Why Open Access?


At its January 2009 meeting, the Colorado Association of Libraries Board requested that the Publications Committee temporarily suspend publication of Colorado Libraries. This was due to the fragile state of the CAL budget at the time. Each quarterly print issue of the journal cost $6600 to print and mail to members, for a total annual expenditure of over $25,000. After the meeting, there was some discussion of the possibility of publishing the journal in an online environment; however, ultimately, Past President Jody Howard asked that the editors wait until after the annual conference in November 2009 to reassess the budget before making a decision about moving forward with publication.

At the January 2010 Board Meeting, the Publications Committee presented a proposal to move publication of Colorado Libraries online, a measure that would cut the high publication costs associated with creating a print issue. At that time, there were a number of concerns surrounding this proposal. Several individuals and institutions had paid for a subscription in 2009 for a volume that was not produced; content for nearly three of the issues of volume 35 had been solicited and created by several dozen editors and individuals; and subscription to the print journal is a benefit of membership. The Board asked the Publications Committee to consider these issues and resubmit their proposal at the March Board meeting.

At the Board meeting on March 12th, the Publications Committee presented three proposals: to move forward with an open access publishing model, beginning with volume 35; to refund subscriptions paid to individuals and institutions in 2009; and to consider skipping issues for 2009 and publishing content created for 2009 in 2010. All three of these proposals passed. Discussion of each follows.

An Online, Open Access Publication Model for Colorado Libraries: The benefits to open access include: a low cost (compared to $6000+ for one quarterly print issue); a “green” platform; instant availability of content; a greater level of access to users with disabilities; and a higher level of visibility of the journal and CAL. There are a number of options for an online platform, and the Publications Committee is currently investigating the possibilities. While there may be concern that publishing in an open access platform will compromise the quality or value of articles published, especially in terms of peer-reviewed articles, the formal editorial and peer-review processes will remain the same to ensure that the quality of the online version is consistent with the previous print issues.

Refunding Paid Subscription Fees from 2009: Trying to create an “intermediate” members-only online publication would likely result in volume 35 becoming a “lost” issue. User authentication would be time- and resource-intensive to implement. CAL accepted approximately $3300 in payment for subscriptions in 2009, and the 2010 budget set aside money for Colorado Libraries that could be used for reimbursement. Potential costs for online publication are low and include domain registration for a CL-specific URL and web hosting. While receiving a print copy of the journal is no longer a benefit, members will still have access to the content of the journal, and the benefit of having a platform in which to publish remains. (Authors and editors must be CAL members.) The Publications Committee will work the IMI Group, CAL's new management company, to best determine how to communicate with subscribers requesting refunds.

Skipping 2009 and beginning 2010 with issue 35: The Committee asked that the Board reconsider this issue--which had been voted down at the January 2010 meeting--because there is currently no journal content prepared for 2010 issues. Of the content planned for 2009, issue 35.1, guest edited by Paul Betty, is complete and ready for publication, and issue 35.2, guest edited by Clara Sitter and Jean Heilig, is nearly ready for publication. Guest editors Helen Reed and Janet Lee began preparing issue 35.3, and have many of the articles that they solicited in hand. Continuing with volume 35 in 2010 maintains continuity in series numbering yet will allow the Colorado Libraries editors to devote their time to moving to the online platform.

Since the Board accepted the above recommendations, changes in the duties and job descriptions of the two journal editors, Melissa Powell and Nina McHale, will be necessary. Melissa, formerly Production Editor, will take on the role of Content Editor, previously held by Nina. Duties include developing issue themes, soliciting guest editors, and coordinating column editor work. Nina will assume the role of technical editor and peer review editor, developing the online platform for the journal, managing technical issues with it, and coordinating the peer review process.