The Resignation of the Editorial Board of the JLA

Posted on 23 March 2013 at 8:59 pm in Musings.

There’s a breaking story in the world of scholarly journals and library science that’s worth tuning into. It kicked off with a post by Brian Mathews on his Chronicle of Higher Education blog The Ubiquitous Librarian, in which he revealed that the entire editorial board of the prestigious Journal of Library Administration (or JLA) had resigned due to the publisher’s onerous author requirements regarding copyright and access.

Mathews is the Associate Dean for the Virginia Tech Libraries, and had been asked to serve as guest editor for a special, speculative issue of the journal on the academic library in fifteen years. This is how he described it:

  • “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.”

Invited authors included not only academic librarians such as Kelly Miller (UCLA), Michael Levine-Clark (University of Denver), and Steven Bell (Temple), but also Google engineer and search educator Dan Russell, Lennie Scott-Webber, an educational environment expert at Steelcase Furniture, and two authors affiliated with electronic resource vendors. It’s a compelling mix, but with the resignation of the JLA’s board, it’s not going to happen — at least in that venue.

Mathews had also invited Jason Griffey to contribute, but in a move that anticipated the decision made by the editorial board, he declined participation due to the publisher’s restrictions. After Mathews broke the news, Griffey posted on the subject himself:

  • “On Feb 14, I got an intriguing email from Brian Matthews [sic] about a special edition of the Journal of Library Administration he was editing. It was a request for a chapter for an edition of the journal called Imagining the Future of Libraries, and the Brian’s pitch to me was enough to make me very interested: [Brian]: ‘I’d love for you to contribute an essay around the topic of technology. Beyond most digital collections. Beyond everyone and everything mobile— what unfolds then?’ I mean, if I have a specialty, this is it. I love nothing more than I love a good dose of futurism, and told him so. My one concern was the Journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, and the fact that I refuse to sign over my copyright on work I create. I’m happy to license it in any number of ways that gives the publisher the rights they need to distribute the work, but I won’t write something for someone else to own.”

The final post covering the story (so far; there will be more, I’m sure) is from Chris Bourg, who had recently joined the editorial board of the Journal of Academic Librarianship and resigned along with her colleagues. She describes the lengths editor Damon Jaggars had gone to convince the publisher to change its practices:

  • “In the meantime, Damon continued to try to convince Taylor & Francis (on behalf of the entire Editorial Board, and with our full support), that their licensing terms were too confusing and too restrictive. A big part of the argument is that the Taylor & Francis author agreement is a real turn-off for authors and was handicapping the Editorial Board’s ability to attract quality content to the journal. The best Taylor & Francis could come up with was a less restrictive license that would cost authors nearly $3000 per article. The Board agreed that this alternative was simply not tenable, so we collectively resigned.”

Look for more to emerge on this subject, as librarians start to assert their demand for change in the world of scholarly publishing. And hopefully, somewhere, Brian Mathews’ special issue will find a home — since it sounded fantastic.

Sources:

This post has also been mirrored on my tumblr.

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