The desire by African librarians to provide this ‘philanthropic-social justice driven service’ is highly commendable given the fact that they have developed or are developing a new skills set. Skinner et.al. (2015) comments that “although publishing is compatible with librarians’ traditional strengths, there are additional skill sets that library publishers must master in order to provide robust publishing services to their academic communities”. The author is not aware of any library school/science programme in Africa that offers a curriculum and/or training to support this publishing service. Staff currently engaging in the provision of publishing services have grown into these positions: skills to deliver these services have been acquired through self-directed learning including learning by trial and error.

Open Access purpose thread

A common ‘purpose thread’ in open access practises in South Africa is the reinforcement of the philosophy of sharing trusted and relevant scholarly content to generate new knowledge and for innovation. This ‘purpose thread’ resonates well with the African philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’. The synergy between open access and Ubuntu is underscored by the innate principle of sharing. Ubuntu is a Southern African term that brings to the fore socialism or humanism – it highlights the fact that one cannot exist as a human being in isolation (Chaplin 2006). Nestled and intertwined in the philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ are the unwritten and unacknowledged pillars of open access which are social justice, philanthropy and moral obligation.

It is important to examine, albeit very briefly, these pillars as they individually and/or collective uphold the founding principles of open access and are, for all intents and purposes, the drivers of OA practises in South Africa.

Africa, including South Africa, have been subjected to years of colonialisation and have been ravished in the post-colonial period by inequality and deprivation. One of the most significant contributors to Africa’s continuance as the dark content is the deprivation of access to scholarly literature necessary to move Africa from the periphery of the world’s knowledge production to the epicentre: access to knowledge that will allow Africa to find solutions to current challenges that beset the continent.

Matthew Robinson (2016) views social justice as the promotion of a just society by challenging injustice. He purports that social justice advocates for a fair allocation of community resources: a community where people are not discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained. Social justice is generally equated with the notion of equality or equal opportunity in society. Rawls (2014) posits that social justice promotes the protection of equal access to liberties, rights, and opportunities, as well as taking care of the least advantaged members of society. Miller (1999) adds that social justice is concerned with ways in which resources are allocated to the citizenry by social institutions – education and information is included as an essential resources.

The International Forum for Social Development (2006) directly links inequalities in the distribution of access to knowledge with social injustice. And, they have linked the delivery of quality educational to social justice. Education, including technical training and adult education, is critical for ensuring access to decent work and for social mobility, and in most societies is a strong determinant of social status and an important source of self-respect.

In the South African context, as a normative term, social justice refers to the extension of the principles of human dignity, equity, and freedom to participate in all of the political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of society. These principles are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The second pillar is that of philanthropy. This concept encompasses the innate desire to promote the welfare of others through the generous donation of money for a good cause. In the open access environment, philanthropy advances the generous sharing of scholarly content (as opposed to money) to improve the quality of life. Sacco (2013) and Rundle (2013) advance that open access matters because it advances the spread of ideas and knowledge. Rundle (2013) goes on to say that “when a person looking for answers can’t access the information they need ... humanity is poorer for it.” By devising ways to enhance access to digital content in libraries, “librarians can finally forget about selection and concentrate on discovery... collections are there to be used, and [their] job is to make sure they can be used. That means making information easy to access. It means helping to make it visible. It means assisting people not just to access the information that is available, but to find connections”. The relationship between philanthropy and open access confirms the obligation of libraries to freeing and opening access to information for all.

Moral obligation is the third pillar upholding open access. Moral obligation is viewed as a duty which one ought to perform. However, there is no legal compulsion. In the African and South African context, leading research universities on the African continent, have a moral obligation to share their research output with the rest of the continent. Further, there has to be a conscious effort to develop open teaching material to support teaching, if not across the continent, at the least across their respective countries. Leading research universities in South Africa have a moral obligation to upholding the philanthropic principles of open access and to ensuring that, in an unequal society, it pursues the principles of social justice as associated with the openness movement.

South African institutions’ commitment to open access

The issue of social responsiveness and transformation are key strategic issues on the agenda of most the public higher education institutions in South Africa. The open access mandates, policies and practises feed-off these key strategic issues. For example, Stellenbosch University’s open access policy alludes to sharing research output to address the Millennium Development Goals (Raju et. al. 2012). Common themes in South Africa open access policies, amongst others, is the increase in access to research output for the widest possible audience, increase the visibility of research publications and contribute to the corpus of research content available through open access.

Some of the academic institutions have taken open access to an unprecedented level in South Africa by offering diamond open access services. The underpinning philosophy in offering this service is that public academic institutions in South Africa get substantial funding from national government. Some of this funding is earmarked for, amongst others, the provision of innovative and relevant library services. There are a number of academic libraries that have taken the bold step to provide a publishing services. The author is of the view that this service responds to the social responsiveness and transformation agendas of their institutions. This diamond open access service addresses, inter alia, the decolonization of African scholarly literature. In the quest for social justice and an egalitarian society, access to knowledge and scholarship should not be dependent on economic affordability. The author acknowledges that online access is a challenge, however, it is, at the least, one barrier removed.

The author is also of the view that in the post-colonial era, the article process charges (APCs) does not conform to the principles of social justice: it is only the previously advantaged institutions that can afford to pay APCs. Again, it is the view of the author that APCs is a brilliant business model that uses (or has twisted) the open access philanthropic principles to grow another profit stream. In the absence of a mainstream diamond open access services, APCs would have to suffice to get content into the open as soon as possible.

What is diamond open access?

Diamond open access is a relatively recent stream within the gold open access route. Like all other gold open access content, the scholarly item, be it a journal article or a monograph, is immediately available without cost to the end user – the end user does not have to pay for access to the material. On the other hand, in diamond open access route neither the author nor his/her institution or funding agency has to pay a publication fee, article processing charges or any other fees for getting articles published. In this model, not-for-profit and non-commercial organizations publish material that is made available totally free (Fuchs & Sandoval 2013; United Academics Foundation 2015; Fecher & Wagner 2016).

It must be noted that journal articles published in diamond open access journals, in the main, do not compromise the academic rigour associated with quality journal publishing. Diamond open access retains high quality peer review and editing processes. The principal difference lies in the absence of article processing fees. The emphasis is on achieving academic goals that is, making knowledge production, dissemination and consumption as free as possible.

As historical practises has it, the traditional quality editorial and peer review services are still done on a volunteer basis. The primary purpose of the editor and peer reviewer is to advance science and to serve the needs of a science-hungry society. The costs of editing, peer review, and publication or hosting are covered by an academic institution. For those South African academic institutions that offer a ‘library as publisher’ service, libraries make the infrastructure available while the editing and reviewing work is completed by academics in their roles as authors, editors or peer reviewers. The model uses creative commons licenses which allows publishers to enable others to reuse the works, share alike under the same terms, to either allow modifications of the works or not, and to prohibit commercial uses of works. Further, this model avoids the costs for both publishing and reading an article, while essentially working like a traditional journal. This overlay model has the capacity to combine the best of two worlds by implementing the quality control of gold OA while using a public infrastructure as in the green route to OA. The combination of the gold and green gives birth to diamond.

This diamond open access model provides academic institutions with the capacity to probe opportunities to decolonize scholarly literature material and seek long overdue social justice. For those historically advantaged institutions it could be used as an option to fulfil their moral obligations – to respond to the call for social responsiveness.

The focus of this paper is on diamond open access as it provides African institutions with opportunities to exploit capacities without incurring major costs. Further, it provides libraries with opportunities to provide relevant services befitting the 21st century.

Opportunities for diamond open access

As indicated, diamond open access, presents significant opportunities for social justice and the promotion of philanthropy. This is confirmed by Crossick (2015) who asserts that open access has a great deal to offer, not least in terms of increasing the reach and impact of research publications and improving both the extent and the character of scholarly communication within the academy. Be that as it may, it must be acknowledged that extending diamond open access to books is not easy as there are contentious issues relating to licensing and copyright. Crossick (2015) goes on to say that while it is “important that any move towards open access should seek to replicate the desirable features and essential contributions of the monograph to the production and communication of knowledge, it is important also to identify the ways in which the move to open access might improve on the features, form and function of monographs, enhancing their contribution to the research process and securing their continued value to scholarship”. The exemplar of publishing activities at UCT, with regard to experimenting with and implementing improved features and functionality, promotes social justice and fast-tracks the sluggish move towards the decolonization of scholarly content.

It is envisaged that open access in South Africa and Africa can solve important issues about accessibility of African content, it can enhance the ways in which African scholarly content can be published, used and interacted with. Open access has the potential to revitalize the African academic community’s connection with the peer review, publication and dissemination of books.

While journals have led the way, monographs have moved more slowly towards open access. The imperatives for open-access monographs are broadly the same as those for journals, but providing open access for monographs is thought to be much more complex and fraught with difficulties than for journals. Electronic publication of monographs has not become as widespread as it has for journals. The monograph world is still dominated by expensive printed books.

Be that as it may, open-access books provide options for academics and non-academics to engage with scholarly material without the obstacles presented by price, location or copyright. The net effect is that there is wider use, readership and non-academic impact. The fact that these books are open and free makes it radically improves it availability in less economically developed countries. The author accepts that there are other challenges such as low bandwidth and frequent blackouts but the major challenge of financial affordability is removed.

Taking on a more ambitiously perspective, open access allows authors, readers and reviewers to make direct revisions to the monograph, or to offer comments and proposed additions, with the Web facilitating the book as an open-ended ‘living’ document. This becomes especially relevant when libraries start to publish open education resources. This electronic format facilitates revisions and additions to strengthen and possibly localize open education resources making it an extremely attractive solution to the age long problem of the inability to decolonized African content.

African challenges

As indicated earlier, academic libraries in Africa have far greater challenges to mediate than their counterparts from the global North. By the same token, it is these additional challenges that serve as the driver for the rolling-out of a publishing service.

The challenges confronting African academic librarianship is wide and varied ranging from poor access to content to the decolonization of the curriculum. One of the many challenges is that of finances. In an era of a glut of information, African academic libraries are strangled by severe cost constraints limiting access to information. Exacerbating the limited access challenge, in an era where ubiquitous access to information is fast becoming the norm, is the exorbitant costs of bandwidth. On average, accessing the Internet cost Africans 50-100 times more than what it cost consumers in the global North and Asia (Saide 2004; Twinomugisha 2010). Assuming that Africa can overcome the bandwidth cost barriers, another significant challenge is the frequent blackouts.

While libraries in the global North are steaming ahead as collaborators in the research and learning processes, libraries in Africa are being relegated further into providing a reactive ‘from the reference desk’ service to a dwindling number of users. As the world moves towards a new higher education paradigm that promotes collaborative learning, Africa is grappling with this changing paradigm against the backdrop of a drive to decolonize the curriculum. The reality is that only African texts can address this issue. Unfortunately, as will be discussed later, publishing outlet are limited as the market is very small – not because people do not want to read these texts: in the current financial climate it is just unaffordable. For the small African publisher it is financial suicide and as for the big international publishers they have no interest as the profit margins are miniscule at best.

For African academic libraries to play a more meaning role in the higher education process, it has to reinvent its service model. The library as a publisher is one of the golden strands in a reinvented service model. As will be discussed, access to indigenous content is important for the African higher education system. Further, African content is essential to support the changing education paradigm and current collection development practices. As will be demonstrated, collection development has been seriously neglected over the decades; the author is of the opinion that library publishing services will provide some relief in improving relevant collections in African academic libraries.

Changing education paradigm

As recent as 2012, Higgs wrote that “the marginalization of African values in African education has resulted in the general westernization of education theory and practice in Africa”. Dominant research epistemologies have developed methods of initiating and assessing research in Africa where researchers fail to acknowledge the cultural preferences and practices of African people. Instead, research epistemologies and methods are located within the cultural preferences and practices of the western world. Adeogun (2006) posits that much of what is taken for education in Africa is in fact not African, but rather a reflection of the global North in Africa. The author proposes that education on the continent needs to go in the direction where the curricula is Africa focused and indigenously grounded and orientated. If such a transformation does not take place, it is argued by Higgs (2012), it will mean that education becomes alien, oppressive and irrelevant.

As early as 1969, Nottingham was calling for the development of an indigenous publishing industry for an independent Africa focusing on the decolonization of reading material. However, by the turn of the century educational publishing is still dominated by international multinationals. One of the primary reasons for this call from Nottingham was to develop as sense of nationalism. He views books as the most effective single instrument for purveying this sense of nationalism for a developing continent. The author is of the view that indigenous publishing has a symbiotic relationship with the educational system and African transnationalism.

Books which are the mainstay of the African intellectual community are, in the main, written by Africans but published outside Africa. Most foreign publishers who publish books by Africans on African affairs do not choose manuscripts on the basis of African markets as the African markets are far too small. Exacerbating the scenario is the fact that African authors of nonfiction and scholarly works, for economic reasons, are dependent on the global North publishers. Further, Smith (1975) adds that political and social commentaries produced by African academics are not published indigenously because their authors tend to seek the wider market, prestige and assured royalty payments from global North publishers. These authors write on Africa for an international intellectual community rather than for the African community.

Nottingham is of the firm belief that there is no technological reason as to why all the basic educational course books, including tertiary education material, should not be written, designed and published in Africa rather than in London, Malta, or Hong Kong. This will lead to significant savings in foreign exchange which will have other obvious economic benefits. The author adds that the format of the publication should be electronic and publisher should be a non-commercial entity: the library is an ideal collaborator in the open dissemination of the publication.

Transformation, education and publishing

It is less than a decade ago that leading academic institutions committed, at the 2009 UNESCO Conference (as reported by Raju and Schoombee 2013), to realigning their foci within their core functions of research, teaching and service to the community, to incorporate the promotion of critical thinking. The principle of developing and nurturing critical thinking in higher education strengthens the paradigm shift in pedagogy: a shift from education being a domesticator to education being a liberator. In this pedagogical paradigm shift, there is a move away from the ‘top-down’ delivery of education (domestication) to the educator being a facilitator in the education process (education as liberator). In this transformation, there is a shift in philosophy from that which focuses on the transmission of information to an understanding that supports the constructivist paradigm of teaching and learning (Raju & Schoombee 2013; Adeogun 2006) where learners are co-constructors of knowledge in the teaching and learning process facilitated by the educator.

However, in the African context, transformation in education is a ‘double-edged sword’ in that Africans have to deal with the pedagogical shift against the backdrop of a colonial legacy that is deeply entrenched in African society. This deep seated colonial legacy makes the transformation of education that much more of a challenge. There is significant need for this ‘decolonization transformation’ to be more than a re-decoration of what is essentially a Euro-American centred education system which has little value as it does not reflect the African context.

The transformation of higher education in Africa calls for the incorporation of both the epistemology and the philosophy of the previously marginalized. This would entail, amongst others, the transformation of Euro-American cultural hegemony through a process of Africanization. In this complex transformation of higher education, from domesticator to liberator and to a decolonized education system, a major question is: are African academic libraries equipped, in terms of resources (information and physical) and skilled librarians, to provide the necessary support for the implementation of this transformation?

In the 21st century, Africa needs a modern tertiary education reflective of African imperatives. Unfortunately, an irrelevant curriculum on two fronts (firstly, one that is deeply seated in colonialism and secondly, one that is abstract to the African environment) poses major challenges to higher education institutions in Africa, let alone the libraries that support them.

Rita (2009) pronounces on the capacity of academic libraries to support African development and a changing higher education paradigm stating that “thirty years after independence many African countries are still struggling to develop librarianship so that it can match or reflect the social, economic and political conditions which prevail in Africa. ... libraries and librarians have not contributed to the development of Africa”. Given these claims, it is important to examine the services provided by the African academic library in the 21st century.

Collection development and facilities

Given the focus of this paper is on library as publisher, it is important to examine collection development practices and to examine how the new role (that is, library as publisher) of the library can support collection development at African institutions of higher education.

Library collections in the majority of the universities in African academic libraries are housed in make-shift buildings, this is a clear indication of the state of the library collections. Agboola (2000) states that collections in Africa is best described as mediocre and continuing to deteriorate despite the increasing number of students and academics. Ksibi (2006) asserts that “Tunisian university libraries generally have between 2 to 30 titles per academic user, as compared to 250 in some developed countries”. In Nigeria, at the University of Ibadan, the acquisitions rate had dropped by 89.6% from 1976/77 to 1989 (Raju 2017). It is acknowledged that the data is very dated - there is no recent data that is readily available. However, there is evidence in the literature that alludes to African higher education library collections being on a continued downward spiral.

Kavulya (2006) posits that funding of university library services in Kenya is inadequate. This is due, in the main, to diminished allocation of funds from government for universities and their libraries. This diminished funding has resulted in low book acquisitions and a reduction to an already limited journal subscriptions: here reference is made to the purchase of, on average, less than 100 books per year. Kavulya (2006) goes further to point out that even private universities in Kenya are experiencing these problems, but to a lesser extent (Kavulya 2006).

Kanyengo (2007) reveals that the funding crisis for books and journals is not restricted to one African country – it is an ‘Africa problem’. Kanyengo (2007) goes on to assert that, “this scenario is repeated in countries from Kenya in the East to Zimbabwe in the South, as well as Nigeria in the West”. He attributes this crisis to the lack of government support for university libraries. Given the poor state of collections at African universities, one questions the contribution that a university library can make to the teaching, leaning and research objectives of a university: one questions the capacity of libraries to contribute to the decolonization agenda: one questions the capacity of libraries to contribute to the transformation and social justice agenda of the continent.

What African libraries need is a survival strategy which must be universal to the African continent. This survival strategy must address, inter alia, the issue of decolonialization of the content together with making research content available via monographs and journals. The survival strategy must also address the issue of transformation and social justice.

Library as publisher

The growth of the open publishing movement in Africa must be set into motion by institutions that are relatively advantaged. It is incumbent on these institutions to take the lead in sharing scholarly output to engender and nurture a culture of research at those African institutions that are overwhelmed by low research output. Some South African academic institutions, via their libraries, have stepped-up to the plate to make scholarly content accessible. These libraries offer a suite of diamond open access services. The library as a publisher is gaining some traction as a mainstream service provided by the higher education libraries in South Africa. Of the 23 public academic institutions in South Africa, four of them are currently publishing 27 journals. The software that is being used to provide such a service is Open Journal Systems (developed by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP)). The University of Cape Town has gone a step further and is using Open Monograph Press (OMP), another PKP product, to publish open monographs. UCT Libraries has thus far published four open monographs and are currently piloting the publishing of open textbooks as part of the University’s transformation and social responsiveness agenda.

There are four South African higher education libraries that are currently offering a publishing service for open access journals. This role is driven, in the main, by campus-based demands for digital publishing platforms to support e-journals and conference proceedings. Although this publishing service is compatible with the librarian’s traditional strengths, there were additional skill-sets that the library staff had to master in order to provide this robust publishing service to their academic communities. These South African institutions that are providing a publishing service are using the open source software Open Journal Systems (OJS).

Stellenbosch University had taken the lead to carve a path for the delivery of a publishing services. Three other institutions quickly followed in the footsteps of Stellenbosch University. In October 2011 Stellenbosch University, via its library, launched its open journal’s platform called SUNJournals. This publishing platform (SUNJournals) is currently hosting 20 journal titles. Some of the titles that SUNJournals hosts appear on the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (South Africa) list of accredited journals. One of the many services provided by Stellenbosch University Library, in terms of ‘library as publisher’ service, is the distribution of unique Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). As a registered member of CrossRef, an international DOI registration agency, the Library has the capacity to assign a DOI to each article. The DOI validates some level of authenticity, which reinforces the trustworthiness of the journal article and title. Further, CrossRef also ensures that the DOIs are harvestable by leading harvesting institutions (Raju et al. 2012). It is the opinion of the author that the open ‘harvestability’ of this content goes some way to addressing the issue of social justice – making scholarly content available to all including the rank and file: content that has the potential to improve the quality of life are now accessible by all who can gain access to the internet.

The University of South Africa publishes five titles using OJS. These titles are:

Journal of philosophy in schools; International journal for educational integrity; The journal of educational enquiry; The journal of student wellbeing; and Teaching and learning in (higher) education for sessional staff. The University of the Western Cape publishes two titles on their OJS platform. These titles are Critical studies in teaching and learning and the Journal of student affairs in Africa. The University of Cape Town has begun its OJS journey with the publication of an undergraduate journal UR@UCT: undergraduate research. As a research intensive institution, UCT’s ambition is to increase the number of postgraduate students through the growth of the pipeline of undergraduate students. The University pursues the principle that research begins at the undergraduate level and hence the objective of this journal is to give undergraduate students an opportunity to get published. Further, the creation of UR@UCT: undergraduate research provides a conduit to showcase scholarly output from undergraduate students. The journal is also meant to encourage and explore intellectual capabilities beyond the classroom and provide a forum for the exchange of research ideas. Publishing research as an undergraduate provides a bridge between knowledge and experience. The opportunity to publish in a journal allows undergraduates to explore creating new knowledge and career opportunities in the academic world. The opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in the generation of new knowledge speaks directly to ‘education as a liberator’. The provision of the publishing services supports the shift in the higher education paradigm. UCT Libraries is in the midst of producing another four journal titles two of which are international: one a collaboration between the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Northwestern University (USA) and UCT. .

As indicated, authors can publish content in a repository or an open access journal. In terms of the latter, it offers the additional opportunity for the article to be lodged in the repository. With regard to those journals that are being published via OJS, there are a small number of journals that ask for the payment of article process charges. In defense of the levy of an APC, the funds generated from the APC is used to support the academic components of the publication process, for example, language editing and layout editing. It is the opinion of the author that those authors writing in journals that are being published via a hosting service provided by the libraries are committed fulfilling their moral obligation and fulfilling the philanthropic and social justice principles of open access.

Open Monograph Press

Diamond open access publishing is gaining traction, nationally and internationally, albeit very slowly. There are a small number of academic libraries internationally that are publishing monographs via diamond open access. The University of Cape Town Libraries is one of those academic libraries that are offering a diamond open monograph publishing service.

The publishing of monographs at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is still very much in its infancy. As much as UCT Libraries has published four titles in the last year, it still considers itself to be in pilot mode with regard to publishing monographs in an open access forum. Currently, academics at the University are placing their unpublished monographs on their websites for use by fellow researchers and practitioners. The possibility of using Open Monograph Press (OMP) to convert the websites into published monographs has now become a distinct reality for the University community.

The pilot is guided by the announcement by Willinsky (2009) that the OMP software platform is available for use to manage the editorial workflow required for the publication of monographs, edited volumes, and other scholarly editions. The workflow allows for internal and external reviewing and editing. In using open source software, the system is freely available to the academic community, and designed to reduce clerical costs and supplies, as well as overhead and libraries’ capacity to host the system is enhanced and scholars are able to play a more active role in the review process. The first title that was published in December 2015 by UCT Library using OMP was The quest for a deeper meaning of research support. As indicated above, three other titles have subsequently been published. There are other titles that are in the pipeline for publication in the coming months.

Having successfully navigated the first phase of the pilot, UCT Library is working on phase two of the pilot and that is the publication of open textbooks. UCT draws a distinction between OERs, open monographs and open textbooks. As much as there is a great deal of overlap, drawing the distinction between the three will help articulate the direction that libraries need to pursue.

The distinction between open monographs and open textbooks is based on the primary characteristics and/or purpose of the book. In terms of the similarities, both open monographs and open textbooks are material that are freely available and are managed by creative commons licenses. Essentially, both books can be downloaded, customized or printed without the expressed consent (written or otherwise) of the author.

In terms of the differences, open monographs are written primarily for a community of scholars, be it students, peers of the authors or any other persons. Open monographs may be used as required for supplementary reading in the teaching process. However, its primary purpose is not that of a curriculum linked educational text. Open textbooks on the other hand are closely linked to the curriculum and aligned to teaching philosophies and pedagogical approaches of the academic. It is written primarily for students and is intended to be used in the lecture halls.

There is close synergy between open textbooks and OERs. Open textbooks are created specifically for teaching purposes which is the golden strand in OERs. OERs, per se, is the broad concept with open textbooks being one of the modes of delivering an open educational service. An open textbook is no different from an open journal article which can be added to online course readers for students. The author is of the view that the development of open textbooks is an imperative in higher education given that the cost of textbooks is spiraling out of control. This is the case not only in South Africa and the developing world but the world at large. In the South African and African context, open textbooks addresses the issues of moral obligation and, the philanthropic and social justice principles of open access. The availability of textbooks that reflects African imperatives tackles the issues of the decolonialization of content and Africa’s transformation agenda.

The author goes on to claim that open textbooks addresses a myriad of challenges including, inter alia, spiraling costs of textbooks and the decolonialization of content as they are available online for free and licensed under a creative commons license. On the agenda of UCT Library is the publication of an open textbook in law and two in health sciences. In terms of the open textbook in law, it is estimated that there will be a saving of around ten million rands for the country as a whole as rank and file law students will not have to purchase that textbook. Further, there will be those in practice that will use the open textbook. For the layperson, free access to this legal book on the constitution of the country would, in the opinion of the author, be most welcomed. The second open textbook that is being worked on is by a renowned South African otorhinolaryngologists. This medical textbook will have audio and visual clips embedded to assist with medical procedures: both medical students and practitioners will have access to an essential textbook free of financial constraints. Africa is in dire need of ear, nose and throat specialists and this atlas will provide much needed support to both practicing doctors and medical students. Both of these diamond open textbooks will bring considerable relief to both students and people that are in practice.

Through the publication of these open textbooks, the University of Cape Town, will be addressing transformation agenda of the country and continent and the issue of decolonialization of content. These challenges will be navigated under the broader umbrella of the innate principles of open access and that is, social justice, moral obligation and philanthropic principles.


The need for authors to have their works widely distributed and the need for students to have access to low cost textbooks are among the many layers of the ‘open access publishing onion’. At the core of the need for African academic libraries to adopt the role of publisher is the determination to support an African curriculum, a decolonized curriculum that is reflective of African imperatives. Mainstream publishers have little or no interest in publishing such works as the markets for these are small with minimal profit or none at all.

For African governments, the funding of libraries for information resources is at the lower end of their list of priorities. To break out of the cycle of deprivation and poverty, African researchers, that is, producers of new knowledge, must have access to content to generate this new knowledge. For learners, they need to have access to educational material to support their academic career aspirations. If this content is not accessible the educational system is likely to continue on the trajectory of being non-productive.

The motivation for the adoption of ‘library as publisher’ within the African context is driven by a survival strategy. There are some institutions that have stepped-up to the plate and the sooner ‘library as publisher’ becomes mainstreamed in library service provision across the continent, the greater the opportunities for the growth and development of Africa.