Lever Press is an exciting new initiative that launched in late 2015:
Nearly forty member libraries of the Oberlin Group have committed to creating and funding a new, peer-reviewed, open access, digital-first pathway for scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
As of December 4, 2015, nearly 40 liberal arts college libraries have committed to contribute more than $1 million to the work of Lever Press over the next five years. Librarians and faculty members at these institutions will also comprise the press’s Oversight Committee and Editorial Board. Supported by these pledges, Lever Press aims to acquire, develop, produce and disseminate a total of 60 new open-access titles by the end of 2020.
–Lever Press website
This collaborative effort to bring library publishing to small and liberal arts institutions has drawn a lot of attention. In her column, Library Babel Fish, Barbara Fister spoke with several members of Lever Press’s Oversight committee, who outlined the ways in which Lever differentiated itself from other initiatives:
- The funding model doesn’t rely on authors scrounging up funds to support the publication of their work. Instead, libraries will do what they’ve always done – manage resources to support shared access to information – but will do so in a way that benefits everyone, not just their local communities.
- The participating libraries and institutions aren’t simply writing checks to support work organized and directed by a third party. Librarians and faculty at the participating institutions will be involved in setting the agenda and defining the identity and the future of the press.
- Connected to that, the press will have a liberal arts focus. What exactly that will mean still has to be determined by participants, but from the start the idea is to publish work with readers in mind, not just specialists and tenure committees.
- There is also space reserved for innovation. A significant percentage of the list will be devoted to expanding our definition of “book” by giving digital scholars a sturdy and sustainable platform for new kinds of publications, filling a gap in what publishers currently offer and giving our digital scholars opportunities to publish differently.
-“Reflections on Lever Press” by Barbara Fister, 1/14/16
And, finally, scholarly publishing blog The Scholarly Kitchen conducted an interview with Lever Press members, inquiring about the collaborative nature of the Press, as well as its view of open access and what their plans are for bringing the scholarly monograph to the 21st century:
I think it would be wrong to characterize Lever as just a publisher of scholarly monographs. We expect the Press’s products to appear in a range of forms, optimized to serve the particular ambitions of the authors. Like most university presses, University of Michigan Press receives a large number of monograph submissions from liberal arts college authors and these are often some of our best books, perhaps because of the clarity of expression that teaching small classes of bright undergraduates encourages. Lever is focused on the sorts of project that for various reasons faculty members don’t feel fit the university press model. Perhaps they will be projects with digital components that can’t easily be represented between two covers; maybe they will involve deep collaborations with student authors. I’m excited by the wealth of untapped publishing creativity we’re finding within the liberal arts college community.
-Charles Watkinson in “An Interview with Lever Press” by Rick Anderson, 1/25/16
Though Lever Press has its initial partners set, they say they will be looking for additional collaborators in the future, particularly if the 60 publications they’re planning in the next 5 years are successful. We’re all keeping an eye on this one to see how the model works and what we might be able to adopt for smaller consortia, too!