At the Charleston Conference, Ithaka S+R hosted a session on “The Spaces Between,” which was intended to explore our communities’ needs for research that fall between the traditional boundaries of library, publisher, and vendor. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, these spaces can prove themselves to be cracks into which important issues fall unnoticed, or opportunities to build connections between communities with ultimately many shared interests.

Our panel consisted of Joe Esposito, an independent publishing consultant, Susan Stearns, the executive director of the Boston Library Consortium, and Roger Schonfeld, program director at Ithaka S+R. Joe spoke about an upcoming research project he is leading with Ithaka S+R to establish the share of library acquisitions accounted for by Amazon as opposed to more traditional vendors, a project just being launched that has implications for scholarly publishers, academic libraries, and of course the vendors themselves. Susan shared some data that suggested the limited impact new discovery services have had, at least for some types of content at some types of libraries, and emphasized that more attention is needed on the delivery side of the equation, suggesting that a fuller understanding of user behaviors would be valuable. She suggested that one promising area for publisher-library collaboration would be thinking about how we move beyond the PDF article and the journal title to imagine the future of scholarly communications. Roger suggested that we think about discovery more broadly, thinking critically about serving as a search “starting point” and finding ways to improve scholars’ efforts to “keep up” with the literature.

The terrific discussion was given over to several major themes.

  • There were some questions about whether we should be satisfied with digital monograph interfaces provided through institutional channels and a sense that we should consider what a more complete ecosystem for engaging with texts might look like.
  • A number of questions arose about how to manage non-reading analysis, such as text-mining, including the advantages of cross-publisher services such as the HathiTrust Research Center or the local loading of OhioLink.
  • We heard about some of the perceived challenges in authentication and delivery systems, including off-campus access, with a sense that improved practices and systems are urgently needed.

We welcome additional feedback about these issues and others as we plan our next directions in this program area.