Outreach and Engagement Your Thing? Publish Here!

By: Katrina Spencer, Librarian for African American and African Studies, the University of Virginia; and Mara Thacker, South Asian Studies & Global Popular Culture Librarian, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


A screenshot of two women smiling on zoom

Katrina Spencer (right) interviews Mara Thacker (left) about a new publication, the Journal for Library Outreach & Engagement (JLOE).


Katrina Spencer: What is the Journal for Library Outreach & Engagement (JLOE)? 

Mara Thacker: The Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement (JLOE) was started back in 2018 with a simple email that said, “What if we started our own journal on library engagement?” Eighteen months and one $9,500 University of Illinois Libraries Innovation Grant later, Matthew Roberts, Sarah Christensen, and I, with support from our eight editorial advisory board members, published the first issue of JLOE. The mission of JLOE is to serve as the premier peer-reviewed, open-access interdisciplinary journal to advance library outreach and engagement. We plan to publish two issues per year and are already receiving submissions for our second issue for Spring 2021! 

Cover of Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement coverKatrina: Tell us about the first issue and the character JLOE is taking on. 

Mara: The first issue contains five peer-reviewed articles, five feature articles, and an “Idea Lab” feature that collects brief responses to a topical prompt. Topics ranged from how libraries can approach programming on controversial topics, to pop-up libraries, to institutional repositories as a tool for public engagement, and more. One challenge moving forward is how to get more representation from public libraries, special libraries, and archives as we ended up being heavier on academic library content than we initially intended. A second challenge is that we tend to get submissions in intense spurts rather than at a steady pace and we’d love to start seeing things come in on a rolling basis.

Katrina: How do you make sure your publication is far-reaching and inclusive of a variety of branches and faces of librarianship?

Mara: We were deliberate in our recruitment of editorial advisory board members to include people of color, people at varying stages in their career, as well as an international board member. Early on, we received some criticism that we didn’t have enough public librarians on our board so we recruited a new public librarian member and we are recruiting a community college librarian as well. We hope that the diversity in our leadership reflects the diversity in the field writ large and will help us recruit authors across demographics and institution types. We are also developing a peer review mentorship program to help new authors determine how to transform assessments of local outreach and engagement initiatives into methodologically sound scholarship.

Katrina: What measures do you have in place to sustain this new journal? 

Mara: Long-term sustainability is one of our top priorities for the new year. Now that we’ve gotten our bearings having published the first issue, we’ve taken stock of what we need to move forward. 

Here’s what we have:

  • resources for copyediting the spring 2021 issue 
  • a super helpful editorial advisory board
  • employer support 

Here’s what we need:

  • resources for copyediting for the fall 2021 and beyond
  • infrastructure and support for the expansion of the mentoring program
  • a variety of rolling submissions from enthusiastic outreach and engagement practitioners

We remain grateful for the tremendous support of the Illinois Open Publishing Network and the generous contributions from our editorial advisory board.

Katrina: How does publication benefit the authors? 

Mara: This is a chance to have a voice within the profession and help inspire and be inspired by colleagues. We had some panel discussion events with our new authors after the first issue went live and I came away with so many new ideas and such gratitude for being connected with people who care about the same things I do. Also, in librarianship, we care a lot about evidence-based practice and a piece you write could end up being used as a piece of evidence to advocate for positive change at other institutions. What I’m trying to say here is that if you have an idea, you should write about it for an upcoming issue (bit.ly/jloecfp) of JLOE! Also, follow us on social media (@TheRealJLOE) to get involved and learn about upcoming events!