Workflow Evolution

These guest posts from our Library Publishing Workflow partners reflect on how journal publishing workflows at their libraries have evolved over time.

Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
November 17, 2021

On Overcommitment and Scalability, Love and Loss

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Workflow Evolution series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on how journal publishing workflows at their libraries have evolved over time. You can see the full documentation on the Library Publishing Workflows page.


By Joshua Neds-Fox, writing about his experiences at Wayne State University Libraries

In my earlier blog post for this project, I reflected on the challenges of scaling up and the rewards of participating in a community of practice whose affinities are often more abundant than our differences. My own library publishing program’s contribution to the Library Publishing Workflows project is based on a unique process for our oldest faculty-led journal, the Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods (or JMASM, as we often refer to it in shorthand). What a remarkable publication for a new program to cut our teeth on! JMASM is math-heavy, which required mastering new software and learning new character sets and conventions, exploring TeX, MathML, and other forms of equation rendering, and just generally beginning our publishing program with the most complicated project possible. But we did it, because the editor placed his trust in us and we saw multiple opportunities: to support open access research at Wayne State and at the same time learn on the job what it means to be a library publisher.

Overcommitment

In pursuit of those opportunities, we took on the production responsibilities for JMASM, typesetting every issue ourselves. In retrospect, this was an overcommitment, and I wrote earlier about the ways that this limits our ability to scale up. Our commitment was complicated by the fact that JMASM has been very generous in its acceptance rate and publishing schedule: some issues topped 40 articles or more. As we slowly slipped further and further behind schedule, the ambient stress of that commitment weighed heavily on me, and I worked with the editor to implement practices that would make the journal more selective, including strict policies around text-recycling, which is common in JMASM’s discipline.

Quote from Joshua Neds-Fox, Wayne State University: I now see this workflow as a kind of bellwether for our current predicament: the intense labor encoded there is an indication of the thinness of the editorial structure supporting the journal, and a sign for other library publishers. Consider the cost in advance. If taking on the journal requires outsized labor on the library's end, it may mean that the journal itself has some difficult questions to answer about its sustainability and future.

But behind this stress was the reality that JMASM was essentially a one-man show, editorially. The founding editor continued to shoulder the entire herculean burden of managing and editing the journal, as a labor of love and a commitment to the scholarship of his discipline. In truth, our offer to publish JMASM when he first came to us was a lifeline that both rescued the journal from dying and extended its life a little unnaturally. JMASM’s editor was a remarkable man, one of those principled academics devoted to his field, to his students, to his ethics and to his work. When he passed away in January, it was a shock and a surprise. An intensely private man, he had hidden his illness, its severity, from everyone. In retrospect, there were signs that he anticipated his death, but hindsight is 20/20. We found ourselves with a novel challenge, never having dealt with the death of an editor, which in this case was also the dissolution of the entire editorial team. We’d known for a while that the associate editors for JMASM were consultative at best, and that the founding editor was doing the work. But his death made crystal clear the implications of this common aspect of library publishing: that we do not manage the editorial teams of our journals in quite the same way that commercial publishers do. We had neither process nor mandate to assemble a replacement editorial staff for JMASM.

Moving on from loss

We reached out to a colleague of the founding editor, who served briefly and did yeoman’s work to try to tie up the loose ends. But the number of papers in review—either currently awaiting reviews, or accepted with a request for minor revisions, or returned for major revisions—spoke of the founding editor’s failure to imagine a future where he wasn’t available to continue his work. The backlog was bigger than we understood, and the work ahead of us will entail incredibly difficult decisions. What are our obligations to these scholars who have no recourse to the editorial expertise necessary to advance their papers to publication? What are our obligations to the Journal’s heirs, who now own an ongoing scholarly journal but may not know exactly what to do with it? How are any of these process realities reflected in the workflow we’ve created for the Library Publishing Workflows project? To that last question, I now see this workflow as a kind of bellwether for our current predicament: the intense labor encoded there is an indication of the thinness of the editorial structure supporting the journal, and a sign for other library publishers. Consider the cost in advance. If taking on the journal requires outsized labor on the library’s end, it may mean that the journal itself has some difficult questions to answer about its sustainability and future. And if, like Wayne State, your library publishing program does not manage editorial staff for its journals, consider whether your workflow doesn’t cross the line into fulfilling promises that the editorial staff makes on your behalf. The founding editor is gone, but the promises remain.

On a personal note, I miss JMASM’s editor. He was, as I said, remarkable: an Orthodox Rabbi and lifelong educator who provided a scholarly outlet for statisticians from across Asia, Africa, and North America in a discipline that had no journal prior to his, a mentor and a friend. My hope is that the lessons learned here do honor to his commitment to the pedagogy of assessment: that we would take away from this workflow and this experience the knowledge of how to do better for the next journals that come our way, and that we would put that knowledge into practice.


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
November 10, 2021

Small. Determined.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Workflow Evolution series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on how journal publishing workflows at their libraries have evolved over time. You can see the full documentation on the Library Publishing Workflows page.


By Paige Mann, writing about her experiences at Armacost Library, University of Redlands

Our library publishes one scholarly journal. Maybe one day we’ll publish two. Maybe. 

In 2013, the Armacost Library at the University of Redlands launched its library publishing program. Through our digital repository, InSPIRe@Redlands, Armacost Library publishes student scholarship, grey literature, and more. Four years after our launch Dr. Nicol Howard, professor from our School of Education, approached us to start a scholarly journal. She and co-editor Dr. Keith Howard from Chapman University saw a need for scholarship with a focus on computer science integrations in the K-12 classroom. To overcome paywalls and reach scholars and practitioners, the editors pursued open access publishing. A few months, documents, and policies later we launched the Journal of Computer Science Integration (JCSI)

Quote from Paige Mann, Redlands: Compared to our fellow partners in Educopia’s Library Publishing Workflows project, Armacost Library’s journal publishing program is pint-sized. Nevertheless, change is constant, and Armacost Library is making a difference in small, but significant ways. We are small. We are determined.

As a non-commercial, values-oriented publisher of a bold and innovative journal, we strive to anticipate and respond to needs as they arise. With the hiring of a STEM and Scholarly Communications Librarian in 2017 and a part-time Digital Projects Manager in 2018, the Library provides a mission-oriented publishing foundation for our editors. Responsibilities include ISSN registration, general publishing guidance, policy development, open access education, platform management and funding, basic training and troubleshooting. Day-to-day responsibilities are primarily the assignment of digital object identifiers which is reflected in the publishing workflow. 

Platform Migration

This past summer, one year into the global pandemic, Armacost Library chose to migrate off our bepress Digital Commons platform. Sharing librarians’ deep concerns over Elsevier’s acquisition of bepress in 2017, Armacost Library waited patiently for alternative options to emerge. Although wary of migrating from one commercial vendor to another, we chose to work with Ubiquity Press, who provided the migration and on-going support we’d need to continue our publishing efforts. Our contract with Ubiquity also brought considerable savings. This has allowed us to pay for professional typesetting and articles in .pdf and .html formats. The former directly supports our editors while the latter enhances article accessibility. Both formats grant readers more flexibility enabling use of various devices and screen reading software, the ability to increase or decrease font size, annotate digital texts, and more. Cost savings have also allowed us to support open access efforts that were previously impossible.  

Compared to our fellow partners in Educopia’s Library Publishing Workflows project, Armacost Library’s journal publishing program is pint-sized. Nevertheless, change is constant, and Armacost Library is making a difference in small, but significant ways. We are small. We are determined.


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
November 3, 2021

University of Alberta Library’s Changing Role in Publishing

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Workflow Evolution series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on how journal publishing workflows at their libraries have evolved over time. You can see the full documentation on the Library Publishing Workflows page.


By Sonya Betz, writing about her experiences at the University of Alberta Library

The University of Alberta is located in Edmonton, Alberta, and is one of Canada’s large research intensive universities. Our journal publishing program is now more than 15 years old, with the publication of the first issues of our first journal, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, in the spring of 2006. We’ve experienced sustained growth since those early days, and we now publish 70 active titles, host the archives of 13 ceased or transferred publications, and are working with about a dozen new journals as they move toward publishing their first issues with us. Twenty-four of our active publications are run by student groups, or exclusively publish students’ work, while the rest come from a mix of scholarly associations, professional associations, faculty groups, and research communities. Although we publish titles across a range of disciplines from construction engineering to constitutional law, all of our journals must have an affiliation with either a Canadian post-secondary institution or a Canadian scholarly, learned, or professional association. All of our journals are fully open access, and none of our journals charge APCs or other publishing fees. Recently we’ve begun partnering with other libraries in Canada to provide infrastructure hosting services for their own open journal publishing programs.

From Hosting Service to Publishing Partner

Quote from Sonya Betz, University of Alberta: [Approaching our relationship with journals as a partnership rather than a service] represents a significant shift for us in how we understand our role in this work—as more journals join our program...we’ve become increasingly comfortable taking a principled stance for ethical open access, and requiring the journals we partner with to agree to standards such as barrier-free open access, no APCs, and Creative Commons licenses.

During its early years, the publishing program was structured strictly as a hosting service, with the Library providing technical infrastructure through access to hosted instances of Open Journal Systems. However, as the program matured over time, and the Library developed expertise and confidence in publishing practices, we began to more fully occupy the role of publisher. In the last five years we’ve focused on documenting our procedures and policies, establishing consistent shared practices, and approaching our relationship with journals as a partnership rather than a service. This change represents a significant shift for us in how we understand our role in this work—as more journals join our program, and we establish a record of successful publishing partnerships, we’ve become increasingly comfortable taking a principled stance for ethical open access, and requiring the journals we partner with to agree to standards such as barrier-free open access, no APCs, and Creative Commons licenses. We feel much more comfortable saying “no” to journals that don’t fit the scope of our program, or who aren’t suitably prepared to publish. 

We’ve been fortunate to have increased our staffing levels over the past three years to reflect the growth of our program and the Library’s recognition of the strategic value of a home-grown open access publishing unit. Our team splits its time between journal publishing, OER, and digitization activities, and we estimate our current staffing for journal publishing to be about 1.5 FTE librarians, .5 FTE library publishing specialists, and approximately .25 FTE technical / systems staff, with occasional support from our staff external to our unit, and paid graduate student positions. We also frequently call on the expertise of staff from many other areas of the Library, especially for help with copyright and licensing, cataloguing and metadata, outreach to individual faculties and departments, and communications. Our costs are predominantly staffing, with smaller expenditures going to supporting hardware and systems, and to external services like CrossRef. We are funded entirely from our operations budget, and we do not charge back any of our costs to journals.

Visible and Invisible Work

Our current library publishing workflow certainly represents our position as a large, mature program, with staff dedicated to publishing activities. Our workflows are also a reflection of the platform we use to publish, Open Journal Systems, which manages many activities from submission through publication, and to a certain degree, provides structure for how we move through publishing processes. We found it a little challenging to capture in the workflow much of the behind-the-scenes work that we carry out across all stages of publication, often in the form of guidance and consultation, training, and troubleshooting. Although the workflow presents clear areas of responsibility for Library staff and editorial teams, in reality the Library is very much involved at every step of the process, from answering questions about updating an author agreement to providing a pep talk to a new editorial team before they click “publish” for their first issue. We hope that sharing our workflow will provide some insight into the work we do, and may encourage other institutions to think about how best to capture the visible and invisible work of their library publishing programs.


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
October 27, 2021

Transforming Services and Infrastructure at Robert W. Woodruff Library

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Workflow Evolution series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on how journal publishing workflows at their libraries have evolved over time. You can see the full documentation on the Library Publishing Workflows page.


By Josh Hogan, writing about his experiences at Robert W. Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center

Library publishing activities at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library have undergone something of a transformation in the past six years, a transformation that has only picked up speed since joining the Library Publishing Workflows grant in 2019. AUC Woodruff Library currently hosts six active journals, four on Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems software (OJS) and two on our Islandora-based repository, RADAR. When I joined the team at AUC Woodruff in 2015, there were several journals being hosted in bepress’ Digital Commons platform, only two of which were actively producing any content. Those two journals still exist as the two using RADAR as their access platform.

Starting a Library Publishing Program

Josh Hogan: Ultimately, our transition from Digital Commons to RADAR/OJS has enabled us to provide more services, but has necessitated two main workflows as represented in our workflow diagram published as part of the Library Publishing Workflows. And of course, we are still struggling with exceptions to our usual practices.During that period, our workflows were largely confined to uploading final PDF copies of journal issues and ensuring that any technical issues, which rarely occurred, were addressed. Our workflow could then be really represented as follows: 1) the journal editor emails a final copy of the issue to a member of the Digital Services Department, and 2) the Metadata and Digital Resources Librarian (my title at the time) uploads the final copy into Digital Commons and makes it available for download. All editorial functions and publishing workflows were confined to the individual practices of the journal’s editorial team.

In 2016, we added the optional service of assigning DOIs for journal articles published in the system, which added an optional workflow step of registering the DOI and adding it to the journal article’s metadata. This was not widely adopted by the editors and remained more theoretical than a concrete step. We also on-boarded a new (but currently defunct) student journal in 2016-17, which added the wrinkle of splitting an issue PDF into articles and helping create metadata for individual articles. We offered that service to the other existing journals and reorganized some of the content in Digital Commons to make articles more discoverable.

Migration to a New Institutional Repository

All of this added up to a rather ad hoc approach, tailored to the requests of the editors who avoided using any of the backend submission tools available in Digital Commons, preferring to stay with their email-based workflows. Then, in 2017, we decided to start moving toward a new system for our institutional repository and digital collections. Digital Commons had been an excellent choice for IR needs, but it was not well suited for digitized and born digital archival collections. As most of you have probably experienced, we yearned for one system that could do everything well. Unfortunately, we were not able to find that unicorn.

In the end, we adopted Islandora for our institutional repository and digital collections, but we found that it was unsuitable for journal publishing beyond sticking up PDF files. Therefore, we adopted OJS as our replacement for that functionality. We did so, however, with the understanding that any journals wishing to use the platform would agree to use the backend editorial workflows and not just display finished pdfs. Any journals who wished to use their own workflows would still use our existing ad hoc system, i.e., send us the finished copy for upload to RADAR. OJS users signed an agreement to use the whole system and to publish at least one issue a year.

Adapting Workflows & Services to New Infrastructure

These changes necessitated having a workflow in place to onboard and track the status of each journal and which platform they preferred. We also had to adopt a journal hosting agreement, spelling out what was expected of journals using the OJS platform as well as what they could expect from us. We also provided at least one overview training session and assisted editors with getting their teams registered for PKP School, PKP’s online training courses.

Our support at the beginning of the process includes assistance with selecting a theme, adding banners and logos, and other initial setup tasks. Once the journal is ready to accept submissions, they take over the workflow for the remainder of the process, with us providing technical support or additional training when needed. After publication, if the journal has opted for adding DOIs, we will provide registration of each article and update the metadata to reflect the DOI.

Ultimately, our transition from Digital Commons to RADAR/OJS has enabled us to provide more services, but has necessitated two main workflows as represented in our workflow diagram published as part of the Library Publishing Workflows. And of course, we are still struggling with exceptions to our usual practices. For example, one journal, published in RADAR, has the additional step of maintaining an embargo for on-campus readers and subscribers only. We have also developed and are working to refine workflows in OJS for publishing electronic theses and dissertations, a use that diverges somewhat from the purpose of OJS. Being a partner in this project, however, has helped us to be more deliberate in constructing our library publishing support and has provided us with the opportunity to learn best practices from more experienced institutions. The lessons learned will stand us in good stead as we grow our program.