One of the Noblest Duties of a University: Planning the Concordia University Press

Geoffrey Robert Little, Concordia University, Montreal

Every study of scholarly publishing includes Daniel Coit Gilman’s 1878 exhortation that “It is one of the noblest duties of a university to advance knowledge, and to diffuse it…far and wide.” During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries academic trailblazers like Gilman, the first president of Johns Hopkins University, and others established scholarly presses, many of them within their universities’ libraries. More recently, a number of university presses in North America have come under the remit of the library system. This has taken place within two contexts: a recognition that academic libraries no longer simply acquire materials for researchers but manage information throughout complex life cycles and wider financial pressures that demand organizational efficiency on campuses everywhere.

Since 2012 Concordia University in Montreal has been working to create a scholarly press that will be based in its library. Concordia University Press, which will publish high-quality, peer-reviewed print and open access monographs starting in 2017, is only the second university press to be created in Canada since the early 1980s and will bring the total number of scholarly publishers in the country to seventeen.

This paper will describe why Concordia decided to establish a press and the three years of visioning, research, and planning that have gone into it. It will touch on the obvious and not-so-obvious opportunities and challenges facing scholarly publishers, librarians, authors, readers, and others within the scholarly communications circuit, as well as how Concordia has formed relationships and partnerships with other university presses, service providers, university administrators, and funders. This paper is not so much as a case study as a report on a press-in-progress and a description of how librarians and faculty have worked to turn a scholarly publishing vision into a reality.