OLH annual report 2021

Posted by Paula Clemente Vega on 5 May 2022

Background and Merging with Birkbeck, University of London

The Open Library of Humanities (OLH) is an award-winning, academic-led, diamond open-access publisher of 28 journals based in the Department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. As part of an international community of scholar-led, community-owned and non-profit publishers, the OLH plays a leading role in a growing publishing ecosystem exploring different business models and innovative approaches to open access publishing, adapted to the needs of humanities scholars. The platform was launched in 2015 by Birkbeck academics Professor Martin Eve and Dr Caroline Edwards and operated as an independent charity until May 2021, when the platform merged with the university. This decision was taken to secure the long-term "academic-led" status of the organisation and protect the OLH from financial instability in future years.

With initial funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and subsequent support from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Professor Peter Baldwin, the platform currently covers its costs by payments from an international library consortium, rather than author fees (also known as Article Processing Charges). This funding mechanism enables equitable open access in the humanities disciplines, releasing readers and authors from the prohibitive costs of publishing open access.

OLH reopens applications to flip subscription journals to open access

The success of the OLH model in recent years has been sustained through our journal ‘flipping’ programme, where we have sought to convert existing subscription titles to an open access model that does not charge author fees. In September 2021 OLH re-opened its journal flipping programme and remains open to expressions of interest from subscription journals in the humanities seeking to move to a gold open access (OA) publishing model without author-facing charges (‘diamond’ OA). 

The re-opening of our journal flipping programme has been made possible by the generosity of OLH higher-tier supporters as well as the invaluable ongoing support received from our 324 member libraries and institutions worldwide, whose support makes this work possible. See here for more info on how to apply to ‘flip’ your journal with the OLH.

OLH higher supporters

In May 2021 we launched a new agreement with Jisc Collections, which included higher tiers of financial support for our UK institutional library partners to voluntarily increase their annual contributions at Gold, Silver and Bronze levels. This higher support enables the OLH to expand our portfolio of diamond open access journals. Gold, silver and bronze tier support is now also available to universities worldwide who would like to contribute at a higher fee to facilitate the flipping of subscription journals to open access. Please contact us! We currently have 13 higher-tier supporters, most of whom have joined in the past year. The full list of supporting institutions can be found here

By supporting more subscription journals to transition to open access, we aim to ensure the open availability of knowledge as broadly as possible, as per our charitable aims and core mission. These criteria are in place to help create savings for library budgets, to stimulate the commercial business sector to adopt new models for open access scholarship, and to ensure the highest journal quality for our supporting members.

Grant from Arcadia to support the work of the Open Library of Humanities

In March 2021 Birkbeck, University of London was awarded a grant of £200,000 from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Dr Lisbet Rausing and Professor Peter Baldwin, to support the innovative research and work of the Open Library of Humanities. This grant has been used to help OLH to expand and diversify its revenue sources. While the pandemic has put strain on library budgets worldwide, OLH has achieved financial stability using its innovative model. This funding from Arcadia has allowed the platform to expand its Janeway offering, thereby providing a second, secure, and stable revenue source for the years to come. 

Migration of OLH journals to Janeway completed

In December 2021 we were thrilled to announce the final transition of our journals from their previous publication service provider, Ubiquity Press, to the Janeway platform run by the Open Library of Humanities software development team. With the exception of two co-published journals, Quaker Studies and Francospheres (which are co-published by the OLH and Liverpool University Press), all OLH journals are now all hosted in Janeway. 

Janeway is also being used by other external presses such as Iowa State Digital Press, Huddersfield University Press, Michigan Publishing, and the California Digital Library for their pre-print publications. In addition to providing another secure and stable revenue source for OLH publishing activities in the future, this allows us to maintain our independence from commercial publishing platforms. 

Plan S compliancy

We are pleased to inform our members and academics that all our journals are compliant with Plan S funder mandates and have been included in the Plan S compliance Journal Checker tool, which can be accessed here.


The Open Library of Humanities has demonstrated that a model for high-quality open access publishing without article processing charges is possible and sustainable in the long-term. Looking back at the past year alone, according to our data in 2021 we published and funded a total of 451 articles across our 28 journals. These publications were also downloaded 104,695 times. Glossa remains the OLH’s flagship journal in terms of volume of publications, with 146 articles published in 2021. With regards to our library funding, in the past year OLH has had 28 new signups, amounting to a total of 324 supporting institutions at the time of writing. 

Thanks to the support of our members the OLH has expanded from 99 supporting institutions and 7 journals in 2015 to 324 supporting institutions and 28 journals in 2022, has six full-time staff, funds two external commercial university presses (Liverpool University Press and Wales University Press) to convert their journals to open access, and has developed our own field-leading open source publishing platform, Janeway, which was launched in 2017 and is developed fully in-house by our team of software developers. 

All this could not be possible without the help of our supporting institutions, which despite their increasingly tight budgets and the financial impact of the pandemic, continue to choose to support scholar-led, community owned, and not-for-profit open access initiatives such as OLH. Indeed, it is thanks to your support that we can continue to exist and provide an alternative to the often-unaffordable APC model for open access publications. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all our member institutions for your continued support: from all of us at the OLH, thank you for continuing to make this vital work possible.


If you like the work that the Open Library of Humanities is doing, please consider asking your institution to support us financially. We cannot operate without our library members. More details for libraries can be found here: https://www.openlibhums.org/plugins/supporters/signup

Institutions in the UK can become higher-tier supporters through Jisc's signup system. Universities, worldwide, who wish to contribute at a higher-tier level to facilitate flipping should contact Paula Clemente Vega (paula.clementevega@openlibhums.org).

Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash