First Monday

Open access to open publish: National Library of Australia by Slobodanka (Bobby) Graham

Academic and scholarly journals are in trouble: small print runs, part–time editors, and dwindling funds are conspiring to crush them. But help is at hand: new trends in open access publishing support free, digital and open access to research literature, bringing writing and discourse to new and wider audiences.

The National Library of Australia has created an Open Publish Web space, using the Open Journal Systems (OJS) digital publishing software to manage, host and deliver an online open access journal service.

The Library’s objective is to establish ‘new ways of collecting, sharing, recording, disseminating and preserving knowledge’. We want ‘to ensure our relevance in a rapidly changing world, [by participating] in new online communities’. For these reasons, the Library decided to engage in an open access journal publishing trial.

This paper outlines the collaboration between the Library and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature to migrate their peer–reviewed journal, JASAL, to an online format.

The successful outcome has informed the Library’s decision to include Open Publish journals in the Library’s collections.

Open Publish is available at


Who are we?
What is our interest?
What was the process?
What did we achieve?
What is our governance model?
What did we learn?




During the course of 2005–06, the National Library of Australia together with the Association for the Study of Australian Literature experimented with an online open access journal publishing service. Our intention was to better understand what it means to host such a service.

This paper highlights the process of working with the association to migrate their scholarly journal, JASAL, to an online format. The open source system we used for this trial is Open Journal Systems. The service delivery as hosted by the Library is called Open Publish. I will focus on the management and implementation of this online journal.



Who are we?

‘The National Library of Australia is the country’s largest reference library. Our role is to ensure that documentary resources of national significance relating to Australia and the Australian people, as well as significant non–Australian library materials, are collected, preserved and made accessible either through the Library itself or through collaborative arrangements with other libraries and information providers.’ (

The Library employs approximately 450 staff. The organizational chart depicts the main divisions. The branch responsible for the project under discussion is the Web Publishing Branch, one of four branches within the IT Division.

The Web Publishing Branch consists of seven staff members. Our skills range from information architecture through usability and Web design to project management. Our role is to provide support to Library business areas in contributing high quality content to the Library’s Web site and intranet. We provide a framework for publishing Web content and we champion best practice in Web design and development.



What is our interest?

Scholarly journals

The National Library holds a vast collection of books, journals, newspapers and other objects. Thousands of users access information both online and in print format. In the Reading Room, there is a range of books on the display shelves. Amongst these is a selection of journals.

What distinguishes scholarly journals from other books?

A new publishing model

These issues create an opportunity for a new model for scholarly publishing. This model could address the following:

We feel that open access publishing offers this alternative model. Open access publishing has flexible and scaleable characteristics. Essentially, an open access publication is:

Open access publishing and the Library

Why is the Library interested in open access publishing? According to the Library’s ‘desired outcomes’ statements (see, our objective is to establish ‘new ways of collecting, sharing, recording, disseminating and preserving knowledge’. We want ‘to ensure our relevance in a rapidly changing world, [by participating] in new online communities’. For these reasons, the Library decided to engage in an open access journal hosting trial, called Open Publish.



What was the process?

Working with ASAL

Our process started in October 2005 with a serendipitous meeting between the Library and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL). This academic association promotes Australian writing. They aim to increase awareness in the wider community by holding regular conferences and publishing a journal called JASAL. This journal consists of essays, based on the conference papers, and book reviews. The association publishes the journal annually, and prints a very small quantity of books.

At the time of the meeting with the Library, the Association recognised that their publishing model was not sustainable. They were keen to try out new methods of production and dissemination. The Library was keen to participate as they saw this as an opportunity to acquire content at the time of creation. The Library also felt it has a role in hosting scholarly Australian online journals that may not have a natural home elsewhere.

We mutually agreed to run a trial using the OJS software. Our project team was Susan Lever, Journal Editor, my colleague Steven McPhillips, the Systems Administrator and myself as the Journal Manager. Initially the three of us met twice to set up the process; Susan and I spent a few days working together. For the rest, we managed at a distance using e–mail and the telephone to communicate.

Goals and milestones

We set ourselves some modest goals: we decided to upload one previously published JASAL volume to test the OJS workflow and processes. We committed ourselves to publishing one new volume with the Association.

We had three milestones along the way. The first was to install the OJS software on a Library server. The second was to establish a production service. The third was to develop a sustainable model for working with the JASAL editorial team. We comfortably reached all three milestones and even took on two further journals as part of the trial process.

What did we do?

We invited members of the Association to take part in the process. They collaborated by taking on editorial roles such as Author, Reviewer, Copy Editor and Proofreader. We worked at a distance over a dispersed area in Australia, with participants in Ballarat, Perth, Hobart, Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Canberra.

We worked towards enabling the editors to manage the process. Our plan was to have one volume online by February 2006, in time for the ASAL Executive Meeting and Conference. As it happened, we managed to upload all four back issues by that deadline. At the meeting we demonstrated the site and ran a workshop for the then editors, Barbara Milech and Philip Mead. After the meeting, they took over from the project team. Their goal was to publish a new journal using OJS to manage the process. We set ourselves a target to have that published in time for the association’s July 2006 conference.

What were the experiences?

From the Library’s point of view, the trial was easy and progressed smoothly. The demands on our time were little: I spent approximately the equivalent of a one day a month helping the JASAL team if necessary. Stephen, the Systems Administrator, spent even less time looking after the technical aspects of the service.

The journal team experienced online management of their publication for the first time. For some the notion of uploading and downloading information and documents was a challenge; others embraced the system well. I think that the whole JASAL team saw the benefit of having a single online point of management: no more lost files or incorrect version documents; no more scrabbling in desk drawers to find referees’ reports; no more arguments about missed deadlines.

Some of the JASAL team were disinclined to cast off the print version and general print limitations of their journal; others saw the opportunities in ‘just–in–time’ publishing where there is no need to wait for a ‘complete’ journal. These different journal business models are still open for discussion within the various editorial teams.



What did we achieve?

We created a look–and–feel for both the Open Publish service and for each hosted journal. We personalised JASAL, re–skinning the site by means of a simple banner colour. We commissioned a designer to produce a site design that was simple and sustainable to cater for any future journals. If, by a lucky chance, a journal has a layout editor with some HTML and CSS skills as part of their team, they can customise and further develop their particular journal.

The JASAL team liked their banner design so much that they modelled their new print editions’ front cover design on the same style.

Other journals

JASAL is one journal within the Open Publish trial. Early in the project process, one of the JASAL members asked whether the Library would consider hosting another journal in which she has an interest. We agreed as we thought it a good idea to experience an increase in demand on the service.

Early in 2006 we created a space for the Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies and started working with their editorial team. Sadly the editor fell ill, which put a halt to their development, but I’m pleased to say that they are now back on track. They have personalised their site with the addition of a graphic in the banner and they’ve used a soft background colour for the body of the site. At the time of writing, they’re processing their first submissions and plan to have their first online journal available later in 2007.

In the middle of 2006, we were approached by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College in London. They had heard about Open Publish and wanted to participate in the trial process. Their journal, Reviews in Australian Studies, consists of book reviews of Australian publications. After a brief correspondence with their editor and a tiny bit of support from me, their editorial team took charge of their journal. Since the middle of last year, and by the time of writing, they have produced 10 volumes online.

Reading tools

During the course of last year, one of the projects that we added to our list of tasks was to revise the Versions and Contexts that come as part of the standard OJS Reading Tools. We developed a lightweight project plan to explore a set of tools that would be more helpful and more specific for our set of journals, i.e., with a clear focus on Australian interests, but still with enough appeal for global users. Our thinking was to implement this set of Reading Tools in JASAL and then extend the list to all journals in Open Publish.

I worked with two Library staff members to review and assess the existing Humanities Reading Tools.

The original 15 Contexts were:

Author’s works
Government policy
Lit critics
Book reviews
Related texts
Online forums
Teaching files
Media reports
Web search

We agreed that this list was too long and that some of the Contexts could be eliminated. The project team felt it would be better to name the Contexts something meaningful that all Open Publish users could understand. The two staff members refined the list from 15 to eight Contexts. They nominated searches that are relevant to the Open Publish community. We engaged a student from within the JASAL team to make the changes. She removed those Contexts that we felt were no longer relevant and replaced them with the new list. She entered all the metadata into OJS and wrote short introductory texts for each search. The only thing she couldn’t do was to insert the correct search URLs. This will be done by one of our team.

The revised list of Contexts is now:

New Contexts
Book Reviews
Journal articles
Literary criticism
Research tools

The list of searches is:


Book reviews
Journal articles
Literary criticism
Research tools




What is our governance model?

At the Library we agreed that the journal articles should form part of the Library’s collection. We also thought it important to develop a set of criteria to assist potential journal publishers. This would help them and the Library consider their suitability for inclusion in Open Publish. So we wrote a draft policy:

Selection criteria

The hosting of a journal with the Open Publish service is made on the basis of the following selection criteria:

Hosting policy/business plan

The objectives of the Open Publish service at the National Library of Australia are to:

Key roles and responsibilities

When working with new journal publishers, the Library will:

In managing the journal, the publisher will:



What did we learn?

We were pleased with the way all the collaborators engaged with the system. Even though for many of them this kind of workflow and process was new and strange, they all rose to the challenge.

Importance of access

For an academic using Open Publish, the number of times his or her article is accessed or viewed is important. I thought it would be interesting to snapshot how many people have downloaded articles from various journals:

Reviews in Australian Studies

On 15 June 2007, I had a look at volume 1, number 9 (2006) published on 23 March 2007. This volume consists of 10 reviews.

This issue attracted the following individual PDF downloads per article (listed in descending order, by author):


Overa period of less than three months, there was an average of 516 downloads per article.


On 1 June 2007, I had a look at the JASAL Special Issue, published on 2 April 2007. This volume consists of 12 articles plus supporting pages (Editor’s Note, etc.)

This issue attracted the following individual PDF downloads per article (listed in descending order, by author):

521Editor’s Note
512Preliminary pages
443Notes on Contributors

Over a period of two months, there was an average of 541 downloads per article.

These are very good figures, particularly if you compare JASAL’s 541 views per article in two months to their previous print journal with a run of 350 copies per year.

Feedback from users

Once we published JASAL online, we received positive feedback from various users:

Peter Kirkpatrick, President of ASAL, had this to say:

“I am writing to thank ... the National Library profusely for your commitment to bringing ... JASAL online through the Library’s Web site. This is a major achievement for us, one that will take the study of Australian writing to an even greater audience.”

Dr. Russell Smith, Lecturer in English, Australian National University, gave us a practical example of the benefit:

“I’m just writing to let you know how much I have appreciated the online version of JASAL. I taught Gail Jones’s Black Mirror in a course last semester on Contemporary Australian Writing, and put up links on the course Web site to Paul Genoni’s and Tanya Dalziell’s articles in JASAL. Several students used the material in interesting ways in their essays.

Please pass on my thanks to everyone involved in putting JASAL online – it’s a really valuable resource and something we all hope to see more of in academic publishing.”

Carl Bridge, Editor of Reviews in Australian Studies, had this to say when I quoted him the abovementioned access statistics:

“That’s fascinating information and quite gratifying. All I can add is that we’ve had several unsolicited e–mails from happy readers who are delighted with the range, quality and immediacy of the journal.”

But not all the feedback was glorious. Kris Moruzi, who is managing the AJVS’s move online had this to say:

“Regarding feedback, I really must say that I find the Journal Help quite inadequate for managing the journal. And the interface for managing the journal is not the most user friendly system that I’ve seen, which makes the need for useful, context–sensitive help all the more imperative. Just my two cents ... .”

Peter, one of JASAL’s reviewers, was frustrated when he couldn’t log in:

“Sorry Bobby but this ridiculous rigmarole is not working for me. either it will have to be simplified or I won’t be bothered with it.”

And Michael, another reviewer, must have been very frustrated when he wrote the following:

“Dear Susan,

You’ve done virtually everything for me except you can guess what — but it seems you needed to do that too. I still can’t access the bloody thing, and having set aside time to review the essay NOW, I am massively pissed off.

Not your fault, no suggestion that it is. I got to the jasal website (thanks to passwords etc.) but still can't find the bloody animal. so, if you want me to review it, please be kind enough to attach it to a simple email and send it to me.

I’m sure jasal is operating in terms of some international best practice, but frankly I have reviewed for a no. of international journals and never, but never, encountered such lot of crud in my life.

Sorry, but that’s the way I see it. The essay, judged from the abstract, certainly sounds interesting.

Best, Michael”




By the time of writing, JASAL has more than 230 registered users. The editors have successfully published two new editions using OJS – including the Special Issue ( – and published their third new edition shortly, bringing their numbers to seven online volumes. New members have signed up to the Association. I think it is fair to say that the Association has been revitalised by this process.

So what did we achieve?

Our combined creative management, together with a disciplined implementation process, has made us a winning team. End of article


About the author

Slobodanka (Bobby) Graham is Web Content Manager at the National Library of Australia.



Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL), accessed 26 June 2007.

Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies, accessed 26 June 2007.

Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (JASAL), accessed 26 June 2007.

Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College, London, accessed 26 June 2007.

National Library of Australia, accessed 26 June 2007.

Open Publish, National Library of Australia, accessed 26 June 2007.

Reviews in Australian Studies, accessed 26 June 2007.



Contents Index

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Open access to open publish: National Library of Australia by Slobodanka (Bobby) Graham
First Monday, Volume 12 Number 10 - 1 October 2007