Next in The Open Access Stories series - an interview with Alison Mudditt, Director of University of California Press!
Molly Poremski is the International Languages & Literatures Librarian at the University at Buffalo and Amy Vilz is University Archivist at the University at Buffalo Libraries. Molly and Amy launched The Reading Room: A Journal of Special Collections in 2014. The journal is committed to providing current research and relevant discussion of practices in a special collections library setting.
What are the aims and scope of The Reading Room and how and why did you decide to launch it as an OA journal?
The Reading Room: A Journal of Special Collections is a peer-reviewed, open access journal focusing on special collections in a variety of settings including libraries, museums, historical societies, and corporate environments. At the time of our launch, there was no comprehensive, open access journal for special collections at large, and our journal filled 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.
The more venues for unique materials, the better it is for our profession. The most revered journals in our field are print-based, usually with organizational membership or subscription fees. These costs can be prohibitive, particularly for those starting out in their field. Print also takes a bit longer to produce than an open access journal. 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 fee-based journals and the present publishing 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.
How do you anticipate your journal will impact special collections? What are your hopes for the journal both in terms of having an impact in your field and as part of the OA Movement?
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.
As librarians, what suggestions do you have for universities and individual scholars in terms of taking steps to further the OA movement?
At our university, although scholarly communication and publishing is a priority, there is no organized system in place for publishing open access journals. Launching The Reading Room provides us with practical, hands-on experience implementing an open-access journal; expertise which can be shared in outreach efforts with our university faculty, community, profession, and beyond. As the subject librarian for Romance Languages, Molly has already worked with graduate students to help them take their departmental print journal and integrate it into Scholastica as an open access journal. So there’s a real opportunity for librarians to lead the charge, so to speak, in expanding the open access movement at the institutional level. It’s another part of our ever-evolving roles as academic librarians, and one that we can speak to from professional experience.
Individually, we in the profession can serve as peer-reviewers for OA journals and publish in OA journals. This is certainly true for The Reading Room. We released our first Call for Papers on October 7, 2014. Within a few months, we had almost 30 submissions and over 100 peer reviewers. Our first issue was released on September 24, and features 6 articles that represent the scope and depth of special collections. Hopefully, the quality and breadth of our content will further legitimize and expand the OA movement.
Thanks to Amy and Molly for being a part of The Open Access Stories series! For more information on how The Reading Room got started check out the recent Scholastica webinar, “Inside the Editors’ Office: Launching a Sustainable OA Journal,” featuring Molly and Amy!