, , , , ,

Hosting e-journals on an institutional repository is a great way to support open access publishing, student-run journals, and even subscription-based journals.  As part of this service, a library might simply provide the journal with access to a journal-hosting system, along with advice and support.  Other libraries might offer enhanced design services and support journal blogs and wikis.   Whether the operation is basic or full-service, it’s a good idea to clarify the relationship between the library and journal with an agreement that specifies who is responsible for what.  Libraries often do this via a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the library and the journal’s publisher or sponsor.  While there is no one-size-fits all MOU, there are some freely available samples that can get you started.

Revise, don’t reinvent, the MOU

When asked to draft some MOUs as part of my scholarly communications internship at Florida State University, I started with the sample MOUs available in the Digital Commons Collaboratory.  I read through all of them to get a feel for the scope of these types of agreements and identified key terms that the library might want to include for its different journal-hosting arrangements.  The university has three journals that are published on DigiNole Commons using the bepress web-hosting system and a fourth journal that is published using Florida Open Journal System (OJS) software.

If your library uses bepress, take full advantage of the samples on the Collaboratory. Also consider these sample MOUs freely available on the Internet:

Some libraries may also offer fee-based publishing services.  For example, the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) of Columbia University Libraries/Information Services offers free or fee-based tiers of service to journals.[1] Examples of CDRS “Master Service Agreements” for a Basic Level of Support and a fee-based Extended Level of Support are available on the CDRS website.

Drafting the MOUs

I started out by creating a single MOU template from one of the samples that most closely resembled how I wanted the MOUs to look and modified the terms and details from there.  Once my first template was completed for the journals published on DigiNole Commons, I created a separate template for the journal published using OJS software.  The respective parties for each journal and details regarding the applicable system being used could then be plugged into the appropriate template.

Simple MOUs are typically organized as follows:

  • Descriptive MOU title.
  • Identification of the parties to the agreement and its purpose.  In our case, the parties were the Library and the Publisher (or entity within the university identified as such).
  • Description of any rights that the Publisher is granting to the Library.
  • List of the Library’s and the Publisher’s responsibilities.  These terms will vary greatly depending on the levels of service being provided by the Library and on how clearly the Library wants to specify its expectations of the Publisher.  There are also typically some provisions on the Publisher-responsibility side requiring that it indemnify and hold the Library and others harmless should anything go wrong.
  • A statement regarding how long the agreement will last and the conditions for terminating it.
  • Spaces for authorized signatures and party contact information.

Once you get your MOU templates together, make sure to have them reviewed and approved by university counsel.

A few special considerations

Journals that are just starting up may initially find it difficult to solicit and receive quality articles and to efficiently manage the production processes.  They might flounder around without ever producing a book.  This represents a lost opportunity for other groups that could have produced a journal, and a sunk cost for the library that footed the bill to host the journal.  With student-run journals, as members of editorial boards graduate leadership and interest in the publication may wax and wane, adversely impacting publication cycles.  Adrian K. Ho provides an excellent description of the challenges of hosting student-run journals and recommends drafting MOUs in a way that fosters journal accountability.[2]  Ho also recommends monitoring journal performance, which might include its adherence to regular production cycles.

To address these issues, the library might specify in an MOU that publishers will be required to reimburse the library for the cost of hosting a journal that is not launched within a specified time period.   Other provisions might include requiring the publisher to fully participate in the set-up phase and to develop specified policies and procedures in writing that are then attached to the MOU as an exhibit.  The University of South Florida’s Open Access e-Journal Hosting Agreement includes these provisions.

For libraries that host open access journals, recent changes to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) application requirements present additional drafting considerations.  If it is important to the library that an open access journal retain its listing, the library will need to advise the journal about the new requirements (as they now appear in this draft application) and revise MOU provisions to incorporate any new library and publisher responsibilities.   For further reading on the new DOAJ application and Seal of Approval requirements, see my October 23 blog post on L.J. eds. 


The OJS Team at the University of Florida (UF) recommends updating the MOU annually with the most current contact information for the journal.  The UF agreement itself (available from this LibGuide) states that the parties will revaluate their respective responsibilities annually.  Also, consider monitoring the activity of the journals on at least an annual basis to make sure they are still publishing books!

Concluding remarks

This post describes how I tackled an MOU project.  I am sure there are many librarians with insights on how to approach MOUs, and I welcome any comments below.  Also, since the semester is coming to a close, this will be my last guest post on The Lib Pub.  Thank you to Melanie (and the group) for having me.  I’ll see you in the blogosphere!

[1] For a description of the CDRS journal publishing program written by Director Rebecca Kennison, see Anali Maughan Perry, Carol Ann Borchert, Timothy S. Deliyannides, Andrea Kosavic, and Rebecca Kinneson, “The Balance Point: Libraries as Journal Publishers,” Serials Review 37 (2011): 196–204, doi: 10.1016/j.serrev.2011.06.006.  A version of this article is available on the University of South Florida repository.  It includes a matrix detailing the various levels of support that CDRS offers.

[2] Adrian K. Ho, “Creating and Hosting Student-Run Research Journals: A Case Study,” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 6, no. 2 (2011).