LibParlor Contributor Reflection Series

Through the Looking Glass: Experiencing the Other Side of Academic Publishing. A Librarian Parlor Series, Part 1

LibParlor Contributors Kristina Clement, Samantha Peter, and Hilary Baribeau discuss their workflow and processes as guest editors for a special issue of a journal.

Kristina Clement is the Student Success Librarian at the University of Wyoming Libraries. Her current research interests include Universal Design for Learning in library instruction, outreach to transfer students and first-generation students, instructional assessment, Open Educational Resources (OER), and user experience. You can reach her at or on twitter @kc_librarian1.

Samantha Peter is the Instructional Design Librarian at the University of Wyoming. Her research interests involve Universal Design for Learning in library instruction, people with invisible disabilities in the academic library and archives, Open Educational Resources (OER), and instruction for rural distance students. She can be contacted at or via twitter @Sammy_Librarian. 

Hilary Baribeau is the Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Wyoming Libraries. Her research areas are in scholarly communications, open access, and open educational resources. She currently manages the University of Wyoming’s OER grant initiative. She can be contacted at or on twitter @hilarybaribeau.

When the three of us were asked to be guest editors of the International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER) special issues on OER & Libraries, we eagerly said yes. In retrospect, we wish we had known more about how much time it took to organize a special issue of a journal, the logistics of submissions, peer review, copyediting, and the foreseeable challenges that we didn’t think of beforehand. As IJOER is a new and fully open access journal, it currently does not run on any publication platform and it was up to us as guest editors to set the editorial process and decide how to manage the publication and editorial workflow. All in all, it took the better part of a year to get this double special issue to print. Kristina and Sammy agreed to do the special issue in the spring of 2019. After Hilary joined the editorial team, the majority of the work started. We are currently wrapping things up this winter. Part 1 of this series on ‘the other side of academic publishing’ will explore the process and timeline that we went through as guest editors to produce a double special issue and some specifics of the workflow that we established.

June 2019:  The Call for Proposals

One of the first things we had to do was to consider our publication timeline. We worked backward from the potential publication date of December/January. In retrospect, we could have (and should have) fleshed out our deadlines much, much more than we did in the beginning. We knew we had to get a call for proposals (CFP) sent out as soon as possible. Since we all receive numerous CFPs every day on listservs, we looked to several that we thought were very good and well-thought-out as inspiration for ours. There were two things that we insisted on including that helped make the proposal submission process more streamlined: 

  • Including a list of topics of interest
  • Requiring authors to self-select keywords to accompany the proposal

We knew that providing a list of potential topics would help keep the proposals on track and limit the number of submissions that were not related to our theme of OER and libraries. Additionally, asking the authors to also submit keywords along with their proposals helped us with our call for peer reviewers. After the CFP closed, we decided which proposals sounded interesting and relevant and then invited those authors to submit full papers for peer review.

July 2019: The Call for Peer Reviewers

In July, the CFP closed and the team invited 35 of the 47 proposals to submit full papers. The response to the CFP was much greater than we were expecting. Authors seemed enthusiastic to share their work and we wanted to cast as wide a net as possible in order to be able to choose the best work. At the same time, we set about finding peer reviewers, since we needed to create our own pool of qualified reviewers on OER and libraries.

We created a Google form to send to reviewers which asked reviewers to identify:

  • Their experiences with OER
  • Their specific experiences with OER projects
  • Their institution
  • Their job title and CV
  • Topics of expertise
  • Number of papers willing to review

Additionally, we asked potential reviewers to select topics of expertise based on the keywords we received from the authors in order to match reviewers and authors.  Once this form was completed we sent it out directly to peers who specialize in OER, on Twitter, and on numerous listservs. We were pleased to have received 55 responses for potential peer-reviewers and called upon 46 of them to help us review papers.  

August 2019: Full Article Submission 

Based on our rough publication timeline, we requested that authors submit their manuscripts by early August. Out of the 35 proposals selected, we received 31 completed articles. We did have to grant some authors extensions and, in hindsight, we wish we would have been firmer with our submission deadline. As editors, we identified our key tasks and distributed the responsibilities between us in order to stay organized. These tasks and responsibilities included:

  • Assign each manuscript a number to anonymize and ensure blind peer review
  • Assign the manuscript a Google folder labeled with the same number to keep all revisions and reviews of the manuscript together and to control permissions for the folder content
  • Assign each editor a group of papers 
  • Read through our assigned papers before sending to peer review

There were definitely a few papers that we were a little skeptical about, but we wanted to see how they fared in the peer review so we did not end up rejecting any papers at this point.  Once submissions were received, we started assigning papers to peer reviewers. We assigned at least two reviewers (sometimes three) per paper and matched papers with reviewers based on author keywords and peer reviewer topics of expertise.   

September 2019:  Peer Review

This is when things started to get interesting for us. While at the beginning we were not given a firm deadline for publication, it became more apparent that the deadline for the issue release was approaching faster than we thought. Because of the delay in receiving all of the submissions, we were behind in assigning peer reviewers. We gave reviewers four weeks to complete their reviews. Along with making anonymous comments within the manuscript in Google Docs, we also asked peer reviewers to fill out a detailed form which included:

  • The type of paper: research, opinion, theoretical, or case study
  • The relevance of the paper to the theme of libraries and OER
  • Clarity of expression
  • Contribution to LIS research and/or practice
  • Overall remarks and comments
  • Accept or reject range: Strong reject, reject, weak reject, neutral, weak accept, accept, strong accept

These questions were a mix of qualitative and quantitative scores which, along with comments, gave us a complete picture of the reviewer’s feedback. This would give authors as much constructive feedback as possible. 

Unfortunately, some reviewers had to back out so we had to ask some reviewers to do extra work on a tight turnaround. Because we had asked reviewers how many papers they would be willing to look at, this helped to make sure they weren’t overburdened. The OER community is extremely generous and we were so grateful that reviewers were willing to do some extra reviews on a tight schedule. 

October 2019: Revisions

Because we received so many full article submissions, we decided to split the special issue into two. We could see a trend between two types of articles: case studies with loads of helpful practical advice, and theoretical research and opinion papers which tackled the subject from a wider lens. Next we compiled all of the peer review comments and scores and made editor comments. We sent out all of this information to every author with our editorial decisions: reject, conditional accept with major revisions, conditional accept with minor revisions, and accept with minor revisions. Our hope was that by providing every author regardless of acceptance into the issue their comments and score, we would encourage them to continue to develop their work and resubmit to another publication. We created a Google form for authors to resubmit their manuscripts and gave authors a little over 5 weeks to complete their revisions. The Google form had a couple of key requirements:

  • Identify changes made in the manuscript that addressed peer review comments
  • If changes weren’t made, justify decision

The answers to the form helped us to quickly determine whether the author had made the necessary changes to their article in order for acceptance into the issue. Incomplete answers were a sign that we would have to take a close look at the article in order to make our final decision.

November/December 2019: Copy edits & Letter from the Editors

We reviewed the second round of submissions, sent some submissions back to peer reviewers, and sent authors our final editorial decisions. With our decisions confirmed, we sent the manuscripts to our editor in chief for copy editing. Our editor in chief had a group of copy editors work on the manuscripts and then we sent out the edited proofs back to the authors for final approval in December. Because we were not in charge of copy-editing, we spent this time crafting our “Letter from the editors.” This was a really exciting part of the process as it allowed us to illustrate our hopes and the specific tone we were hoping to craft in the special issue. Specifically, this was a way for us as librarians to speak to our community of practice and to be able to highlight the ways in which librarians and libraries contribute in significant and meaningful ways to the OER community. 

“Specifically, this [Letter from the editors] was a way for us as librarians to speak to our community of practice and to be able to highlight the ways in which librarians and libraries contribute in significant and meaningful ways to the OER community.”

January 2020: First Issue is released and what’s next!

With copy edits approved, the first of the two issues arrived at the printer! Because this is an open access journal, a lot of work went on behind the scenes to ensure that all articles were posted on the IJOER website. The editors will begin their second round of copy-edits for the second issue. Readers can expect the second issue to be released this spring!  In post two of this series we detail how our perspective as authors has shifted now that we know what goes on behind the scenes. We will offer up our advice to authors about how to best communicate with journal editors, how to be prepared for the peer review process, and how to successfully navigate the process once your paper has been accepted into a journal. 

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

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2 comments on “Through the Looking Glass: Experiencing the Other Side of Academic Publishing. A Librarian Parlor Series, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Through the Looking Glass: Experiencing the Other Side of Academic Publishing. A Librarian Parlor Series, Part 2 – The Librarian Parlor

  2. Pingback: Navigating Rejection: Strategies for Resilience and Growth in Academic Writing and Publishing – The Librarian Parlor

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