Guest Post: Starting an OA journal: The Reading Room

Starting an OA journal: The Reading Room
by Amy Vilz and Molly Poremski

The Reading Room: A Journal of Special Collections is a peer-reviewed, open access journal focusing on special collections. At the time of our launch, there was a lack of comprehensive, open access journals for special collections at large, and our journal helps to fill this niche. Furthermore, we believe academic libraries are currently, and for the foreseeable future, focusing on the resources that make them unique: namely, their special collections. Given this environment, we have a large, identified community of readers, authors and peer-reviewers.

Traditionally, a special collections librarian would present research findings or a case study at regional and national conferences before the results were published in a journal, with many times a year or more lapsing between project completion and dissemination via publication. While there’s nothing wrong with print-based journals and the present and publish system per se, we wanted to offer an open-access, online, and free peer-reviewed journal, to hopefully be a bit more accessible and publish articles quickly to increase responsiveness to challenges and successes in our field.

We use Scholastica as our back-end journal platform. It’s cloud-based, there’s nothing to install, the interface is intuitive and easy to use, and it’s cost-effective. You can publish your journal on Scholastica, but we chose to have our Libraries’ Web Management team create a front-end website to showcase each issue. For metrics, Scholastica has a built-in analytics program to gauge information regarding editor performance, acceptance rate, average days to decision, manuscript progress, etc. We use Google Analytics to measure traffic on the in-house public interface.

We applied for funding for Scholastica through our institution, the University at Buffalo. In 2014, UB Libraries offered innovation grants to faculty and staff. Fees for Scholastica are limited to a small cost per unique journal submission. Our grant funding will support the submission of articles and serve as bridge money until the journal can become self-sustaining from database royalties. Current criteria for inclusion in database directories are two to three years of established publication. This seed money gives us the opportunity to test the Scholastica platform and create a back catalog of journal issues enabling us to meet the requirements of disciplinary journal indexes (i.e. Library Literature & Information Science Index) and periodical directories such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). A successful transition from Innovation Funding to a self-sustaining income within three years is our goal.

We created the journal for many reasons, one of which was somewhat selfish! We each had articles in mind regarding our special collections, but felt there was no appropriate journal for publication. Our ideas related to the stories our collections tell; this was the impetus for our Narrative Features. Our Narrative Features provide a unique outlet in a peer-reviewed environment. Collections tell stories, stories that are revealed by librarians, curators, and researchers within the reading room. Yet there are limited outlets for these types of articles in a peer-reviewed environment. Examples include unique circumstances relating to the donor or acquisition of materials, significance of documentation within a collection or an institution’s collecting area, or how the format of materials in a collection enhances or inhibits understanding of the collection. We also welcome and encourage interpretive works on collections. Feature articles are meant to offer insight into a collection’s significance (either a discrete collection or collection holdings at large) and address the context within its applicable field or within institutional holdings. We think this sets The Reading Room apart, and indeed, just over half of our article queries and submissions are for these types of articles.

At The Reading Room, we made a conscious effort to expand our submission base, and include articles from those using special collections (researchers) as well as students working with special collections. We did this not only to increase our readership, but the conversation in our field about how our collections are being accessed and used, and broaden the measure of scholarly impact. For example, if a researcher has used unique collection material for their research article, why not publish that article for a special collections audience in a special collections journal? We want to showcase not just how professional librarians, archivists, and curators work with special collections, but how our users and researchers work with special collections. In that way, we believe it gives a better context and measure of the impact of cultural collections.

CFP: American Archivist

reposted from A&A listserv:

Dear Colleagues,

When I became Editor of The American Archivist, I set the goal of making peer review decisions within 90 days of article submission.  I have maintained this goal while expanding the number of peer reviewers for each article from two to three.

While I have not yet been able to meet the goal for all articles, I am close enough to the goal for most articles that I am writing to encourage faculty and students to submit articles for possible publication.  We also have moved the online version of the journal to an attractive new platform hosted by Allen Press.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.  I look forward to receiving your manuscripts!


Gregory S. Hunter, Ph.D., CA, CRM, FSAA
Director, Ph.D. in Information Studies
Director, Certificate of Advanced Study in Archives and Records Management
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
LIU Post
720 Northern Boulevard
Brookville, NY 11548
516-299-4168 (fax)

Certified Archivist
Certified Records Manager
Distinguished Fellow, Society of American Archivists
Editor, The American Archivist

What Does a Journal Editor Do?

I assumed the role of Provenance editor in January 2012. My only experience was peer-reviewing a few articles, but I had expressed my interest in doing more. A friend/colleague was on the SGA Board, and recommended me for the position. I met with the then-Editor and then-SGA President, alerting them to the fact that I most likely wasn’t going to be in Georgia much longer (only a few months away from my project position ending). Because most everything is done over email now, they agreed.

I had some guidance from the previous editor, but he also encouraged me to do what I wanted. It took me about 2 years before I believed I had a handle on everything. That’s not to say that I knew (or know) everything, but the process became smoother. I truly enjoy it, but know there is still much to learn. I consider myself very lucky and am grateful to have this opportunity.

When I started, we weren’t yet using the online system. I used spreadsheets and email folders for tracking, and it was tricky. Just before leaving Atlanta, Kennesaw State University agreed to include Provenance in their digital commons. It helps tremendously, though it still takes a lot of checking and paying attention to details.

My role as editor includes: sending out CFP to various listservs; reviewing all submissions; assigning submissions to peer-reviewers; assessing reviewer feedback; communicating with authors; overseeing a nine member board plus managing editor, reviews editor, and indexer; soliciting articles; keeping up with recent publications for book reviews; creating the final order of content; and copyediting final publication.

Being an editor is not a solo activity. I rely on my board, as they and others peer-review all articles. The associate editor is a peer-reviewer and helps with CFPs and other administrative tasks. The reviews editor coordinates acquiring books, assigning them to reviewers, and editing the reviews. The managing editor formats the journal for publication, works with the printer, coordinates the mailing, and creates the final PDFs. It’s a collaborative activity. And, of course, none of this is possible without the authors.

The bulk of what I do is communicating with authors or potential authors. I receive emails asking if a topic or article is appropriate and I try to be encouraging. As I noted in an earlier post, I believe everyone should have an opportunity to write if they want to. I enjoy working with authors, whether prior to submission or for revisions to accepted articles.

Although it’s a lot of work, I get great satisfaction seeing the final product. Sharing ideas, practices, theories, and anything archival helps archivists learn. We all have so much to share and this is only one outlet to facilitate the exchange of ideas.