Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) is the official organ of the Library Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of the American Library Association. The journal switched from a subscription model (it iwas included with LITA membership) to open access in 2012 and has decreased in quality, impact, prestige, and metrics ever since.
Here is some evidence of the decline of ITAL:
1. It is a money loser: The 2013 LITA annual report (the latest one available on its website) admits, “[T]he publication is still not revenue neutral,” which means that the journal is a money loser for the organization. Moreover, the annual report notes a 4.05% decrease in membership, a decrease that may have occurred because one no longer needs to be a member to access the journal. The journal currently uses the platinum OA model (free to authors, free to readers). If it were to implement author fees, I am certain that submissions would plummet. The print edition generated some advertising revenue, but no one wants to advertise in the open-access version, apparently.
2. ITAL lost its impact factor. For many years, the journal had earned an impact factor but no longer has one, probably because of fewer and fewer citations to its articles. This figure shows the citation calculations for ITAL’s last impact factor, the 2012 data:
As you can see, Journal Citation Reports reported that the journal only had a measly 22 citations to its 37 citable items over a two year period. I assume a further decrease in citations to ITAL articles led to the loss of its impact factor. I realize that for many hipster librarians it is trendy to discount the impact factor, despite the fact that it measures researcher behavior, so let’s look at other metrics. According to Google Scholar, ITAL’s current h5 index is 15. For comparison, the current h5 value for Emerald’s Library Hi Tech is 21 (and this subscription journal has an impact factor of 0.394). ITAL ranks poorly with this competing journal in its field, any way you measure it.
Open-access activists claim that OA leads to increased citations, but the case of ITAL shows exactly the opposite. The switch to open access has ruined ITAL — both in terms of revenue for the publisher and in scholarly metrics.
3. The journal does not meet all of the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing” established by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). For example, principle number 2 says, “Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope.” According to Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, there are several members of the journal’s editorial board who have never published a peer-reviewed article, yet they are performing “peer” review for others.
4. COPE guideline number 5 says, “Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.” None of the articles I examined bore any licensing information. ITAL is not following Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines.
5. The journal’s editorial standards have slipped, and the website, which uses the barely-functional open source journal management software called Open Journal Systems, is a UX disaster. It’s easy to find evidence of this sloppiness:
The top box is copied from the table of contents of a recent issue; note the order of the authors. The bottom box is a screenshot from the article’s PDF, showing a different author order. Author order is an important consideration for references, access, and scholarly assessment, yet the journal uses two different author orders. Inattention to important details such as this mark the difference between a professional scholarly journal and a shabby one.
6. The journal appears to have abandoned copyediting. In a recent article (the pictured one above) I encountered these two copyediting blunders:
“… no PMC staff were available to provide the technical help needed because to budget reductions.”
“One of the initial obstacles was that a filter for the delivery mechanism didn’t exit.”
Not providing copyediting (or doing a poor job of it) is a disservice to readers and authors.
The world’s top library technology association should not have such a poorly-managed journal. The switch to open-access has only lowered the quality and the prestige of Information Technology and Libraries, and it was better all-around as a subscription journal.