Krista Gray, Anna Trammell, and Christopher J. Prom 2016-09-26 14:41:48
Like many professional associations, SAA has fostered an energetic book publishing program. Since 1970, SAA has published more than 150 books. By supporting our member authors and by developing this literature, SAA’s book publishing program has been a primary instrument that members have used to build our profession—and our professional association—into a leading force in archival theory and practice. SAA wants and needs to maintain this publishing role, even as we witness unprecedented changes in the ways that people access and consume information. Keeping our publishing efforts vital begins by asking questions: How are members of the archival profession accessing and using the professional literature? How might their reading habits be changing? What types of resources do they need? And—given the responses to these other questions—how can SAA’s book publishing program best serve the profession? To get some answers, the SAA Publications Board developed and distributed a book publishing survey in the spring of 2016, following a lively brainstorming session at our January board meeting in Chicago. Initial results from this survey are provided below, and the full results of the survey will be used by the Publications Board as we consider new publishing models that might be pursued over the next three to five years. About the Respondents The survey received more than 1,600 responses in March and early April. Nearly 90% of respondents were members of SAA, ranging from new (0–1 year) to long-time (31+ years) members. When asked to select the role or roles they held in the profession, almost three-quarters of respondents indicated they were professional archivists, librarians, or records managers. About 15% of respondents identified themselves as students, 9% as pre/paraprofessionals, and 6% as archival educators or teachers. Those indicating their primary professional affiliation as being with an academic institution or school made up about half of the respondents, with government and nonprofit institutions each claiming about a sixth of respondents (15% and 18%, respectively).(1) The remaining sixth of respondents were affiliated with for-profit institutions, self-employed, unemployed, or selected “other.” Book Formats and Purchasing Habits Nearly all respondents indicated that they had read or consulted a professional book in print format over the past twelve months. Over three-quarters reported reading or consulting a book as a PDF on a screen while about half reported using a PDF printed out. Overall, print continues to be the preferred format for accessing and reading books, with PDF running a close second. Fewer respondents accessed professional books in ebook formats, for example, on a Nook or Kindle. There was also a notable difference among respondents with regard to the use of ebooks: in the past year, those identifying as professional archivists or librarians were statistically less likely than pre/paraprofessionals, educators, and students to have used a professional book as either a downloadable ebook (27% versus 37-50%) or an ebook through a library (20% versus 36-48%). Looking ahead, respondents predicted using print and PDF formats in about the same proportions over the next two years as they had over the past twelve months. More anticipated accessing professional books in ebook formats in the next two years. Close to half anticipated using a downloadable ebook format, compared to less than a third over the past twelve months, and a bit more than a third anticipated accessing an ebook through a library, compared to less than a quarter over the past twelve months. Respondents reported buying books in relatively modest quantities over the past twelve months. When asked about books personally purchased, almost half of respondents indicated that they did not buy any professional books in the past twelve months. “High cost of books” and “I found relevant information online” were the main factors that led to respondents purchasing no books over the past two years or fewer books than in the past. These are critical factors to keep in mind since the trend toward lower personal book purchases mirrors that seen for publishing as a whole. Historically professional associations like SAA have played a critical role in systematizing and publishing professional literature through active peer review, editing, and design work—costs which continue whether publication takes place in print or digital form. Book Topics and Purchasing Choices The most common types of professional books respondents read or consulted over the past twelve months were “manuals about core archival functions” and “standards manuals,” areas in which SAA publishing has traditionally been very active. Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated they had read or consulted a manual about core archival functions and about two-thirds indicated they had consulted a standards manual. About half reported reading or consulting “books providing overviews of new areas in archival practice” in the past year. Both “collections of essays” and “collections of case studies” were read or consulted by about two-fifths of respondents, while monographs were read or consulted by about a third of respondents. “Digitization or Born-Digital Records” topped the list of subject areas for professional books that respondents had read or consulted in the past twelve months. About three-fifths of respondents indicated that they had read or consulted a book for this subject area. Closely following were “Arrangement and Description” and “Archival Theory and Principles.” About half as many respondents indicated that they had read or consulted a book for the subjects of “Archives in History and Society” and “Leadership, Management, and Advocacy,” the two least commonly chosen options in the survey. The most commonly listed topics in the “other” category were copyright, rights and legal issues, and facilities and security. The survey also revealed that people with different roles read books about different subject areas. Not surprisingly, educators and students were more likely than archivists and pre/paraprofessionals to have read or consulted books about archival theory and archives in history and society. Students were also more likely than archivists and educators to have read books for preservation and conservation. All were about equally likely to have read books for information on digitization or born-digital records. Looking ahead to book topics that respondents are very likely or somewhat likely to purchase in the next two years, the clear leader is “Digitization or Born-Digital Records,” followed by “Preservation and Conservation,” “Arrangement and Description,” “Archival Theory and Principles,” and “Reference, Access, and Outreach.” Least likely to be selected for purchase are books on “Archives in History and Society” and “Records Management.” In the comments under “other,” the top three areas of interest were grouped around copyright, rights and legal issues, diversity and representation, and facilities development, all areas in which SAA either has been traditionally strong or has recently published new works. New Publishing Models When asked to comment on future reading preferences, most respondents noted a clear preference for print: 58% ranked it their first choice, and 20% their second. PDF appears as second overall preference, with 16% ranking it as first choice and 41% second. A potential subscription service is ranked by 18% and 24% as their first or second choice, while only 8% and 15% rank ebooks this way. The survey also asked respondents if they would be interested in a tiered subscription service, where, for an annual fee, they could have online access to either the entire library or a subset of SAA books. The responses demonstrated considerable interest in this idea among people of different roles, ages, institution types, and stated salaries, with three-fifths of people overall either very or somewhat interested in this model. Respondents noted that searchability, cross-platform compatibility, and bookmarking features would most affect their decision to use the service. Respondents also emphasized the cost of the service and, to a lesser extent, ability to print, as particularly important elements that would affect their decision to subscribe. Next Steps The results of the survey and the thoughtful comments made by respondents will shape future planning by the SAA Publications Board. We’ll be analyzing the results and discussing the findings in greater detail in the coming months, and recommendations will be made to the Council in the spring of 2017. Books published by SAA help our members to increase the sum of their professional knowledge and to partake in a shared vision for archival practice. We want to ensure that SAA’s book publishing program continues to meet—and exceed—the needs of our members as well as students and people in allied fields. Notes (1) These proportions differ from what was found in A CENSUS conducted in 2004. Then, 36% of all respondents (43% of SAA members) were working for an academic institution, 32% (22% of SAA members) were working for a government agency, and 23% (25% of SAA members) were working for a nonprofit organization. The questions were not identical (“Which of the following best represents your current employer?” in A CENSUS and “What type of organization best describes your primary professional affiliation?” in this survey) and it is unclear whether these differences indicate a shift in the profession or a bias in the survey response rates. See Victoria Irons Walch, “Part 3. A CENSUS: A Closer Look—Expanded version,” page 11. http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/ACensus-Part3-Expanded.pdf.
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