Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: A Global Project/Bookend

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Bookend: An OA Publishing Perspective, 2019–2021

Roberto A. Arteaga

From the initial conversations about what this publication could look like to the struggle of identifying a publisher, this project, like many, went through a series of ups and downs. But as drafts submissions arrived and peer reviewers returned their comments, this publication has been the one constant for my fellow editors and me. For some of us, this was the most complex scholarly project that we had undertaken, and for some of us, this was an extension of work previously done. But for all of us, this would be our first foray into Open Access (OA). To say that this task was an easy one would be a misrepresentation, given what we have all been going through the past couple of years. We are immensely grateful to our contributors, peer reviewers, publisher, and others who contributed along the way. Without them, this publication wouldn’t be the same.

From the beginning, this project was envisioned as an OA publication. Motivated by previous work with Wikipedia, Laurie had identified the need for a more encompassing publication that more accurately captured the work that academic librarians are doing in regards to Wikipedia and its sibling projects. During the early stages of this project, there were only a few publications that had attempted to do this (Ayers et al., 2008; Proffitt, 2018). This fact became the impetus for Laurie’s interest in developing an OA publication that drew not just from the work of library workers in North America but also attempted to make it available at a more affordable price.

With this goal in mind, we began planning for this publication. From the beginning, we had a sense that identifying contributors might not be a difficult process given the increasing visibility of Wikimedia-related projects that librarians were writing, presenting, and talking about. We anticipated that issues might arise as we attempted to identify authors from outside of North America, and similarly as we tried to seek funding for this project. As it turned out, the challenges came from elsewhere, and in this case, it was an issue that affected us all. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic was not something that we could have planned for, but we still managed to finish this project due to the privileged positions that we editors hold. Yet, this project is much different than we expected, and how could it not be? The pandemic has affected all spheres of life and diluted any boundaries between our homes and workplaces. Because of these circumstances, we wanted to dedicate some space to talk about this project, its successes and failures, the risks and challenges that we faced, and the forces that kept it going and almost stopped it. Last, we wanted to dedicate space to highlight and uphold the work of our contributors, both those who made it to the final publication and those who did not. Their efforts have not gone unseen and their work should not be left unheard.

Planning and Preparation

Funding and Selecting a Publisher
While seeking a more “traditional” publisher like ACRL or Library Juice Press, who are two well-respected, library-centric publishers, would have been an option, our timeline and how much time we could dedicate to the project were unfortunately limited. So, we chose the self-publishing route and began to identify a publisher that would be able to publish the final project within a reasonable timeline (ideally around summer 2021), could provide the right amount of services, would allow us to publish an openly licensed publication, offered an affordably priced physical version, and had reasonable publication fees.

Our initial search led us to Lever Press; however, that bid was not successful. After some research, we decided to seek a bid from Ubiquity Press, an OA press in the United Kingdom. Though we were not entirely familiar with them, the services they offered, particularly their post-publication offerings, drew us in with the promise of continued access and the ability to keep track of scholarly impact. This was important to us since our goal was to publish all of the chapters under a CC BY license. I will speak more about the licenses in the next section, but in short, we wanted our contributors to still maintain some ownership over their work. After a successful bid, we received a quote from Ubiquity that satisfied many of our requirements. However, we decided to seek another publisher since the initial quote1 would have made seeking funding a more intensive process.

Soon after our Ubiquity bid, we identified another potential publisher: Maize Books, an imprint of Michigan Publishing. Thanks to our University of Michigan sponsors, we were able to secure a bid for this project at a price point that would not put too much pressure on us. Given the reputation of both the University of Michigan and Michigan Publishing and following the advice of some of our supervisors, we signed a contract with Maize Books to develop an OA publication that will be distributed both physically and digitally. After receiving an initial quote,2 we refocused our efforts to finish the call for proposals and seek grant funding. Ultimately, this project was funded by the following grants:

  • Creative Commons Global Network Community Activities Fund
  • Wikimedia Foundation Rapid Grant
  • Oregon State University Robert Lundeen Faculty Development Award

Creative Commons License
Wanting to follow Wikimedia’s initiative and mission to “empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain” (Wikimedia, 2018), the intention was always to have one Creative Commons (CC) license for all the chapters. In the early stages, we discussed the possibility of allowing contributors to pick their license, but after some deliberation, we decided to publish the whole volume under a CC BY license and be transparent about that from the beginning. We chose this license because it would allow for the largest dissemination and would allow for our contributors to still retain some ownership over their work. We also considered the possibility of publishing the whole volume under a CC 0, no rights reserved license, but ultimately we decided against this option since this may have impacted the number of contributors willing to publish their work under a public domain license and because this license might have made it difficult for our contributors to track the impact of their work, use their published work as part of any promotion processes, or even make it difficult to justify the value of the work they are doing.

“In the Time of COVID”

Perhaps due to the optimism expressed toward the beginning of the pandemic, we believed that simply extending the proposal deadline would let us get through the worst of things. Little did we know that our reality was about to be overturned and that we would be writing, peer reviewing, and publishing our work during a pandemic. To this day, it is sometimes difficult to fathom how this book managed to take shape. While you may only be hearing our perspective as editors, I hope that you instead consider and thank our contributing authors and peer reviewers for their labor, both academic and emotional. After all, they stuck with us until the end and made it all possible.

This publication is just a microcosm of what academia and teaching have become during the pandemic, and the fact that we were working with authors from different countries did not make this process any easier for anyone. There were times when we did not hear from one of our contributors and couldn’t help but think that the unthinkable had happened. There were times when all we could do was try to act professional and continue to work as if everything was fine; after all, we had signed a contract, we had gotten grants, and the work had to be done. Throughout this whole process, we experienced all of the forces of academia magnified. First by the pandemic, and then by the negative influences of neoliberalism, the cult of busyness, and resilience narratives.

One place where this influence was felt was the peer review process. In general, there is some expectation of anonymity as part of this process, as the anonymity contributes to a sense of safety where the work being reviewed is only being critiqued on the basis of the work and not on the basis of the person. Unfortunately, because some of our grants required that we disclose who some of our contributors would be, it meant that we had to change our peer review process to a single-blind review. Though we did not experience many issues between contributors and reviewers, there is a slight sense that some of the “rigor” that the double-blind process would have afforded was lost. In a way, this is not something that we, as editors, were much concerned about, but knowing that some of our contributors will be using their contributions as part of a tenure and promotion process, there was some pressure on us to provide that additional level of support. Yet, because some of that veil had been removed, we had the chance to introduce a certain level of care to our peer review process. For example, instead of just asking for suggestions and revisions from our peer reviewers, we encouraged reviewers to comment on where the chapter they reviewed was excelling. For our parts as editors, our main focus was to build relationships—not just between ourselves and the documents we received but between ourselves and the people working on those documents. Yet this wasn’t always an easy task, given the state of the world and the limited space for vulnerability that the peer review process allows.3

Advice and Recommendations

Needless to say, we were not the only academic endeavor that managed to be completed during the pandemic, regardless of our desire to shift to more pressing concerns. The fact remains, however, that we are able to do this work due to the great privilege that our jobs afford us, and to say otherwise would be a disservice to the efforts of essential workers that kept our workplaces, communities, and economies going. Without them, this publication would not be here.

From the beginning, this publication was designed to be open, and the many proposals that we received demonstrate the commitment that others bring to this cause. All in all, one of the biggest takeaways from this project is the realization that there is an increasing interest in open publications, given the response to our CFP. Thus, we hope that this volume is able to increase the number of people who care about improving access to knowledge and information, about reducing barriers to access, and about the many communities of practices around the world. If you are reading this, above all, I hope that you reexamine the reach of your work, both the everyday kind and the scholarly, and reconsider how you disseminate and share this work.

Beyond providing some transparency to a process that is often hidden away and seldom addressed, we would like to close this “bookend” by offering a few recommendations for those interested in pursuing similar endeavors:

  • Remember that OA, like everything else, is not free. It may result in openly accessible publications, but there is still a cost attached to them. Going in with an expectation that you will have to raise the funds to fund a project will be essential to its success.
  • Costs will vary depending on the publisher, but you should expect to raise at least $3,000 for any self-published project. In order to raise funds for your project, start at your institution, then look to organizations that align to the purpose of your publication.
  • Recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in further cuts and changes in funding across many institutions. In the near
future, funding opportunities might be limited and those that remain will have more strict guidelines and outcomes.
  • If the goal is to develop a peer-reviewed publication, identifying a pool of qualified reviewers should be part of the initial planning process. Establishing clear rules and procedures will also help facilitate this process.


1 Ubiquity’s book-processing charge (BPC) quote was about £7,500 for a twenty-chapter volume. The BPC quote included services like copyediting, index creation, cover design, and typesetting, among others.

2 Maize’s initial estimate totaled $4,500 for a twenty-chapter volume. This estimate included services like copyediting, cover design, and typesetting, among others.

3 For more on the peer review process as a place for love and care, read Brito et al. (2014).


Ayers, P., Matthews, C., & Yates, B. (2008). How Wikipedia works: And how you can be a part of it. No Starch Press.

Brito, M., Fink, A., Friend, C., Heidebrink-Bruno, A., Moe, R., Shaffer, K., Robin, V., & Wharton, R. (2014, November 22). Love in the time of peer review. Hybrid Pedagogy.

Proffitt, M. (2018). Leveraging Wikipedia: Connecting communities of knowledge. American Library Association.

Wikimedia Foundation Mission. (2018). Wikimedia Foundation.