Thursday, July 12, 2007

The National Library of Australia: open access to Open Publish

Presenter: Slobodanka (Bobby) Graham, The National Library of Australia
Time: 1:45 PM - July 12th 2007
Location: SFU Harbour Center - Fletcher Challenge Theatre
Links: Abstract , Open Publish

The National Library of Australia endevoured to establish a new model for scholarly publishing in October 2005. The goal of this project was to make journal articles accessible to a wider readership. The library has a history of championing for best practice and has recently devoted much attention to web design and open access publishing. With the thousands of current users who access books and journals, it is recognized that journals are the lifeblood of the academic community. Unfortunately, they are produced in very small numbers due in part to limited funds. The newfound opportunities for web publishing which supports free, digital and open access to literature has the potential to develop a web of connectivity between wide audiences which would otherwise be impossible. One of the aims of the working group at the National Library of Australia is to enable global access to literature in the form of open access journals that are: in digital format, available online, free of charge, and free of copyright issues.

Open Publish – a new service trial:
Open Publish is the National Library of Australia’s open access journal service trial. The process begain in Oct. 2005 with a meeting between the library and an association promoting Australian writing. It was established that the traditional publishing model was not sustainable. Essays and reviews, commonly published annually in journals, were reproduced into only 350 copies. The process of print publication was also very lengthy, thus delaying the timeliness of communicating new information.

Using the Open Journal Systems (OJS) digital publishing software to manage, host and also to deliver the online open access service, costs were much lower and time was saved. The first journal published in this trial was Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL). The goal was to publish 1 issue by February 2006. Members of the association were invited to be involved and 4 back issues were uploaded by the projected date. In addition to JASAL, other journals include: Australian Journal of Victorian Studies; Reviews in Australian Studies, which has produced 10 issues online already.

From the library’s point of view, the new publication process is very easy to manage. Upon reflection, the journal team had faced many challenges in up- and downloading, but there were also multiple benefits noted (eg. no need to find papers consisting of referee reports, avoidance of confusion and debates over missed deadlines). A designer has been commissioned to maintain the site and to keep it clean and streamlined, thus making it as simple as possible for incoming journal editors. In addition, if a pay-per-view is required for a certain article, a clear statement is made to the reader.

Work in progress:
- A revision of the search tools would significantly improve the system.
- What type of policy is required?
- What is the role of the National Library of Australia? Since they are not official publishers, their role may sometimes be ambiguous.
- A set of criteria need to be established to determine if a journal is suitable for publishing in the system.

Currently, hosting is made on the following criteria:
- It is an open-access journal
- Journal has distinctly Australian content
- Journal is not linked to any particular institution

The presenter expressed that the most gratifying aspect of this project is the accessing of their work. It has been documented that for a particular issue within a period of 3 months, there was an average of 516 downloads per article.

For the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL), 12 articles averaged 541 downloads per article within a 2-month period. This is extremely encouraging when compared to the 350 prints per year that was previously made. New members have already signed up to be a part of the association.

Through this experience, the library gained what it means to host an online journal system. Staff had to work both collaboratively and remotely at times. There is little expense required and new goals have been made while old ones were exceeded.

Feedback from the audience:
Would Open Publish consider publishing articles as they come, rather than sticking to the traditional format of publishing in volumes?
That depends on the editorial board of each journal.

Are there more journals in the pipeline?
Not yet. It has been recognized that there is a great need for more promotion. Currently, the website is being rebuilt to address some of these issues.

Other open-access initiatives: Budapest Open Access Initiative (


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