Frequently asked questions
















As a society journal we are concerned about how the society’s revenues may be impacted by joining Libraria – both direct royalties from subscriptions and a potential reduction in membership because of the loss of one of its primary tangible benefits (a free copy of the journal). Have you factored these considerations into the model?

The cooperative model is intended to be revenue neutral for journals, which means that journals will continue to receive the library subscription funds they presently receive. In light of the fact that many of Libraria’s members are society journals, society royalties of 20% have been explicitly factored into the financial modelling SPARC has conducted. Although a print copy of the journal is indeed a tangible benefit of society membership, we do not have evidence that it is a valued one, given the changing ways that academics read journal articles in the digital age. A major survey of UK academics suggests that e-journals have largely replaced physical ones for research use and the lack of interest in print copies is evident in the fact that many societies are now allowing members to opt out of receiving a print copy.

How will allocations for journals be determined?

The financial modeling done by SPARC is based on allocating funds to journals on a per-article basis (i.e. based on the volume of articles the journal publishes), which is the standard measure used in other collaborative open access initiatives such as SCOAP3. However, journal allocations will ultimately be determined by the members of Libraria via a deliberative process.

At present, our publisher entirely manages the production of and subscriptions for our journal. Does the cooperative model mean that we would have to manage them ourselves?

Some journals may wish to retain their present publisher, which they would be free to do if their publisher is amenable. In such instances, the journal would continue to operate in much the same way as it does at present. For those journals that part ways with their current publisher, there are a variety of potential options for managing production, distribution, subscription management, etc. (e.g. translations, if required). For example, Libraria might decide to employ the services of an existing publisher; or a stable of freelance editors, designers and marketers might be hired to service Libraria journals. Ultimately, this will be collaboratively determined by members themselves. However, in all scenarios, editors—especially of journals currently published by large corporate publishers—will have far more control over the quality of production than they do at present.

If we sign an expression of interest with Libraria, what exactly are we committing to?

The expressions of interest are for a two-year period, and express a good-faith commitment to exploring the viability of a cooperative publishing model for your journal. By signing the expression of interest you are also allowing your journal to be publicly associated with Libraria. However, if you decide at a certain point that the cooperative model is not right for your journal, you are free to withdraw. By signing an expression of interest you are not committing to proceeding with a move to open access.  All members will continue with their current publishing arrangements until such time as they are ready to make the change.

What guarantee do journals have that libraries are willing to make a long-term commitment to continuing to pay their subscription fees? What is to stop libraries joining the initiative and then pulling out under the premise that other members will continue to cover the journals’ costs?

Although free-riding is a potential danger, we have seen little evidence of this in other collaborative initiatives of this type, such as SCOAP3 – a sponsoring consortium for open access publishing in particle physics and the Open Library of Humanities – which funds a number of open access humanities journals via library partnerships. According to Ann Okerson, the National Contact Person for SCOAP3, no libraries have pulled out of the initiative and it has continued to grow since its inception in 2014, with 3000 current library members.

We are happy with our current manuscript submission platform.  If we shift to Libraria will we need to change to an open-source system like OJS?

Although the financial modeling done by SPARC is based on migrating to an open source publishing platform like OJS, journals would be free to remain with their current manuscript submission system if they preferred, unless it was a proprietary system owned by their publisher (e.g. Elsevier’s electronic submission platform).

We are committed to print. Do we have to give that up if we join Libraria?

Libraria’s financial modeling is based on the assumption that journals would be distributed electronically, given the growing move away from print-based scholarly periodicals mentioned above. However, if particular journals wished to retain print copies, print-on-demand services could be employed by the co-op.





Won’t library members end up paying more for their journal acquisitions, given that many of the journal members of Libraria are bundled within ‘Big Deals’ and libraries will still need to subscribe to these packages.

Although it is difficult to disentangle the costs of individual journal subscriptions that are bundled as part of Big Deals, the issue of publishers ‘double-dipping’ is well recognized in relation to hybrid journals. In this context, there is widespread acceptance amongst publishers that the increase in gold open access article processing charges means that they should adjust their subscription prices accordingly. This has created a precedent for disentangling the costs of subscription journals that join Libraria to ensure that libraries’ Big Deal packages are adjusted accordingly.

How will you deal with the problem of free-riders? Won’t a few libraries end up subsidizing the acquisition costs of the majority? And what is to stop a library joining the initiative and then pulling out?

Free-riding is a potential danger; however, we have seen little evidence of this in other initiatives of this type, such as SCOAP3 – a sponsoring consortium for open access publishing in particle physics. According to Ann Okerson, the National Contact Person for SCOAP3, no libraries have pulled out of the initiative and it has continued to grow since its inception in 2014, with 3000 current library members.

Won’t the costs of library members escalate as more journals join the initiative, especially if they don’t already subscribe to some of the journals?

The starting point of Libraria is that it needs to be revenue-neutral for libraries. As new members join, if member libraries already subscribe to those journals, they will merely redirect these existing funds to the cooperative. They will not be required to pay the subscription fees of journals they don’t currently subscribe to.

The basic model seems to place the burden of financing member journals on the shoulders of libraries, but don’t the learned societies themselves have a responsibility to support open access?

Although the model relies on libraries being willing to continue paying subscription fees to support journal production, it also requires a willingness on the part of learned societies to reduce their reliance on the royalties they currently receive from corporate publishers. Royalty payments have been set at a 20% return for learned societies instead of the 40% they typically receive under current arrangements. Moreover, all returns are re-investments rather than profits.

The biggest problem my library faces is cuts to its acquisition budget, so how does joining Libraria actually help us?

Libraria enables its members to support open access and build a community of practice without spending a single extra dollar. It will also de-escalate the rising costs of journal subscriptions for libraries, which have eaten up a growing proportion of library budgets over the past two decades. Long-term it may also serve to decrease these expenditures as they will be driven more by the actual costs of journal production rather than the bottom line of shareholders.