Gavia Libraria

Update on RUSQ

The birdies have spoken; the Loon has received several emails about the fate of RUSQ, and the information in them reconciles nicely, suggesting that they are largely truthful. Rather than reproduce them verbatim (possibly exposing their senders), the Loon will summarize:

  • RUSQ went closed when it discontinued its print edition and moved the online one to MetaPress. This happened at the start of volume 51, the Fall 2011 issue. RUSQ’s open-access experiment therefore lasted just shy of five years.
  • According to RUSQ, the latest four issues (one year’s worth) are access-restricted to RUSA members and subscribers, after which they are opened on MetaPress. (Confirmation of this would be welcome; the Loon’s institution is a subscriber, so she can’t easily test this.)
  • RUSQ also opens on JSTOR after a three-year (twelve-issue) embargo. Again, confirmation welcome.
  • The only justification for re-closure the Loon saw in her correspondence was “production costs.” These were not enumerated, nor was any information proffered regarding how RUSQ’s years of open access had affected paying subscriptions or memberships.
  • The RUSA board approved all these changes. How the changes were presented to them the Loon doesn’t know. (In other words, the RUSA board may or may not have held a referendum on open access for RUSQ. The Loon wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the implications to open access of the change of platform were never clear to the board.)

The Loon noted a certain tone of tension and annoyance from certain of the correspondents, also a certain disdain for the questioners. She thinks this unfortunate, of course, but she is not surprised by it. Time was, these questions were purely internal matters with very little room for manoeuvre and only a diminutive perceived ethical dimension. Clearly that’s changing. Equally clearly, not all journal boards have caught up to the change—the threatening static the Loon got for openly calling out Elsevier journal boards in library and information studies attests to that!

Again, the Loon doesn’t necessarily fault RUSA’s decisionmaking with respect to RUSQ. She doesn’t have enough information about it to do a reasonable analysis (some of the lacunae are hinted at above). She believes that RUSQ is potentially a fascinating and worthwhile case study, and she hopes that RUSA and the RUSQ board will consider additional transparency about the entire history of the RUSQ open-access experiment.

The Loon has more to say about gold open access and libraries; since it will take time to articulate and several readers are curious about the RUSQ situation, though, she’ll let this post stand as is.

17 thoughts on “Update on RUSQ

  1. David

    it’s actually very easy for you to check on the openness of older issues of RUSQ on MetaPress (assuming you have internet at home). Simply try to access the articles from home without going through your institution’s off-campus access service. When you’re at home, you’re not a subscriber.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      The Loon sheepishly admits that she’s usually proxy-servered in at home, but yes, this will work for folk less obsessed. (Or the Loon could, of course, use an alternate browser.)

  2. Barbara Fister

    At the RUSA site, the issues from 2007 to present are not accessible except to members. There’s no link to anything earlier. Articles can be purchased for $12.00 each.

  3. Meredith

    I can’t get to any of the articles in MetaPress (going back to the 2007-2008 ones) without being asked for fork over $12, so maybe the folks who are ensuring that there is still some free access should actually test it.

  4. Meredith

    And while I’m disappointed that their OA effort was not fruitful, I’m really frustrated that they were not transparent in discussing this move and what led to their decision. It would be a useful educational experience for any other publication considering going OA and being on the editorial board of one that did, I am VERY curious about this. If you post a press release when you go OA, post one when you go back.

    1. Barbara

      YES. Especially if you are a library organization. I mean, aren’t we about access? The more I think about this, the more bothered I am. How many public librarians are not and never will be RUSA members but could benefit by reading this publication? Is rewarding members and protecting a hypothetical revenue stream more important than that? This is something scholarly societies need to ask themselves, but library organizations cannot possibly claim “nobody but us wants to know this stuff.”

    1. Catherine Pellegrino

      There are two announcements in RUSQ 50/4: one from the editor, Diane Zabel, and one from the 2010-11 President of RUSA, Barry Trott. Both address the upcoming switch to online-only publication with vol. 51, and the cost savings that the organization anticipates from this switch. Neither addresses open access specifically, but Zabel’s announcement says the following:

      The taskforce has recommended a one year embargo since the journal is one of the benefits of RUSA membership. The RUSQ Online Com- panion will be eliminated with Volume 51. This was originally developed as a stop gap measure until a full electronic version was in place. This will result in some savings as the RUSA office has been responsible for loading content.

      I’m not sure what the “RUSQ Online Companion” is — it may be the blog formerly hosted at http://www.rusq.org that used to be where full-text articles were posted prior to or simultaneously with the print publication.

      1. LibraryLoon Post author

        So… it was eliminated because RUSA lacks someone bright enough to automate the posting process? And didn’t care about anything but saving time?

        That’s disturbing.

      2. Andromeda

        Yes, now that I’ve gotten a chance to read the relevant article, with respect to OA it is a bit at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”, isn’t it.

  5. Chris

    It continues to be desparately disappointing that Librarians can be so aware of the problems of closed access journals but fail completely to display appropriate leadership in their own journals. Whenever I have been asked to publish in a Library journal I have asked about openness, pushed for openness, and generally had to decline to publish for lack of it.

    1. LibraryLoon Post author

      This begs the question of how aware they are. The Loon was rather nasty (nastier than her wont) on Twitter of late over precisely this.

      Outside librarianship’s open-access echo chamber (which the Loon herself is of course a member of), both awareness and activism are minimal at best among academic librarians and LIS faculty.

      Prove the Loon wrong. She’d dearly love to be wrong.