Gavia Libraria

RUSQ’s camouflage

Once upon a time there was a professional organization whose branches ran a good many professional journals. As the open-access message penetrated this organization, a few of its journals ventured out into the open waters. Happy ending?

Not for Reference and User Services Quarterly. Frankly, the Loon hadn’t even heard of this journal, much less read it, before it went OA (see first comment) (see also, though ALA being ALA, this link will eventually 404 too) and she found it linked to here and there. (Reference is not the Loon’s bag; she’s never sat behind a ref desk in her whole loonly life.) She discovered some rather well-done articles in it, added it to her RSS feeder, and subsequently discovered more.

The RSS feed doesn’t work any longer. RUSQ has called off its OA experiment, going back to subscription/membership-only.

The Loon is disappointed by that, but not particularly surprised or angered. (All right, she’s angered enough that every RUSQ read on her syllabi will be replaced; she refuses to reward this behavior.) Gold OA isn’t a financially-feasible path for every journal at present; there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with giving it a whirl, discovering it doesn’t work, and doing what needs to be done to save the journal. What does anger her—well, anger and intrigue at once—is the secrecy with which the re-closing took place. No announcement, no explanation, no apology—just a whole lot of 404 leading to a good bit of bewilderment.

She conjectures that the powers-that-be at RUSQ feel shame, fear, or both over the re-closing. Shame, because they feel open is a good thing to be, a sentiment with which the Loon of course concurs. Fear, because the open-access movement has teeth and claws these days, among librarians as much as anywhere and more than in many disciplines and professions.

She wishes, however, that RUSQ’s editors and supporters would come clean. Open access has a history of paying a good bit too much heed to rose-tinted glasses. It’s important to get mistakes and failures out there for examination, uncomfortable though that process often is (not least because a few open-access advocates sling blame around with hurricane-force winds, and just as indiscriminately).

There might even be feasible ways to bring RUSQ back to open. How will we know, if we don’t know why RUSQ re-closed?

Edited to add: RUSQ’s editorial board, if anyone knows anyone to ask. The Loon doesn’t.

16 thoughts on “RUSQ’s camouflage

  1. Mike Taylor

    This is very unfortunate. But the 404s are just unacceptable. I hope you get some answers, and that this turns out to be a technical fault.

    Funnily enough, I had been wondering just the other day how many journals there that go from OA to barrier-based. You rarely hear about them, but I don’t know whether that’s because it hardly ever happens or because the journals don’t like to talk about it when it does.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      Investigations are underway (not, as it happens, by the Loon). One way or another, more will be learnt.

      The Loon agrees that that would be a fascinating research topic; assembling the research universe would be quite difficult, however.

  2. John

    My library subscribes to this and I still can’t access the content. Going over to Metapress must have really messed things up.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      Changing platforms can indeed be traumatic, but something may be wrong on the library’s end, too. If there’s a way to report missing access (and there probably is), by all means drop the librarians a line so that they know to investigate.

  3. Andromeda

    A friend of mine is on the board, and another edits a column for them, and neither of them know what’s going on (or appear to have been informed in advance, frankly). They’re both investigating.

    As it happens, I have a column for them done and ready to roll right now except I hadn’t yet gotten around to signing the author’s agreement. Guess I’m going to be doing a lot of thinking tonight.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      Thank you for letting us know! Anything you find out would be welcome here.

  4. Barbara

    “It’s important to get mistakes and failures out there for examination, uncomfortable though that process often is.” <—— yes, and this is why I wish someone from RUSA would explain why this decision was taken. It would be instructive to know what motivated it. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that "Be Evil" is not RUSA's new motto and that there was a reason for this move. Naturally I would like the decision to be reversed (RUSQued?), but just knowing WHY the organization made this change would be so helpful. It may not be universally considered as a mistake. I really would like to know the argument for taking this route from those who believed it the right thing to do – not to argue with them, but to have more understanding.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      There was a time when such decisions were purely an internal matter. That time is pretty clearly past… but the Loon isn’t surprised that some have yet to realize it.

      She is surprised, and rather ashamed, that members of her own profession, the INFORMATION PROFESSION, should be among the tardy, however.

      1. Andromeda

        I’ve been getting more information and I think you’ve nailed it exactly, here.

        My understanding is that they are working on making some official statements right now, so I’m going to hold off on my own cranky blog post (believe me, I am fighting temptation here) to give them the chance to do things right. If they’re swift and clear and comprehensive, I’m going to be cool with that. And if they’re not, I’ll blog what I know.

  5. Stephen Francoeur

    A board member that I know says they are switching over to a plan where back issues will be freely available but articles from the last 4 issues will be embargoed.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      Thank you. The Loon has heard this from several parties, so she believes (lacking any contradictory evidence) it’s true.

  6. Barry Trott

    To clarify things:

    In January 2011, the RUSA Board approved the move of RUSQ from print to a digital only journal. As part of that move, the RUSQ Taskforce recommended, and the RUSA Board approved, having the current four issues of the journal available only to subscribers (this group includes all RUSA members and organizations with an institutional membership, as well as others with a subscription). Older RUSQ content, back to RUSQ 46:1 (2006) is open to all on the RUSQ Metapress site (http://rusa.metapress.com/content/L74261/).

    A subscription to RUSQ is a member benefit of belonging to RUSA, and one that we know represents an important member value. Additionally, since there are still production costs to RUSA affiliated with the journal, along with costs to host the journal on MetaPress, the Taskforce felt, and the Board concurred, that this compromise was the best way to balance the member value piece with the interest in reaching the broader library community.

    As a part of the move to the digital only journal, RUSQ Online Companion was ceased publication as of RUSQ vol. 51. The Online Companion was originally developed as a stop-gap measure until a full electronic version was in place.

    As noted above, the RUSA Board discussed and approved the move to online only format, including the one year embargo in 2011, and this change, including the embargo, was announced in “From the Editor” column in RUSQ Volume 50, Number 4 / 2011. We feel that this move was made in a transparent and thoughtful fashion.

    In preparing this response, we noted that there was an incorrect setting on our Metapress site, which was blocking access to older RUSQ articles. That has been corrected, and we apologize for any confusion.

    Diane Zabel, Editor, Reference & User Services Quarterly
    Barry Trott, Incoming Editor, Reference & User Services Quarterly

  7. Betsy Miller

    Okay, basic question here – was RUSQ ever proclaimed to be “open access” at any point in recent history? Does any of the institutional memory (RUSQ board documents/minutes, board members, Quarterly staff/editors/writers) support the wide-spread impression that RUSQ had gone OA?

    Barry Trott is saying (above) “digital only” and “online only” but doesn’t say OA.

    1. Catherine Pellegrino

      Betsy, the Loon links to an ALA press release from October 12, 2006, announcing the RUSQ Online Companion here: http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=archive&template=/contentmanagement/contentdisplay.cfm&ContentID=140077 The press release quotes Diane Zabel as saying, “[g]uided by the philosophy of the open access movement, the online companion is open to all users, not just RUSA or ALA members.”

      I agree that the announcement in RUSQ 50/4 could have been more explicit about the journal’s commitment to maintain an open access policy to the content that had previously been open.

    2. Andromeda

      And if you read the RUSA minutes and other documentation that’s readily available online, you will find the same thing — “digital” discussed a lot, the phrase “open access” mentioned little to not at all. But yes, RUSQ was formally declared OA in the past, and it is formally not OA now.