The academic library field claims to value social responsibility, open access, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). But academic library journal practices do not always reflect these values. This article describes a mixed-method study designed to operationalize and measure these values in practice. We found that many of the journals we examined have open access policies and practices but fall short in providing for accessibility and ensuring EDI in their publication processes. In short, library journals are not meeting the ideals that our own field has defined.
There is a great deal of discussion about our disciplinary values in the library and information science (LIS) field. We prioritize values like access to information, diversity and democracy, and lifelong learning and social responsibility (American Library Association, 2019). Librarians urge our professor colleagues to publish their scholarship in open access journals and teach with open educational resources. We form diversity committees and inclusive reading groups. We talk about pushing back on the systems (e.g., scholarly publishing) and institutions (e.g., universities) that perpetuate inequity. There are many ways to explore whether the LIS field is living up to these ideals; this multi-method study focuses on these values in LIS scholarly communications, particularly academic librarianship journals. It attempts to summarize the general state of academic library journals, including trends in publishers, indexing, and metrics. In addition, it explores whether these journals are demonstrating a commitment to the values of the LIS profession, namely open access and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).1
Our research questions are as follows:
- What is the general state of academic library journals, including trends in publishers, indexing, and metrics?
- Are the core academic library journals demonstrating a commitment to the values of the LIS profession, namely openness, inclusion, and equity?
The LIS Scholarly Landscape
The research that explores the state of the LIS scholarly landscape often focuses on bibliometrics. For example, Sin (2011) investigated the relationship between international coauthorship and citation impact. Walters and Wilder (2015) explored “the contributions of particular disciplines, countries, and academic departments” to the LIS literature. Bibliographic analysis of specific journals is popular, including Library Management Journal (Singh & Chander, 2014), JASIST (Bar-Ilan, 2012), and Journal of Documentation (Tsay & Shu, 2011).
Another common theme is LIS research content analysis. Kim and Jeong (2006) analyzed the development and use of theory in LIS research. A recent paper summarized research topics and methods across 50 years of LIS research (Järvelin & Vakkari, 2021). Onyancha (2018) used author-supplied keywords to map the evolution of LIS research.
Only a few attempts have been made to identify and/or evaluate the LIS journal corpus. As Nixon observed in 2014, “In library and information science (LIS) there is no professionally accepted tiered or ranked list of journals in the United States,” which “creates a dilemma for librarian-authors who wish to expand the literature in librarianship, write about successful programs, or report on research findings” (p. 66). She proposes a methodology that takes into account expert opinions, circulation and acceptance rates, impact factors, and h-indexes.
In 2005, Nisonger and Davis replicated a 1985 study by Kohl and Davis that identified and ranked 71 LIS journals by surveying LIS program deans and Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) library directors. The resulting list demonstrates a “hierarchy of prestige” that is based on the perceptions of a small, albeit knowledgeable, number of people in the LIS field at that time.
EDI & the Professional Values of Academic Librarians
Recent documents published by ACRL, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and the professional association for academic librarians, clearly encourage a commitment to EDI. The ACRL Plan for Excellence includes seven core organizational values, one of which is equity, diversity, and inclusion. The original document, approved in 2011, included simply diversity. The first version to replace diversity with equity, diversity, and inclusion was approved in November 2018. Following an ALA task force report in 2017, equity, diversity, and inclusion recommendations were approved for implementation in February 2018, which led to the inclusion of EDI in the ALA Policy Manual.
In 2019, ACRL published an updated scholarly communications research agenda. This report, Open and equitable scholarly communications: creating a more inclusive future, calls for the scholarly communications and research environment to be more open, inclusive, and equitable and defines these concepts:
Open… refers to removing barriers to access and encouraging use and reuse, especially of the tools of production of scholarly content and of the outputs of that work.
Inclusive… refers to (1) creating opportunities for greater participation in systems, institutions, and processes involved in creating, sharing, and consuming research; (2) removing barriers that can hinder such participation; and (3) actively encouraging and welcoming people to participate, particularly those whose voices have often been marginalized.
Equitable… refers to ensuring that systems, institutions, and processes function in a way that gives everyone what they need in order to successfully participate (ACRL, 2019b).
In a statement updated in 2019 and focused specifically on open access, ACRL recommends that “academic librarians publish in open access venues, deposit in open repositories, and make openly accessible all products across the lifecycle of their scholarly and research activity, including articles, research data, monographs, presentations, digital scholarship, grant documentation, and grey literature.” In addition, the organization urges “librarians who are editors, reviewers, authors, grantees, or digital scholars should advocate open models of creation and dissemination with publishers, funding agencies, and project or program managers” (ACRL, 2019a).
Open Access in LIS
Open access (OA) is “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment” (SPARC, n.d.). In 2016 Ollé Castellà, López-Borrull, & Abadal surveyed the editors of 212 LIS journals indexed in Scopus and the Web of Knowledge. While only 10% of the journals in the sample were fully OA at the time, the respondents believed that OA funded via institutional support would become the most common model in the short term. A 2016 article examined the open access status of five ALA division peer reviewed journals. Three of the five were fully OA, providing “unrestricted access to published content” (Hall, Arnold-Garza, Gong, & Shorish, 2016, p. 659). The fourth was reportedly transitioning from a green to gold OA model (although it does not appear to have done so yet), and the fifth had no plans to adopt an OA model (see the Defining Openness, Equity, and Inclusion Practices section under Method section for definitions of OA types).
Mercer (2011) found that 49% of articles written by academic librarians and appearing in LISA in 2008 were available OA. Authors in the study categorized as Other (e.g., public librarians, LIS faculty) published OA 37% of the time. In a more recent survey of academic librarians, 50% of respondents indicated that they considered open access status when selecting a journal for publication. However, only 6% named OA as their top consideration, and many expressed concern about funding for article processing charges (APCs)2 and promotion and tenure expectations (Neville & Crampsie, 2019).
Journals’ open data policies and practice have also been examined in several disciplines, including library and information science (LIS). Jackson studied the strength, level of detail, and compliance with open data policies in over 200 LIS journals and found that the strongest open data policies were created by independent publishers, with commercial publishers having more uniform but relatively weaker, vaguer, and less comprehensive policies in place, including many instances where LIS journals chose to adopt weaker policies from an available range of policies made available from the commercial publisher (2021).
Inclusion & Equity in Publishing
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is a non-profit that provides a variety of support for publication ethics, including guidance on a variety of topics such as transparency and open access (n.d.). They recently surveyed members regarding EDI and publication ethics to help identify areas of priority for support. In 2021, COPE hosted an EDI-focused webinar for its members and released updated, freely-available guidance regarding diversification of editorial boards. COPE membership is voluntary but has over 13,000 members, primarily individual publishers.
In 2018, the Library Publishing Coalition released An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing, a document designed to center publishing practices around library values. Each section of the Framework includes an introduction, scope statement, existing resources, and recommendations. Practical recommendations in the section on diversity, equity, and inclusion, include:
- Create a diversity statement for the publishing program or point to the library’s diversity statement;
- Educate graduate students and faculty on systemic biases in academic publishing and strategies to dismantle barriers;
- Provide access to your publications to diverse audiences through direct promotion in diverse communities and open or reduced cost to access content (Library Publishing Coalition, 2018).
The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC) was founded in 2019 in order to address issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion by trade and professional associations that represent organizations and individuals working in scholarly communications. Its work thus far includes a joint statement of principles, two anti-racist toolkits, and several webinar workshops. Involvement is tiered, with formal members, sponsoring partners, and individual donors.
Charlotte Roh, who is a co-author of this article, has written extensively on the lack of diversity in scholarly publishing, librarianship, and academia in general. Her work has been cited broadly in the last few years in the publishing industry. In an early C&RL News scholarly communications column, she observed:
As librarians who are engaging more directly with scholarly publishing, we must ask ourselves: Are we perpetuating the biases and power structures of traditional scholarly publishing? Or are we using library publishing to interrogate, educate, and establish more equitable models of scholarly communication? As librarians, we can be explicit about inequalities in scholarly publishing. We can take action to avoid reproducing them in our unique roles as publishers, scholarly communication experts, and information literacy providers (Roh, 2016, p. 85).
Inefuku and Roh (2016) argue that librarians can play an important role in advocating for social justice and diversity in scholarly communications. Libraries can host and publish new journals that specifically include marginalized voices, in an effort to disrupt traditional academic publishing. As journal authors, editors, and reviewers, librarians can push for open access policies and editorial board diversity. And librarians can educate and advocate, cultivating “an open access-oriented mind-set in the next generation of scholars” and addressing information access disparities.
Research Metrics and Academic Librarianship
In November 2020, the ACRL Executive Board approved the ACRL Framework for Impactful Scholarship and Metrics, which establishes a suggested framework for the evaluation of academic librarian scholarship (Borchardt et al., 2020). This framework includes a variety of article-level metrics, including not only citations as an indicator of scholarly impact but also downloads, views, shares, mentions, and comments as potential indicators of practitioner impact. Librarians wishing to use this framework to demonstrate the impact of their scholarly output need access to these metrics, many of which are typically provided directly from publishers.
Our study design involved a collection and analysis of content from several sources, including academic library journal websites, followed by a survey of journal editors. Prior to data collection, we compiled a comprehensive list of relevant journals and operationalized the concepts of open, equitable, and inclusive principles. In the first stage of the study, we collected non-exhaustive information about inclusive and equitable practices from each journal’s website but did not seek additional information from sources such as social media or journal editorials. In the second stage, we sent a survey to all journal editors, asking them to elaborate on relevant practices and policies.
The goal of this study was to analyze the state of academic library journals, with a focus on the EDI values of the subfield. Unfortunately, there is no universally agreed upon corpus of scholarly journals for the academic library field. We considered building a journal list using Nixon’s (2014) methodology for ranking LIS journals, or Nisonger and Davis’s (2005) ranking of journals based on the perceptions of ARL library directors and LIS deans. However, we determined that San Jose State University’s LIS Publications Wiki (n.d.) offered a more inclusive set of journals. The Wiki’s inclusion criteria is not published. The list is global in scale but not comprehensive. Regardless of these limitations, other scholarly communications researchers have also found this wiki to be an appropriate and thorough resource (Vandegrift & Bowley, 2014). We began with the Wiki’s journal list and applied the inclusion and exclusion criteria in Table 1.
|Inclusion Criteria||Exclusion Criteria|
|Scholarly journal||Not scholarly (e.g., trade publication)|
|Peer reviewed||Not peer reviewed|
|Academic library focus, demonstrated by any but not necessarily all of the following:
||Primary focus is something other than academic libraries (e.g. information science, public libraries)|
|Issue(s) published in the last 12 months||No issue published in the last 12 months|
One title, Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, was manually added to the list. The final list of 78 journals is included in Appendix A.
Defining Openness, Inclusion, and Equity Practices
Based on the 2019 ACRL Open and equitable scholarly communications report’s definitions of open, inclusive, and equitable, we developed a checklist of practices and policies that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to these practices, as shown in Table 2. Open access categories were defined as gold, green, platinum, hybrid, and bronze, based on commonly used criteria (“Open access,” 2021).
|Characteristic||Definition||Demonstrated in Journals|
|Open||“removing barriers to access and encouraging use and reuse, especially of the tools of production of scholarly content and of the outputs of that work.”||Does the journal offer OA publishing options? What type?
Does the journal encourage the open sharing of data?
Does the journal apply creative commons licenses and/or confer ownership to the author(s) by default?
|Inclusive||“(1) creating opportunities for greater participation in systems, institutions, and processes involved in creating, sharing, and consuming research; (2) removing barriers that can hinder such participation; and (3) actively encouraging and welcoming people to participate, particularly those whose voices have often been marginalized.”||Does the journal actively and continuously recruit reviewers or editors from underrepresented
Does the journal actively and continuously encourage authors from underrepresented groups to submit manuscripts?
Does the journal waive publishing fees for demonstrated need?
Does the journal demonstrate flexibility in accepted research processes and scholarly output format?
Does the journal ensure that the journal website is accessible for all users (e.g., ADA compliant, all article formats compatible with assistive technology)?
Does the journal ensure that the journal backend is accessible for all reviewers, authors, and editors (e.g., WCAG compliant)?
Does the journal provide professional development for journal workers to ensure inclusive practices (e.g., anti-bias training)?
Does the journal author guidelines encourage inclusive language (e.g., they/them) and variety of writing styles?
|Equitable||“ensuring that systems, institutions, and processes function in a way that gives everyone what they need in order to successfully participate.”||Does the journal provide additional assistance to authors (e.g., language support, proofreading,
mentoring, alternate contacts in case of problems)?
Does the journal formally recognize the work of everyone who has contributed to scholarly output (e.g., open peer review, crediting contributors such as research assistants)?
Does the journal pay editors, authors, and/or reviewers for their labor?
Database Data Collection
We used Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory to collect indexing information for the journals and Cabell’s to collect acceptance rate information. Open access status data was collected from both Cabell’s and publisher websites because Cabell’s only lists one open access category per journal.
Unpaywall Data Collection
We contacted Unpaywall to ask them for repository data for all journals included in our study for the past three years. This included repository rates > 0% for several journals that we had not identified as being green journals. We excluded one journal with a 0% repository rate that we had not classified as green but otherwise assumed that repository rates for these journals were due to either incomplete access to data or university mandates overriding journal-level green OA policies.
Journal Website Data Collection
Statements, policies, or other documentation of open, equitable, and/or inclusive practices were collected from each journal’s website, as well as available metrics for individual articles. Interpretation of information, such as how a policy journal website demonstrated open, inclusive, and/or equitable practice, was generally conducted by one individual member of the research team at a time, with two team members consulting as needed for unusual or unclear situations. In the case of OA classification and copyright, sometimes journal websites clearly stated that articles had Creative Commons licensing or similar licensing but did not clearly state that authors could publish their work in repositories. If the repository allowance was not clear — e.g., “we allow authors to self-archive their publications freely on the web” (Marketing Libraries Journal) — we did not categorize the journal as green unless the journal editor’s survey response clarified the green OA policy.
Survey Data Collection
A survey asking about the demonstrated open, equitable, and inclusive practices in Table 2 was sent to editors, editors-in-chief, and/or editorial boards for all 78 journals. We received 40 responses from 38 journals for an overall response rate of 48.7%.
Openness, Inclusion, and Equity Analysis
Information collected from journal websites were combined with survey results to categorize the openness, equity, and inclusion practices for all journals. In most cases, survey responses were taken at face value but in a few cases were replaced with data from other sources when available. For example, a journal self-reported as gold OA, but neither their website, Cabell’s, or Sherpa-Romeo showed evidence of gold status and/or APC charges.
Survey comments were analyzed for common trends, including practices not originally part of the survey multiple-choice responses. The survey instrument and anonymized data are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5744702.v1.
We collected data from 78 journal websites and received survey responses from 38 of those journals. The mixed-methods design represents our effort to ensure accuracy. We felt an obligation to accurately represent the efforts of these publications during a time in which organizations are attempting to enact change around EDI. However, because the field is in a time of transition, these results may not align exactly with the current state of journal policy and practice at time of publication. For example, between the beginning and end of data collection, Communications in Information Literacy unveiled their new Statement of Values, which addresses OA and EDI issues. College & Research Libraries has recently adopted and will soon implement a data policy. The Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship is developing a name change policy, which supports inclusivity for transgender researchers by allowing for “rapid and discreet author name changes to be made on digital editions of published works” (DePaul, 2021). Thus, these results could more accurately be labeled a “snapshot.”
For sake of simplicity, we only aggregated for-profit publishers in Figure 6, as the non-profit publishers/hosting platforms for the majority of journals vary widely. Among for-profit publishers, Taylor & Francis is by far the most common, publishing nearly ¼ of the journals (19 of 78), followed by Emerald which published seven of the journals.
Indexing and Journal-Level Metrics
As demonstrated in Figure 2, indexing of the academic librarianship literature is varied and inconsistent, with no single database including more than 70% of the journals in the study. Notably, 13% of the journals are not indexed by any LIS databases (or Web of Science / Scopus), according to Ulrich’s. This demonstrates somewhat of a disconnect between the more traditional ways in which a journal is acknowledged within academia — in this case, indexing — and the corpus of the academic library field. This disconnect became even more apparent when we considered two databases responsible for journal-level metrics, Web of Science (owned by Clarivate, who produces Journal Impact Factors) and Scopus (owned by Elsevier, who produce CiteScore and whose data is also used to tabulate SCImago Journal Rank or SJR). In fact, while 48% of the journals studied are included in Web of Science, only 18 of them (22.7%) have impact factors, ranging from 0 to 3.18. The average impact factor for these 18 academic library journals is 1.39. This demonstrates the dearth of journal-level metrics for academic librarianship and is one of many arguments against the use of journal-level metrics for meaningful evaluation of academic librarian scholarship, which are demonstrably limited in their ability to serve as a proxy for the larger concepts of quality and impact for scholarly publications (Borchardt et al., 2020; Davies et al., 2021).
Acceptance rate is another commonly-used journal-level metric. Cabell’s has reported acceptance rates for 43 of the 78 journals. Of those with acceptance rates reported in Cabell’s, the average rate was 46.2%, with a standard deviation of 17.4%. We believe that these rates are self-reported, as the range of acceptance rates was quite high, with “5-10%” reported as the lowest rate for Catholic Library World. However, this metric was in conflict with information given to us by the Catholic Library World editor in the survey. On reaching out to the editor, she thought that whoever had reported that information had probably reversed the percentage and that a rate of 90-95% was more reasonable, given her experience.
Article-level metrics are provided for 67.9% of the journals in the study. Citations were the most common (though citation counts provided by a publisher will vary according to the source from which citations are drawn), as shown in Figure 8. Downloads and page views, perhaps the most useful unique indicators, are included in less than one-third of the journals. Altmetric and PlumX, two companies who collate a variety of “alternative metrics”, are also represented. Some of the metrics are a reflection of the journal’s platform, as comments, refbacks, and pingbacks are all more commonly associated with blogging platforms but can provide unique qualitative insight into the engagement with a particular article. The 32.1% of journals with no article-level metrics indicates significant room for improvement, as article-level metrics are key for academic librarians wishing to demonstrate the scholarly and practitioner impact of their publications.
Looking at open access categories (Figure 1), green OA is by far the most common form of open access, followed by platinum and hybrid, which account for the vast majority of journals in our dataset. Four journals, or 5.1% of those studied, are bronze, indicating that only some content is openly accessible, and no open options were found for one journal. As expected, every journal providing hybrid publications was hosted by a major (for-profit) publisher. We can conclude from these results that open access is an accepted norm in academic library scholarship. Since open access to information is a platform espoused by major library associations, this is both not a surprise and also gratifying to see how librarianship is, in this area, practicing what it preaches. In the case of the Journal of Creative Library Practice, the editor explains:
We created this journal in order to promote and experiment with open access publishing — publishing articles on acceptance rather than bundling into issue, being open-minded about citation styles, and allowing for open peer review if wanted. We also wanted to validate the open sharing of practice in library and information science, given the nature of our field in which most practitioners don’t have the luxury of time and resources for large research projects.
However, it should be noted that journal-level embrace of open access policies does not necessarily translate into author-level compliance with the green OA practice of making publications and/or preprints available. Unpaywall’s data reported a 15.3% average rate of repository deposit for the published articles, with a 10.6% average rate of deposit for preprint versions of publications. This shows that authors also bear responsibility for ensuring that they are contributing to the equitable practice of making publications accessible to all when possible.
According to the respondents, on the question of copyright and Creative Commons licensing (Figure 2), authors retain copyright at just under half of the journals studied. The journal retains copyright at 17.7% of journals. The “sometimes” copyright retention is usually associated with hybrid journals, where authors presumably retain copyright but pay to have their article published open access. Finally, no easily-discernible copyright or Creative Commons information was available for 6.3% of journals.
Nearly half of the journals studied do not have any explicit policies in place on data sharing (Figure 3). Several journal editors provided more complicated responses: two journals indicated that they did not regularly deal with data and thus the answer was not applicable; one indicated that they were in the process of adopting such a policy; and three noted that they encourage data sharing, although they do not have specific policies in place. For example, the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication stated, “We encourage data sharing, but do not require it. We provide suggestions for places to store the data.”
Does your journal have policies in place to encourage the open sharing of data? No 48.7%, Yes 43.6%, N/A 2.6%, encouraged 3.8%, in process 1.3%
In order to investigate inclusive journal practices, we asked survey respondents whether they engaged in any of the following eight examples:
- actively and continuously recruits reviewers or editors from underrepresented groups
- actively and continuously encourages authors from underrepresented groups to submit manuscripts
- waives publishing fees for demonstrated need
- demonstrates flexibility in accepted research processes and scholarly output format
- ensures that the journal website is accessible for all users (e.g., ADA compliant, all article formats compatible with assistive technology)
- ensures that the journal backend is accessible for all reviewers, authors, and editors (e.g., WCAG compliant)
- provides professional development for journal workers to ensure inclusive practices (e.g., anti-bias training)
- author guidelines encourage inclusive language (e.g., they/them) and variety of writing styles
The prevalence of these practices is included, in the order listed above, in Figure 4.
The most common practices dealt with recruiting reviewers, editors, and/or authors from underrepresented groups and flexibility with the research processes and scholarly output format. The least common practice was providing EDI professional development opportunities for journal workers (e.g., anti-bias training). Five respondents indicated that their journals waived publishing fees, but upon further scrutiny, we believe that these responses were given in error. The waiving of article processing charges (APCs) is associated with gold OA, an OA format that did not appear in this dataset, and we are unaware of any other mandatory fees for authors (as opposed to voluntary, as in the case of hybrid publications). These responses have been removed from the dataset.
In our survey, all the respondents with the exception of one indicated that they did have inclusive practices in place. However, the content analysis of journal websites showed no evidence of these inclusive practices for more than half of the journals (see Figure 4). This suggests that respondents think they have committed to inclusive practices that were not visible on their website, which makes it difficult to ascertain the veracity of their responses.
Some participants noted specific examples of inclusive practices, including those focused on language, peer-review, and other policies. Library Philosophy and Practice “embraces the concept of World Englishes and International English, and welcomes well-written articles in any variety of academic English.” The Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship notes that their “internal style guide encourages inclusive language and in particular, language that is inclusive of Indigenous peoples and knowledges.” The name change policy for the Marketing Libraries Journal states that:
If authors wish to change their names following publication, we will update the manuscript with the name changes and/or pronoun changes, with no legal documentation required. Upon receiving the name change request, we will update all metadata, published content, and associated records under our control to reflect the requested name change. Further, we respect the privacy and discretion in an author’s request for a name change. To protect the author’s privacy, we will not publish a correction notice to the paper, and we will not notify co-authors of the change.
Inclusive peer review practices included open and flexible peer review, tailored to the wishes of the authors and reviewers (Journal of Radical Librarianship), and specialized reviewers for authors who speak English as an additional language (Communications in Information Literacy).
We asked about three categories of equity practice in our survey:
- provides additional assistance to authors (e.g., language support, proofreading, mentoring, alternate contacts in case of problems)
- formally recognizes the work of everyone who has contributed to scholarly output (e.g., open peer review, crediting contributors such as research assistants)
- pays editors, authors, and/or reviewers for their labor
Equitable practices were less prevalent than other values measured, with the majority of journals not having any demonstrable or self-reported equitable practices. Of these practices, payment was particularly low, with just 10.3% of journals reporting financial compensation for editors, authors, and/or reviewers. However, it’s worth noting that payment is not common practice in academic publishing. The editorial board of Lead Pipe has had multiple discussions about providing payment but has “always chosen to remain independent of sponsors or other types of fundraising.” One journal editor who is paid a small stipend reports regularly using this money to pay a specialized editor “to help international authors with language support and proofreading.” This is a unique situation for two reasons: first that the editor is receiving payment in the first place, which is not typical, and second that this editor is using their own money to pay for a special editor. Presumably this is an individual decision rather than a policy one, so we don’t know whether this practice would continue. Since none of the journals mentioned payment for labor on their websites, all of the compensation data was collected via survey responses.
Many journals outlined standards for establishment of authorship, as well as standards for including other non-author support in acknowledgments, but few provided a structure such as CRediT, the taxonomy for contributor roles. Peer review practices varied widely across journals, including the ways that reviewers are credited or acknowledged. Some journals publicly thank reviewers in editorials; others provide formal letters of support for those seeking tenure and/or promotion. A number have registered for Publons, a platform that tracks peer review and editing work, so that their reviewers can more easily quantify and demonstrate their labor.
Emerging Best Practices
There was a correlation between the journals that demonstrated the highest levels of open, inclusive, and equitable practices and those that had a more independent publishing platform, increasing the likelihood that they were truly working towards a less harmful experience for readers, authors, reviewers, and editors alike. These journals generally do not have to answer to commercial publishers with policies that could be prioritized over the possible will or interest of the editorial board.
In this section, we would like to highlight some of the journals that demonstrate emerging best inclusive and equitable practices, based on the self-reported survey data. When interested librarians respond to the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association’s calls for new editors, they are required to include an EDI statement that describes relevant experience and training. This journal also includes the following language in their author guidelines: “Authors submitting to the journal must strive to use language that is free of bias and avoid perpetuating prejudicial beliefs or demeaning attitudes in their writing. Please consult the APA guidelines and recommendations available for Bias-Free Language.”
The style guide for Weave: Journal of Library User Experience contains an Inclusive Language section that covers using pronouns, writing about disability, and avoiding harmful language. Calls for editors and board members explicitly encourage applications from the BIPOC community, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQIA+. The journal’s Dialog Box, a feature that expands the concept of the book review, specifically invites content outside of traditional scholarly formats.
More than half of In the Library with the Lead Pipe board members are women of color, an intentional shift. This journal stands out in our dataset for not only engaging in the majority of inclusive and equitable practices listed in the survey, but also codifying their commitment with language, policies, and procedures. In addition to the options listed on the survey instrument, the editors’ responses indicate a culture of care: “…during the pandemic we collectively took steps to address our own mental health and decided to pause submissions for three months.”
Communications in Information Literacy has made recent strides in inclusive and equitable practice and policy. Their recently published Statement of Values addresses authors’ ownership of their work, EDI and social justice, and “practicing care in our relationships with authors, peer reviewers, readers, and colleagues.” Journal editors developed a new policy on inclusive language, with input from the transgender and non-binary library community. In addition, they make a concerted effort to engage the international scholarly community via targeted outreach with organizations like IFLA and specialized manuscript reviewers for articles written by authors who speak English as an additional language.
Room for Improvement
We see similar trends across many of the values-based practices we measured: there is a lot of room for improvement. Overall, we found no inclusive practices for 51% of journals and no equitable practices for 57%. Some survey responses made clear that journal policies were outside editorial control. As one observed, “Many of our policies are dictated by our publisher, so we (as editors) don’t really get the option of doing things unless we bring it up.” Notably, a few editors referred us to their publisher as the owner of diversity policies, eschewing responsibility and knowledge. We found this “passing of the buck” particularly troubling. Many large publishers have announced EDI initiatives, whether performative or sincere. For example, Taylor & Francis includes EDI as a “Corporate Responsibility,” but it seems that these types of efforts are regularly operationalized at the journal level. With only 9% of journals reporting professional development opportunities such as bias training, there is little to no evidence of real change for scholars who might be experiencing structural and individual barriers. This may be particularly true for scholars with disabilities, since only 14% of survey respondents replied that they ensure that the backend is accessible for reviewers, authors, and editors. While this may be due to a lack of knowledge from the editors who completed the survey, one summed up the situation nicely, saying “The backend is barely usable for me, so I hope it is at least [ADA/WCAG] compliant.”
The decision of where to host content is one with far-reaching implications, and it is concerning that more than 40% of the journals in our study are hosted with a for-profit publisher, and therefore captive to commercial priorities that can be at odds with library values. Starting with the open access status of these journals, we noted the strong and enduring impact publishers have had on both setting and limiting the degree to which our collective values are embodied in our journals. As one respondent noted, “As an editor, the things I can do are limited by the choice of publisher for our journal. We’ve gone through a publisher change recently, and that limited our open access options (but increased the support we are able to provide for authors of accepted work).” Journals held by traditional, for-profit publishers are more likely to have more restrictive open access options and are bound to publisher policies, and the editor’s quote hints at some of the complicated trade-offs involved with choosing a journal’s publisher. These findings are consistent with Jackson’s findings that commercial publishers had weaker overall open data policies (2021).
Even for journal editors who stated in our survey that they have inclusive and equitable practices in place, many could not provide documentation for that work, indicating that much of this is done editorial board to editorial board and is not codified. One editor shared with us that they “don’t have good enough written policies and procedures; we rely too much on the ongoing knowledge and goodwill of editors. This needs to be improved.” Documenting and codifying practices are likely some of the best actions towards creating more open, accessible, equitable, and inclusive publishing environments for library journals, as this would help hold editors accountable for the experiences authors have with them. The problem that we heard many times from editors was that they wanted to make changes but did not have the time, funding, or support from their publisher to do so. While for some, these may be excuses for not taking on necessary change, for others, these are legitimate barriers.
For example, the author guidelines for one journal advise that “Editors and reviewers often judge misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors harshly; they can undermine a good first impression. Such flaws raise concern about the overall quality of the submission and the meticulousness of the author. Use your software’s spell check, but remember that it will not catch every error. Review your manuscript carefully.” While at first glance this seems like practical advice rather than a legitimate barrier, this tells us that language is being explicitly tied to the quality of the content. The authors and editors are not receiving proper training on the politics of academic English and its biases.
Similarly, in the survey responses one journal confirmed that “Any training for journal workers (on the publisher end) is on the publisher. We have not provided formal training for reviewers, though we have done some reviewer mentorship and advising.” It is clear that thoughtful training is missing from the process, which is unfortunate since so many careers rely on the outcomes.
It’s difficult to draw meaningful conclusions about the less visible practices because the extent to which journals are enacting policies or encouraging practice is still relatively unknown. But if we extrapolate from the survey responses received, it’s reasonable to assume that some journals have taken some action, while others have done little or have only made performative declarations without the necessary accompanying actions to transform or improve practice. For example, nearly half of survey respondents claimed to actively and continuously recruit reviewers or editors from underrepresented groups, but this does not necessarily speak to the actual success of these recruitment efforts, since a cursory glance at the current demographics of most library journal editorial boards shows a lack of representative diversity. We made a conscious decision not to include special issues on EDI topics in this study as evidence of inclusive practices because it would be difficult to claim that a special issue is evidence of lasting change. In the past year alone, we witnessed the harm that is caused when journals and their editors take on “diversity topics” without proper internal training and culture shift, when five Black librarians decided to pull an editorial from the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) after the copy editor made changes to soften the message of their piece on anti-Blackness in librarianship. We commend the bravery of these librarians for speaking up and initiating discussions of the meaningful incorporation of inclusive journal practice, even as we note that two of the librarians have since left the profession and wonder about the prevalence of similar experiences that have caused harm and contributed to toxicity in librarianship.
What is clear from our evaluation of journals’ current, established, and stated policies and practices, is that most academic library journals are not prepared for or capable of creating truly equitable and inclusive scholarly experiences, outside of open access (which has its own acknowledged EDI issues). The focus on EDI issues in the scholarly communications industry at the highest level represents one of the most likely opportunities for large-scale change within the traditional academic publishing model, but it is ultimately up to motivated individuals and groups to commit to meaningful rather than performative change. This over-reliance on small-scale commitments is heavily influenced by the degree to which journal workers are supported for their work — as our survey indicates, payment for work is not a widely-accepted norm, which means that a journal worker’s commitment can only be as strong as their internal motivation or acknowledgement or reward for their labor that may exist at their institution.
Our methodology relied heavily on the information that was available to us, through licensed resources, journal websites, and voluntary survey responses, but we know that there is still a lot we do not know about how well journals are able to successfully implement sustainable open, equitable, and inclusive practices. One source of information that would create a more accurate picture is that of researcher experience. This idea builds on Kaetrena Davis Kendrick’s work on Twitter to gather information about journals that others “perceived had reviewers who were constructive, measured, thoughtful, mentoring-minded & positive in their feedback” (2021). We propose building a database that could include the stated and self-reported practices we have collected, along with the lived experiences of researchers, both positive and negative, as they engage with these practices as potential authors, reviewers, editors, or other journal workers. Such a resource would not only help establish the degree to which journals have incorporated open, equitable, and inclusive practice, but also help researchers choose publications with which they would like to establish or continue relationships. On a larger scale, a database that can help identify EDI practice in journals could be used as an evaluation tool using a value-based model entirely separate from, or perhaps complementary to, the citation-based journal metrics like impact factor that commonly form the basis of research evaluation. However, misuse, credibility, gamification, performative rather than meaningful adoption, and threats of retaliation are concerns that exist even if EDI practice becomes a commonly accepted measure that academic institutions and journals adopt for the purposes of research evaluation. As the “Shitty Media Men” list has demonstrated, the collection of information that has the potential to damage reputations is not always suitable for public consumption (Donegan, 2018).
Ultimately, these measures are all attempts to drive change. The end goal is full incorporation and embodiment of meaningful open, inclusive, and equitable practice as the norm in academic journals. But what does achieving this goal actually look like? The practices explored in this study are steps along the road to open, inclusive and equitable journals but not necessarily the end state. For example, sustained attempts to improve editorial diversity are important for inclusive excellence in scholarly publishing. But realistically, diversity in editorial boards is only the first step toward incorporation of meaningful inclusive practice, since diverse perspectives can and should call attention to bias in journal policy and practice. Without follow-up, diverse editorial boards may simply lead to tokenization and exhaustion. Future research might consider what an “end game” for incorporation of open, inclusive, and equitable practice looks like — it likely will focus on sustainable practice rather than one-time initiatives and shared understanding of values in addition to demographic diversity.
Capitalism is bullshit (Chan, 2019; McMillan Cottom, 2020; Horgan, 2019), and our journals cannot adequately support our values given the current journal financial models and weak institutional incentives for the scholars who support journal infrastructure. Until these systems change, we can reasonably expect publishers like Taylor & Francis to continue dictating the values of academic librarianship literature. Changing or evolving the values and practices of a journal requires time, care, and investment; a major commitment is necessary for success. Journal reputation, citation-based journal metrics (e.g., impact factor), and rank/tenure/promotion expectations all serve to support and reinforce existing power structures within many journals and represent major barriers to operationalization of these values as well. Exclusion through manuscript rejection, unnecessarily strict adherence to writing structure and language, and bias in peer review are all hallmarks of traditional scholarly publications and even serve to enhance the reputation of a journal. While these dynamics are in place, meaningful change will be difficult to enact in many journals that pride themselves on their ‘rigor’.
However, academic librarians can advocate for change in many ways, including:
- pushing for new policies and procedures at the journal level
- publishing with journals that are in line with our stated values
- increasing awareness by discussing these issues with colleagues and peers
- working to update tenure/promotion/rank guidance to prioritize journal work and to value and prioritize journals who embody our values.
For example, Rachel, with the co-authors’ permissions, has adapted this survey instrument into a “Checklist for evaluating DEI practices of journals.” She developed this document for a faculty committee focused on incorporating EDI principles into scholarly evaluation in the promotion and tenure process. ACRL has published a statement of support for open access publication, but similar support for other equitable and inclusive practices would likely galvanize current publishing practice. Our survey provides a kind of framework for the translation of ideals into meaningful practice, one that we hope more journals will consider and integrate. Scholarly communications ideals and library values matter only if we are moving toward them. Library journals and the broader academic publishing industry must incorporate open, inclusive, and equitable policies and practices in order to move away from systemic oppression and toward a more representative knowledge landscape.
We are grateful to Richard Orr, Jason Priem, and Heather Piwowar at Unpaywall for providing us with the green OA repository and preprint data for the journals in our study. Thank you to Ikumi Crocoll and Ian Beilin, In the Library with the Lead Pipe editors, and Yasmeen Shorish, peer reviewer, for your insightful comments. Your expert feedback made this a much stronger paper.
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Appendix A – All Journals Included in the Study
- American Archivist, The
- Archival Science
- Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship
- Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science
- Cataloging & Classification Quarterly
- Catholic Library World
- Collaborative Librarianship
- Collection and Curation
- Collection Management
- College & Undergraduate Libraries
- College and Research Libraries
- Communications in Information Literacy
- Education Libraries
- Evidence Based Library and Information Practice
- Georgia Library Quarterly
- Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication
- Health Information and Libraries Journal
- IFLA Journal
- In the Library With a Lead Pipe
- Information Discovery and Delivery
- Information Technology and Libraries
- International Information & Library Review
- International Journal of Librarianship
- International Journal of Library Science
- Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
- Italian Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science
- Journal of Academic Librarianship
- Journal of Archival Organization
- Journal of Creative Library Practice, The
- Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies
- Journal of Documentation
- Journal of Education for Library and Information Science
- Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries
- Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship
- Journal of eScience Librarianship
- Journal of Information Literacy
- Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy
- Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve
- Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication
- Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning
- Journal of Library Administration
- Journal of Library and Information Science
- Journal of Library Metadata
- Journal of New Librarianship
- Journal of Radical Librarianship
- Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults
- Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association
- Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association
- Journal of the Medical Library Association
- Journal of Web Librarianship
- Judaica Librarianship
- Law Library Journal
- Library & Information History
- Library & Information Science Research
- Library and Information Research
- Library Hi Tech
- Library Management
- Library Philosophy and Practice (LPP)
- Library Quarterly, The
- Library Resources & Technical Services
- Library Trends
- LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research e-journal
- LIBRI: International Journal of Libraries and Information Studies
- Marketing Libraries Journal
- Medical Reference Services Quarterly
- New Review of Academic Librarianship
- Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association
- Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research
- Pennsylvania Libraries: Research and Practice
- portal: Libraries and the Academy
- Practical Academic Librarianship
- Public Services Quarterly
- Reference & User Services Quarterly
- Reference Services Review
- Serials Librarian, The
- Technical Services Quarterly
- Urban Library Journal
- Weave: Journal of Library User Experience (Weave UX)
Figure 1 as a List
Journal publisher prevalence:
- Non-profit 59%
- Taylor & Francis 24.4%
- Emerald 9%
- Elsevier 3.8%
- De Gruyter 1.3%
- Litwin Books 1.3%
- Sage 1.3%
- Springer 1.3%
- Wiley 1.3%
Figure 2 as a List
Percentage of journal titles indexed by database:
- LISTA 67.2%
- LISA 65.4%
- LISS 62.8%
- LLIS 62.8%
- Scopus 52.6%
- Web of Science 47.4%
- ProQuest Library Science 37.2%
- ProQuest L&IS 35.9%
- Gale IS&L 10.3%
- No indexing 12.8%
Figure 3 as a List
Availability of article-level metrics and measures:
- Citations 44.9%
- Altmetric 41%
- Downloads 32.1%
- Page views 29.5%
- PlumX 12.8%
- Refbacks 3.8%
- Comments 2.6%
- Accesses 1.3%
- Pingbacks 1.3%
- None of these 32.1%
Figure 4 as a List
Does this journal offer open access options?
- Green 71.8%
- Platinum 47.4%
- Hybrid 42.3%
- Bronze 5.1%
- None 1.3%
Figure 5 as a List
Do authors retain copyright and/or does the journal use a CC-BY license?
- yes 47.4%
- no 17.9%
- sometimes 28.2%
- unclear 6.4%
Figure 6 as a List
Does your journal have policies in place to encourage the open sharing of data?
- No 48.7%
- Yes 43.6%
- N/A 2.6%
- encouraged 3.8%
- in process 1.3%
Figure 7 as a List
Percent of journals with demonstrated or self-reported inclusive practices:
- actively and continuously recruits reviewers or editors from underrepresented groups 42.3%
- actively and continuously encourages authors from underrepresented groups to submit manuscripts 34.6%
- demonstrates flexibility in accepted research processes and scholarly output format 33.3%
- ensures that the journal website is accessible for all users (e.g., ADA compliant, all article formats compatible with assistive technology) 19.2%
- ensures that the journal backend is accessible for all reviewers, authors, and editors (e.g., WCAG compliant) 14.1%
- provides professional development for journal workers to ensure inclusive practices (e.g., anti-bias training) 9.0%
- author guidelines encourage inclusive language (e.g., they/them) and variety of writing styles 23.1%
- none of these, according to website evidence 51.3%
Figure 8 as a List
Prevalence of equitable practices:
- Percent of journals with demonstrated or self-reported equitable practices: provides additional assistance to authors (e.g., language support, proofreading, mentoring, alternate contacts in case of problems) 41%
- formally recognizes then work of everyone who has contributed to scholarly output (e.g., open peer review, crediting contributors such as research assistants) 17.9%
- pays editors, authors, and/or reviewers for their labor 10.3%
- none of these 57.7%
- The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Plan for Excellence directly addresses open access, equity, diversity, and inclusion. [↩]
- APCs are any fees charged to authors related to publication — in this context, it refers to the fee charged by journals to make the authors’ research freely available and accessible via open access. [↩]