Asking for Self-Archiving Shouldn’t Be Scary

Yesterday I got news that a chapter I wrote for a book was accepted. Edits are in and the final manuscript it with the anthology editor! Hooray!

It also brought up my first time of needing to ask about self-archiving. It’s a new aspect of publishing for me, most of what I’ve written in the professional venue is here on this blog.* Along with a couple other minor questions that I had and things that my editor needed answered in our final exchange, I wanted to include a question about self-archiving my manuscript.

I rewrote that section of the email four times because frankly it was a little scary. Here I am, in first year of tenure track at an R1 institution, and I’ve just had a publication accepted. That should be a time of celebration, and yet all I could hear in my head was that they’d think I’m a troublemaker or a difficult author because I’m asking to retain a self-archive.

It was uncomfortable and I realized a little better what kind of position we’re asking researchers to take. My ability to get tenure at my current position depends partially on my publication record over the next few years. I’m expected to do research, to get it published in peer reviewed places, and if the journals won’t publish me, then I’m looking at a clock ticking down to needing to find a new job. It’s a strong motivation to not speak up, to not try to change the status quo.

Fortunately, I have some backing both from my institution and from my friends. The University of Illinois Chicago Library Faculty have developed an Open Access Policy that says our faculty publications will be self-archived, preferably through the institutional repository. You can get a waiver of this requirement–and that waiver policy is in place a) because until OA catches on a bit more we don’t want good people totally failing at tenure and b) not everyone agrees with the OA Policy. But we have that OA policy–which means when I emailed my editor to ask about it, I could point to it and say “I and my institution believe this.”  Having the support of my coworkers behind me and being able to point to a rule that I helped to create (if only by saying Yay at a Faculty meeting–this was in process before my time) was empowering.

I also have the support of my professional friends and colleagues. Granted, I tend to run with a pretty pro-OA crowd.  But while I was muddling over this, I asked them at what point they thought I should bring it up and expressed some of the dread/doubt that was pooling in my stomach. No one immediately jumped down my throat and told me I was WRONG, WRONG I SAY for having a little bit of doubt and for not being entirely clear on at which point I needed to address this (before they send me a contract? on the contract?).  Instead, Amy Buckland reminded me of the SPARC Author Addendum, and Double Agent Fister (who has lots of books under her belt) said she’d faced a similar issue recently and had a good contract, which gave me hope.

So I asked the editor, referencing the OA Policy of UIC, and got a very nice note back saying that they didn’t think self-archiving would be an issue.

That simple.

I do still have to check the contract when it comes and I’ll need to deposit the manuscript. I may need to wait until the book has gone to press and/or check on the ability to embargo things in our institutional repository. If we can embargo til pub date, then I’ll send it over before the end of next week!

But I’m more sympathetic now to what other tenure-track faculty are feeling, now, and I think it’s worth mentioning and shining light on the fact that having to ask for this when our careers could be jeapordized is scary.  And while publishing articles in peer reviewed journals is still a primary measure of someone’s production in much of academia, the power wielded by the publishers and the fear/frustration of the faculty will continue to be tangible until OA journals become the norm as opposed to the rarity.

Worst of all, I don’t think this should be scary. Retaining some of our copyright, getting to use our own work, and self-archiving are all things that shouldn’t make an author worry or question. They should be things we take for granted, rather than just things that are taken for granted that aren’t necessarily so.**

At least things look good for this chapter. More updates once I get that author’s contract.

*If you’re interested in using things from HL, I have a Creative Commons BY-NC license on the blog–I’m not against you making money, especially if you’re a non profit, I’d just like to know in advance.

*As many authors do who host their own archives and reuse their own work even though they’ve signed away all the copyrights to a journal.


  1. Comment by Eric Hellman:

    Recently, I was asked to grant an exclusive, perpetual license for certain work to a library organization known and loved by all of us, as a condition for participating in a committee. I told them that I would be happy to grant them an non-exclusive license, but the practice of academics blindly giving away licenses was hurting libraries, and I wasn’t going to do it.

    The response came back that this was how things had been done for years and years and no one had brought it up before, and that certainly it could be changed.

    You’d be surprised how far a tiny push can move the world.

    It’s easy for me to do, because professional advancement is not an issue for me, but it’s people like you that need to take a stand and make the future happen. Bravo!

  2. Comment by Abigail:


    Thanks for the comment! We really do have to start cleaning our own houses first don’t we…. One tiny push at a time.

    Thanks for the support!!

  3. Ping from A Personal Open Access Plan – Hedgehog Librarian:

    […] Who is with me?  In addition to those potential coauthors, I have other friends and colleagues who are cheering me on from the sidelines.  The faculty at my library approved an Open Access Policy (not linked on our website yet) that I’ve mentioned before. […]

  4. Ping from Open Access Tenure: Self-Archiving Revisited – Hedgehog Librarian:

    […] “All rights are assigned to the editors” (who then hand them over to the publisher). Now, I asked for self-archiving rights when the manuscript was accepted in December.  At that point, my editor said it shouldn’t be an issue. However, it’s not listed on […]