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
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.