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Planning an in-house publication program.

An in-house desktop program needs more than good hardware and software to be effective.

The amount of literature concerning desktop publishing is overwhelming, covering all aspects of the subject from general definitions to specific procedures for executing the most minute formatting change.

Entire journals and newsletters, with suggestions on getting started with page layout and design tips, are produced for users of high-end word processing and page publishing packages. Examples include WordPerfect, the Magazine,' published by the WordPerfect 2 Corporation, and The Desktop Publisher from Aldus Corporation for users of PageMaker.

Although much has been written about desktop publishing since its introduction in 1984, it is only in the last few years that the library profession has addressed the topic. The term "desktop publishing" first appeared as a "see reference" in Library Literature in 1988, referring users to "Publishers and Publishing-Computer Applications."

By 1989, "Desktop Publishing" had become an established subject entry.3 Listed under the entry were bibliographies such as the one by Nordgren, Quint, and Valauskas for the Council of Planning Librarians, as well as more specific articles such as the column in Computers in Libraries by Richard and Harriett Johnson dealing with the Macintosh.5

In addition to written materials, programs and seminars on various aspects of desktop publishing are now frequently offered by the different divisions of ALA at national conferences. Discussion groups on topics related to desktop publishing, like the one formed by LITA, exist to provide information to interested users.6

Despite all this activity, there is not much information on establishing in-house desktop publishing programs. This scarcity is demonstrated by the fact that only two articles about such programs have been published in the last five years: Rachael Naismith's article on establishing a library publications program at Carnegie-Mellon University Libraries,' and Judith Bube's article about the coordinated library publications program at UC Irvine, which won a John Cotton Dana Public Relations Special Award in 1985.8

While Bube mentions that the need for such programs is being recognized across the country, and reported and discussed by librarians at national library meetings, such programs have gone relatively unpublicized. This is surprising in light of the numerous articles in both the library and general literature concerning electronic or desktop publishing and its efficacy.

It is now easy enough to manage an in-house publications program using microcomputer-based technology that perhaps many libraries and librarians, unable to commit to an expensive and cumber-some program involving commercial printing concerns, can begin to think about the development of such a program.

The importance and usefulness of a coordinated in-house publications program hardly can be overstated. A program can provide important recognition and image enhancement for the library as well as be an effective tool for meeting the informational and instructional needs of users.

Improved Communications

Desktop published documents not only look better than documents produced by less sophisticated means, they also communicate their messages more easily and effectively by first attracting the reader and then providing a legible and understandable message through a combination of text and graphics.

Such information, stored on disk, can be edited and restructured quickly to provide a custom document for a particular clientele without creating numerous drafts which have to be completely retyped. Existing text and graphics can be used easily and repeatedly in a variety of different publications including instructional handouts, display materials, publicity, and audio-visual aids.


Lower cost is another of desktop publishing's advantages over commercial printing. Because much of the cost involved in having a document commercially printed is in the actual data entry or typesetting, in-house production can

provide substantial savings in the long run, despite initial start-up costs for equipment and software. This is especially true of materials produced in small quantities or which need to be constantly updated.

Local Control

A third distinct advantage of desktop publishing over commercially produced documents is local control of the production schedule. Desktop publishing allows for easy editing and updating of documents which also need to be produced on a tight schedule.

The Auburn Experience

The Auburn University Libraries' in-house publications program was created in 1986 to improve the quality of library publications with the additional goal of enhancing the Libraries' image. Re need for such a program became increasingly apparent when existing printed materials and their means of production did not match the sophisticated image of the Libraries as projected by the online catalog and the introduction of CD-ROM products.

Furthermore, the growth of decentralized public service departments in both microcomputer and personnel resources did not allow for standardized documents. Library publications were produced on an individual basis, by the librarian or department needing informational or instructional materials. A desire for a quality product, lower production costs, and higher visibility of the Libraries on campus, compelled the Libraries to begin an in-house publications program.

Unifying Logo

The initial step taken in the development of a coordinated in-house publication program was to contact the art department for the names of faculty members willing to design a logo. Professor David Oldham chose to combine the concepts of book and mortarboard in the final design of the mark for Auburn University Libraries.

Using reduced-size photocopies of the logo and newly acquired HP Laser Softfonts, a librarian produced camera-ready letterhead. University Printing produced 500 copies to serve as permanent masters for the future series of bibliographies, guides, brochures, and pathfinders. The first of the guide series to use the letterhead was printed in 12-point Times Roman on both sides of one sheet of 11 x 17-inch paper and folded to form four pages.


When the publications program was first undertaken in 1986, AU librarians had access to IIBM XT computers with 640K RAM and 10- to 40-megabyte hard disks. The library also had two HewlettPackard LaserJet printers (one in the administrative offices and one in the automation office) loaded with Times Roman (serif) and Helvetica (sans serif) fonts. The printer in the automation office was available whenever the staff of that office were not using it. Also available was a Ricoh photocopier able to handle paper up to 10 x 17-inches and capable of duplex copies, reductions, and enlargements.

This equipment became one of the strongest arguments for beginning an inhouse publications program. The equipment was available and many staff members had some familiarity with computers as well as word processing programs.


Although not officially the library standard, Microsoft Word 4.2 was the word processing package used by most librarians and staff. Microsoft Word 4.2 was, for its time, a high-end word processor with the ability to handle the word processing basics of setting tabs and margins, searching and replacing, and moving and editing. Microsoft Word also could handle stylesheets and the various font families and sizes used with the laser printer.

Since most librarians had varying degrees of expertise with Microsoft Word, a decision was made to utilize it to the fullest. The librarians also had access to many of the how-to books on Microsoft Word that could be used for ideas and training. If more training were needed, someone on staff could usually offer assistance or advice.

Because many documents produced for library users tend to be textual, the librarians decided to try using software that was text oriented before investigating graphics-oriented or desktop publishing software. With this decision, the library was able to avoid purchasing another software package, and to avoid the investment of time necessary to learn the new package. Time saved was put into utilizing Microsoft Word more thoroughly in order to produce more guides.

Using a high-end word processing package with desktop publishing features, instead of a true desktop publishing, can have additional advantages. Publishing using a high-end word processing package streamlines the involved and often repetitive desktop publishing process which must begin with entering text using the word processing software, importing files into a desktop publishing program for design and layout, returning to the word processor to edit text, and importing the file to the desktop publisher once again for additional layout.

Publications Guidelines

An effort to involve all reference librarians the production of materials for the Research Guide series, a committee of representatives from each of the four major reference departments of the main library was formed to draw up written guidelines.

The guidelines covered publication review, production responsibilities, recommended word processing software, preferred style manuals and specific points of style, font size and type, paper to be used, and a numbering system. They also described six types of guides: checklists, class guides, instructional guides, pathfinders, resource guides, and selected bibliographies.

Hardware Upgrades

With the production of more guides, it became evident that some change was in order and the IBM XTs were replaced with IBM PS/2s. Each major reference department received an IIBM PS/ 2 and a laser printer with the Helvetica and Times Roman font families. Two scanners were purchased: one was placed in the automation office and the other was placed in the bibliographic instruction unit.

Decision 1: Move to WordPerfect Besides upgrading equipment, two other major decisions were reached during this review period. The first was to switch from Microsoft Word to WordPerfect.

The main consideration in this decision was cost. Auburn University had a site licensing agreement with the WordPerfect Corporation and was able to provide multiple copies of WordPerfect at a fraction of the cost of Microsoft Word. Also, the Division of University Computing provided local training and user support once WordPerfect was in place. Two other advantages to using WordPerfect 5.0 were its graphics capabilities and its page view feature. (Microsoft Word 5.0, which has both of these features, had not been released at the time of the switch.)

Many staff members were resistant to the change in word processing packages. They were comfortable with Microsoft Word and did not have the time or the desire to learn a new package.

Because of this reluctance, there was a short period of adjustment when both programs were loaded on the departmental microcomputers. However, after an interval of a few months, Word was removed from all but a few workstations.

Another problem dealt with whom, when, and how much to train. Training was scheduled over a two-week period with the Computer Center training library staff in groups of approximately twenty. Librarians and other staff received the same initial five hours of training. Six months later, a refresher course of tips and tricks was initiated by the library for those who wished it.

Recent changes have included upgrading from WordPerfect 5.0 to 5.1. This upgrade features better table, column, and tab control, and handles diacritics more easily.

Decision 2: New Position The second decision was to create a library assistant position whose duties included much of the housekeeping work necessary for an in-house publications program. This assistant works at standardizing publications so they follow the guidelines. The library assistant's other duties include training, equipment upkeep, photocopying, and distribution.


In the near future the staff hopes to add character sets to support equations, diacritics, and graphics as well as upgrade one of the laser printers from 300 to 600 dpi.

Even with all the equipment and software available, there are some limitations to our production capabilities. The photocopier will only handle paper up to 11 x 17-inches. The laser printer, while producing near typeset quality documents, is still only 300 dpi, and can print only on letter- or legal-size paper of certain stocks. Any graphically oriented documents still have to be produced commercially.

General Program Considerations

There are many factors to consider before undertaking an in-house publications program. Several of these will be considered in turn.

What sorts of documents need to be produced? Will die documents be primarily text or graphics, or an equal mix of both? The publications to be produced will influence the selection of hardware and software.

It may be helpful to formulate guidelines for the publications to be produced. Such guidelines may include description of the types of publications, publication review procedures, production responsibilities, software requirements, matters of style, format, layout, numbering, paper stock, and typefaces.

What equipment is available for use with the in-house publications program? The most expensive components needed for such a program - microcomputers, printers, and photocopiers - already may be in the library. What software is necessary and available to begin document production?

Are competent trained personnel available? If not, what steps have to be taken to familiarize personnel with existing or newly acquired equipment and software?

The time required to learn how to use a piece of equipment or a software package should not be underestimated. If trained personnel are not available, acceptable publication may not be immediately available.

Is on-site training available? Is additional support available for questions that may arise regarding any aspect of document production? Institutions that have site licenses for software packages that include elements of desktop publishing may offer local instruction and support for fledgling desktop publishers.

Instruction in the principles of graphic design is necessary. No matter how good the equipment and software, if the librarian is not knowledgeable about design elements, the overall appearance of the document will suffer and its impact will be reduced.

As a review of the literature shows,10 these are just a few of the questions to be answered before beginning any in-house publishing program.
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Author:Boosinger, Marcia L.; Bishop, Barbara A.
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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