So I’m editing this journal issue and…

March 23, 2013, 8:03 pm

I have been looking for an opportunity to work with Damon Jaggars for several years now. Last October we caught up at the Library Assessment Conference (here is the paper I presented) and worked out a plan for me to be a guest editor for a special issue of The Journal of Library Administration. For me, blog posts and whitepapers are the perfect vehicles of expression; however, I do like to dip into the more formal side of publishing every so often.


Here is a taste of the framework:

Imagine academic libraries fifteen years from now or at some other inflection point. How do we define the academic library in this future? Where does the library begin and end relative to research and academic computing, and other campus and network services that will be available to faculty and students?  How will higher education change and how will the academic library align with that change? What will the curriculum look? How will scholarship be defined? Will current large-scale collaborative efforts (DPN, HathiTrust, shared single-copy repositories, etc.) create the efficiencies and preservation infrastructure they promise? How will we define collections? What will a globally networked library look like? How will we use information differently? What will learning and productivity spaces look like? What services might emerge? What aspects of collection building and service provision are no longer necessary?


This special issue explores the possibilities of what libraries might become or cease to be. Experts from different sectors of academia, publishing, technology, and design will share their thoughts, dreams, fears, and hopes about the future. The intention is to produce insights that ignite the imagination — to leapfrog the adjacencies of the coming years and land on a strategic plateau of the near future. This is an opportunity to speculate on the arriving advances as well as to warn of potential loss due to these changes.


I took my inspiration from J.J. Abrams when he guest edited an issue of Wired. It is a very personal project for me. I wanted to create an issue about libraries that I would want to read— one that I wished would show up in my inbox. It would cover ideas and topics that I get excited about — issues that library leaders will be dealing with for the next several decades.


Damon joked that this was shaping up to be the “science fiction” issue, but he believed in it. In fact, he scheduled it for August 2013.


I decided to make this invitation-only. There was a particular vision that I was striving to curate and so I targeted authors from specific sectors: librarians, academics, and industry. Here is the lineup:


Constance Malpas, OCLC
Theme: The Future of Large-Scale Collection Conversion and Collaboration

Daniel Russell, Google

Theme: The Future of Research Skills & MOOCology

Frank Menchaca, Gale Cengage
Theme: The Future of Assessment & Metrics

Gardner Campbell, Virginia Tech
Theme: The Future of Learning

Kelly Miller, UCLA
Theme: The Future of Library Instruction

Lennie Scott-Webber, Steelcase
Theme: The Future of Educational Environments

Michael Levine-Clark, University of Denver
Theme: The Future of Content

Steven Bell, Temple University
Theme: The Future of Library Experiences


There are lots of great voices here. I’m also contributing an essay that explores retailing and merchandizing principles and applies them to a future academic setting. So you’re excited right? Each paper is going to be fascinating on its own, but collectively, it’s an amazing package. The papers are due in May and I can’t wait to read and edit them.


The sad truth is that we’ll never see this particular issue of the Journal of Library Administration. I received an email this morning from Damon announcing that he and the entire Editorial Board of JLA resigned their positions. Here is the gist:


The Board believes that the licensing terms in the Taylor & Francis author agreement are too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors in the LIS community.”


“A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms.”


“Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place.”


“After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor & Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $2995 per article fee to be paid by the author.  As you know, this is not a viable licensing option for authors from the LIS community who are generally not conducting research under large grants.”


“Thus, the Board came to the conclusion that it is not possible to produce a quality journal under the current licensing terms offered by Taylor & Francis and chose to collectively resign.”


So that’s my Saturday. I know that these political statements happen occasionally where boards step down to make a point. I just wish they would have waited until September. While I’m sure that these authors could easily publish elsewhere, the most exciting part for me was the cohesive package — that these individual papers (these aspirational ideas) would be bound together.


While I can understand and appreciate the stance of the Board, I personally try to stay clear these politics. I am a practitioner of open access but I would not call myself an advocate. Author rights and related matters are critical and I’m glad that our profession is taking a stand. But me, my strengths are ideation and so it’s on to new projects.


Update #1: Further Reflections

Several people have mentioned publishing this in an open access journal or even starting a new journal—I want to address that:


The reason I agreed to take on the guest editorship of this issue was specifically because it was in a traditional journal and distributed by a traditional publisher. I like the idea of taking disruptive content and baking it into a conventional platform. I’m a fan of OA but this was one instance where I was intentionally aiming for something with more confinement. You know, change from within, and all that.


Also—while I received a lot of positive feedback from the STARTUP paper, a few readers gave me a hard time by saying that it was “interesting but not scholarly enough.” I would agree with that assessment but they meant it as criticism whereas I saw that as a positive attribute. So this was my attempt to infiltrate the scholarly domain and bring along my style of expression.


I’m half tempted to add a few more authors and pitch this on kick starter as both an open web package AND a glossy collectable print booklet too. We’ll see where it all goes. Time to prep for ACRL.


Update #2: A Recruited Author Speaks Out

I had recruited Jason Griffey to contribute a piece on technology. We were both pretty excited about the theme, but the lingering issue of author rights was front and center and it just didn’t work out. He chronicles the story here.


Update #3: A Board Member Speaks Out

Chris Bourg was a Board member and shares more of the story here.


Update #4:  On being pro-choice

My oh my, what a polarizing issue this has become. I’ve heard from a handful of editors and publishers and I want to thank them for reaching out. They have given me a lot to think about. It’s nice to see a conversation from a conference reception turn into something meaningful.


I’ve also heard from some long time readers and I want to thank them too. People who follow my work know that I lean toward openness. So I was kind of shocked to be persecuted from my desire to publish in a traditional journal.


I get that librarians are passionate about OA and that OA definitely provides some high quality options—but I feel that a person should have the right to publish anywhere they want for whatever reason they want. If someone wants to publish in Super Traditional Journal, I’m OK with that. If someone wants to self-publish, that’s fine too. If someone wants to publish in an OA Journal (pick your color)—I’m OK with that as well. I guess you can say I’m pro-choice when it comes to publishing. I only care about the quality of the ideas expressed.


But here is the thing: no one was asking me for content. There were no OA editors calling, emailing, commenting, or chatting with me at conferences. It was Damon who asked me to curate a journal issue. It was JLA who embraced my concept.


I saw an opportunity to take what I do (fringe stuff) and bring it to a more conventional audience via a conventional platform. Sometimes you have to repackage your message in different formats in order to reach different audiences. You might not agree with that strategy and that’s cool, but it’s the opportunity that was presented to me and so I took it.


I’m kind of surprised that people thought I would simple let this content live behind a pay wall though. I thought I had established a better reputation by now. Surely I would have posted the pre-prints (designed with more style) in various IRs. Pre-prints and post-prints are allowed by this publisher and so that’s the option I would have used to enable everyone access.


And I advise everyone to take a closer look at the text when I said: “The sad truth is that we’ll never see this particular issue of the Journal of Library Administration.” I never said the content was dead, I simply stated that it would never be in JLA.


Let’s leave it there for now.


This entry was posted in FutureSpec, ScholarlyCommunications. Bookmark the permalink.