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Journal’s Editorial Board Resigns in Protest of Publisher’s Policy Toward Authors

[Updated (3/27/2013, 12:46 p.m.) with reaction from Taylor & Francis Group.]

The editor and the entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration have resigned in response to a conflict with the journal’s publisher over an author agreement that they say is “too restrictive and out of step with the expectations of authors.”

The licensing terms set by the publisher, Taylor & Francis Group, were scaring away potential authors, the editor who resigned, Damon Jaggars, told The Chronicle.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Tracy Roberts, the editorial director of journals at Taylor & Francis, defended the journal’s policies. “The current publishing environment around licensing and author rights is continually evolving. We consider ourselves to be a forward-looking Publisher on author rights,” Ms. Roberts said. “Our License grants significant reuse rights to authors (pre-prints, non-embargoed post-prints, sharing, classroom use, presentation at conferences, republication in existing or new form), whilst we ask only for a sole license over the published version of record.”

Mr. Jaggars, who is associate university librarian for collections and services at Columbia University, began working with the journal around August 2012, he said, and officially became its editor in January of this year. When approaching potential authors, he said, he quickly noticed that many of them had problems with the publisher’s licensing terms.

Some found the terms too confusing, Mr. Jaggars said, while others felt they were too restrictive. Many requested, instead, a form of Creative Commons license, arguing that the journal’s agreement left them little ownership of their own work.

The agreement was particularly troubling to potential authors who are dedicated to the open-access movement, including even a member of the editorial board. Chris Bourg, assistant university librarian for public services at the Stanford University Libraries, wrote in a blog post on Saturday that she had told Mr. Jaggars that she was apprehensive about publishing with the journal, citing a “crisis of conscience” after the death of Aaron Swartz, an open-access advocate.

Mr. Jaggars said he “was continually having” such conversations. “That hit a critical mass of individuals doing that,” he said, “including some very high-profile authors pushing back.”

Over the past six weeks, Mr. Jaggars said, he and the editorial board had been in discussions with Taylor & Francis about changing the terms. In the end, the publisher did offer a less-restrictive license, he said, but the new terms would require authors to pay a fee of nearly $3,000 to have an article appear in the journal. “That really is not an option for librarians and researchers in this field,” Mr. Jaggars said.

The board resigned on Friday, and Mr. Jaggars announced the resignations on Saturday in an e-mail that was sent to the journal’s contributors, including Brian Matthews, associate dean for learning and outreach at Virginia Tech who blogs for The Chronicle and was slated to serve as guest editor of a forthcoming issue.

Mr. Jaggars said resigning was a difficult decision, but the licensing terms had made it impossible for him and the board to put out the journal they envisioned.

“When I became an editor, I did so because I really wanted to create a really forward-looking journal that would have an impact on the profession,” he said.  “A lot of community effort went into the journal because a lot of people believed in what we were trying to create, but it was at the point that we really couldn’t do what we wanted to do.”

The editor and the board members have not heard back from Taylor & Francis since their resignations, Mr. Jaggars said. He said that he and the board did not wish to vilify Taylor & Francis, but that they felt the “math just didn’t add up” for the journal’s authors.

“My feeling,” he said, “is that the board wasn’t trying to make a massive statement other than to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t working.’”

Ms. Roberts, in the statement by Taylor & Francis, said it will continue to listen to the librarians’ concerns and that the publisher has been working on a new version of author documents since last year that would make more clear which rights authors retain.

“There seemed to be a misunderstanding and some sort of conflation of the different licenses that Taylor and Francis is offering,” Ms. Roberts said.

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