Astronomy librarians have enjoyed more frequent, more formalized and more intense communications with publishers in the last few years. Some relationships or exchanges have been acrimonious, but more have been productive. An early example of the latter was the official appointment of a librarian to the Publications Board of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). One result of this formal and enthusiastic exchange of ideas with the AAS was the development of a license for electronic journals that is easily understood and carries through to their electronic versions the rights that users had for the print publications; it is therefore widely admired, even beyond astronomy. Since then, many other publishers have appointed librarians as liaisons, both formally and informally.
Astrolib and PAMnet have publishers on them who both contribute and listen; astronomy librarians often speak of senior editors in publishing houses familiarly by name.
All is not rosy though. Many publishers are less than ideally responsive.
The survey inquired into how often, by what means, and for what purposes astronomy librarians communicate with publishers. Twenty percent contact a publisher a few times per month, 68% make contact a few times per year, 12% never. These numbers are almost the same for developed and developing countries, the biggest difference being that there were 11% of the former who responded never, compared to 14% of the latter. It must be noted that many people have subscription agents so that direct communication with publishers is not necessary for most purposes.
As with other sections of the survey, email was by far the preferred method of communication at 62%. Telephone (13%) and visiting exhibits at conferences (12%) followed far behind.
Not surprisingly, 50% of the communications had to do with errors in products, problems with subscriptions etc.; 23% of the contacts related to new products or new features of products and 21% of the discussions related to prices.
Methods of communicating with publishers do vary as between developed countries and poorer countries. For developing countries communication by email was much more predominant (77% compared to 56%) but that was only because their options were more limited; they did not visit exhibits at conferences, did not check in at publishers websites, did not telephone publishers. Nor did they have the advantage of having publishers visit their campuses or institutions for demonstration purposes.