Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Impact of Social Sciences – Libraries and Open Journal Systems: Hosting and facilitating the creation of Open Access scholarship


Libraries and Open Journal Systems: Hosting and facilitating the creation of Open Access scholarship

is a growing availability of free tools and software for academic
publishing. How might libraries leverage existing platforms?
Anna R. Craft describes
one experience of an academic library hosting locally-produced open
access journals through Open Journals Systems (OJS). But even “free”
software is not without costs in relation to time and expertise. Care
should be taken in facilitating a supportive environment to meet an
institution’s journal-hosting needs.

Historically, the primary role of libraries has been the collection
and preservation of content created by others. Today, many libraries are
also emphasizing the facilitation of local content creation. The
University Libraries of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
have a multi-faceted strategy for promoting this new direction.

We support publication of open access articles through an Open Access
fund for authors. We fund the production of open access classroom
materials through grants for Open Educational Resources (OER). We
disseminate the university’s scholarly output through NC DOCKS,
a locally-developed institutional repository hosted at UNCG and shared
with seven other UNC system universities. We provide technology and
expertise for the creation of multimedia projects and for 3D printing in
our Digital Media Commons. We fund research grants and prizes for
students who create content using materials held in our Special
Collections and University Archives. We provide Digital Partners grants
for faculty who need assistance in creating online databases and
websites, as well as other “new media.” And, as we explore further in
this post, we host locally-produced open access journals.

OA-eggsImage credit: kate_harbison CC BY-SA
In 2010, in response to faculty requests for assistance in the creation and hosting of open access journals, we adopted Open Journal Systems (OJS). Created by the Public Knowledge Project,
OJS is an open source publishing and journal management platform that
strives to make open access publishing “a viable option for more
journals.” OJS expands our role in establishing ties throughout the
university and promoting scholarly discourse on campus and beyond.

Now we host ten active journals
in OJS, with several others in development. These journals cross the
academic spectrum, with content areas including archives, service
learning, and mathematics and statistics. This endeavor has been
successful in meeting campus journal-hosting needs, while also
supporting our initiatives to further scholarly communications and open
access on campus, but this project is not without challenges and growing
pains. Even “free” software is not without costs in relation to time
and expertise. And where do library roles begin and end when it comes to
supporting hosted open access journals?

At UNCG, the University Libraries host the OJS software and support its use. We provide:

  • Long-term archiving of journal content
  • A professionally-run server environment
  • An up-to-date, secure version of the OJS software
  • User training and support for use of the software
  • A moderate degree of customization for individual journals
OJS support roles in the University Libraries are focused in three
areas: server and software administration and development, user support
and training, and general education and outreach. An interdepartmental
team handles this work, with each area assigned to a point person who
has specialized expertise. OJS duties make up only a small part of the
overall work of each team member. Requests for these services fluctuate
and can be difficult to predict, but as journal numbers grow, the number
of support requests grows as well.

Our hosted journals share one OJS software implementation, meaning
that most top-level customizations done by our technical team will
affect all journals. So while training and technical support can often
be provided on an individualized basis, advanced web customizations
generally cannot. We feel that this support model allows us to meet 95%
of the needs of our journals. To address the remaining 5% of requests,
we would likely need to hire an additional OJS support position. And
even with the current support model, if the number of hosted journals
continues to increase, the support team will eventually require
additional resources.

With library personnel managing the software and training users,
journal personnel can focus on recruitment, review, editing, and
presentation of content for their publications. Management teams for
individual journals are generally comprised of scholars from across the
field–not just faculty on our campus. These teams are generally made up
of experts in their content areas, but these personnel are not always
fully aware of other skill sets they will need–especially those relating
to design and technology.

OJS-screenshot (1)Image credit: By Nikita-kun-i [Public domain or GPL], via Wikimedia Commons
Our support team is proactive in educating users about the variety of
skillsets that may be needed in the production of their journals.
Journal management teams will find value in having personnel with
experience in article layout, graphic design, and web design, as OJS
offers options for individual journals to control many elements of
content presentation, even in a shared hosting system. As noted above,
the University Libraries’ support team does not have the resources to
pursue and fulfill all customization requests, especially those related
to journal design. When journal personnel request resource-intensive
customizations that we are unable to provide, they can pursue
customizations themselves, either within the hosted platform or by
downloading OJS for free and running it themselves.

Potential users should also be aware of the learning curve associated
with the OJS software. OJS is a powerful but intricate online system,
and some users have expressed frustration with its complexity. Journal
managers who do not wish to learn to use the system sometimes hire
graduate students to manage the online platform, but this staffing model
can cause difficulties when students graduate, unless sustainability
planning is handled well in advance.

At UNCG, we promote sustainability planning for journals, and require
that each journal maintain a primary on-campus contact person. If the
primary journal manager or initiator leaves the university, he or she
must designate a new on-campus contact in order to maintain the
journal’s continuity in the UNCG OJS system. If no new sponsor steps
forward, then we can either transfer the entire journal to a new home at
another institution, or cease to add new content and maintain the
extant journal volumes as a backfile. It is possible for journals to
move from one OJS instance to another, and the University Libraries have
facilitated the transfer of journals in the past. Once a journal leaves
our hosted system, we no longer provide support and training services.

This OJS staffing and support model meets current needs at UNCG, but
our model will not be the right fit for all institutions, nor for all
journals. Providers of OJS hosting have the latitude to consider their
own expertise and available resources before determining the level of
support that they will offer to end users. At UNCG, OJS helps strengthen
relationships between the University Libraries and its constituencies,
including campus faculty and scholarly communities, while also
facilitating the creation of open access scholarship on campus and

This post is based on a presentation given by the author titled Help, we started a journal! : adventures in supporting open access publishing using Open Journal Systems [slides]

Note: This article gives the views of the author(s), and not the position of the LSE Impact blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author:

Anna R. Craft is a member of the faculty at The
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she serves as Metadata
Cataloger in the University Libraries. In a role that integrates
aspects of metadata and scholarly communications, she helps to ensure
that the Libraries’ resources (print and electronic) are discoverable
and available for patrons worldwide. She writes, speaks, and teaches on
general metadata, MARC cataloging, open access, institutional
repositories, library career building, and related topics.

Impact of Social Sciences – Libraries and Open Journal Systems: Hosting and facilitating the creation of Open Access scholarship

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