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Open ShelfOpen Shelf, the online magazine of the Ontario Library Association

Ontario Library Association

Author guidelines, editorial procedures, and general policies

December 2019

Mandate and mission of Open Shelf

Open Shelf is the official magazine of the Ontario Library Association (OLA), published for members and the larger community as a continuing education service to keep them informed of trends and issues affecting the association as well as libraries all across Ontario and beyond. The magazine is a forum for discussion, a place for news, and a source of ideas for the development and improvement of libraries, librarianship, and information management in the province.

Specifically, Open Shelf publishes articles on topics relevant to the constituencies reflected in the main divisions of OLA: College and university libraries, library and information technology, public library boards, public libraries, school libraries, bibliothèques francophones, and Indigenous Peoples libraries, including First Nations public libraries. The magazine also publishes a wide range of columns and features with information and commentary of interest across a broad range of divisions and readers.

All materials submitted to Open Shelf for publication will be proofread and/or edited for:

  • Clarity
  • Consistency (e.g., voice, tone, web-based writing practices)
  • Length (i.e., word count)
  • Grammar and style (including spelling, usage, and format as per the Open Shelf style guide)

In the event that significant changes result from proofing and/or editing decisions, the submitting author(s) will be contacted for review and approval.

Indigenous style

When editing of materials related to Indigenous matters, the editorial team will be guided by Elements of Indigenous style: A guide for writing by and about Indigenous Peoples by Greg Younging. Indigenous style emphasizes the importance of process and protocols when writing about Indigenous Peoples—for a deeper exploration of these issues, please refer to the book. These principles include, but are not limited to, the following principles excerpted verbatim from Elements of Indigenous style (Younging, 2018, Appendix A):

Principle 1: The purpose of Indigenous style

The purpose of Indigenous style is to produce works that:

  • Reflect Indigenous realities as they are perceived by Indigenous Peoples.
  • Are truthful and insightful in their Indigenous content.
  • Are respectful of the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples.

Principle 2: When Indigenous style and conventional styles disagree

Works by Indigenous authors or with Indigenous content should follow standard style references and house styles, except where these disagree with Indigenous style.

Principle 4: Recognizing Indigenous identity

Indigenous style recognizes that Indigenous Peoples view themselves according to the following key principles:

  • They are diverse, distinct cultures.
  • They exist as part of an ongoing continuum through the generations tracing back to their ancient ancestors.
  • They have not been assimilated into mainstream Canadian society, and their national and cultural paradigms have not been fundamentally altered or undermined through colonization.
  • They are currently in a process of cultural reclamation and rejuvenation, marked by significant participation from Indigenous youth.
  • Natural cultural change and adaptation do not mean that Indigenous Peoples have acquiesced to mainstream Canadian society, nor that Indigenous cultures have been fundamentally altered or undermined.

Principle 5: Indigenous cultural property

Indigenous style involves publishing practices that recognize and respect Indigenous cultural property.

Principle 6: Collaboration

Work in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and authors to ensure that Indigenous material is expressed with the highest possible level of cultural authenticity, and in a manner that follows Indigenous Protocols and maintains Indigenous cultural integrity.

Principle 7: Elders

Indigenous style recognizes the significance of Elders in the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples and as authentic sources of Indigenous cultural information. Indigenous style follows Protocols to observe respect for Elders.

Principle 8: Working with Traditional Knowledge and Oral Traditions

Indigenous style recognizes Traditional Knowledge and Oral Traditions as Indigenous cultural property, owned by Indigenous Peoples and over which Indigenous Peoples exert control. This recognition has bearing on permission and copyright, and applies even when non-Indigenous laws do not require it.

Writers, editors, and publishers should make every effort to ensure that Indigenous Protocols are followed in the publication of Traditional Knowledge and Oral Traditions. Where culturally sensitive Indigenous materials are in question, writers, editors, and publishers should make every effort to consult an authoritative member of the particular Indigenous People for confirmation.

Principle 9: The role of relationship and trust

Indigenous style recognizes the essential role of relationship and trust in producing works with authentic Indigenous content, and the source of relationship and trust in truthfulness, honesty, mindfulness about community impacts, and continuity with history and heritage.

Principle 10: Compensation

Indigenous style recognizes the importance of royalties to Indigenous Peoples and authors—and compensation to individual Indigenous contributors, and to Indigenous communities and organizations—as part of fair and respectful publishing practices. 

Principle 11: Inappropriate terminology

Works should avoid inappropriate terminology used in reference to Indigenous Peoples, except when:

  • Specifically describing or discussing this terminology as terminology.
  • Referring to a proper name, or the name of an institution or document, that contains the terminology
  • Quoting from a source that contains the terminology (e.g., an historical source).

If a work quotes from an historical source that uses inappropriate terminology, it is important to flag this content. This means discussing the terminology in a footnote or endnote, or better yet, in a paragraph in run of text.

Principle 12: The names of Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous style uses the names for Indigenous Peoples that Indigenous Peoples use for themselves. It establishes these names through consultation with Indigenous Peoples, and compilations of names done through consultation with Indigenous Peoples.

Principle 13: Terms that should be capitalized

Terms for Indigenous identities; Indigenous governmental, social, spiritual, and religious institutions; and Indigenous collective rights should be capitalized.

Principle 18: Inappropriate possessives

Indigenous Peoples are independent sovereign nations that predate Euro-colonial states and are not “owned” by Euro-colonial states. Indigenous style therefore avoids the use of possessives that imply this, such as “Canada’s Indigenous Peoples,” “our Indigenous Peoples,” and “the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.”

Excerpted from Elements of Indigenous style by Gregory Younging, published by Brush Education. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.

How to submit your article or idea

The Editorial Board of Open Shelf welcomes submissions and queries of articles (including text-based and other media-based articles such as podcasts) to be published in the magazine. If you’ve already written the article, please feel free to submit it any time. We are also happy to hear from you if you’re about to start your article (in various media) or if you have an idea to pitch to the Open Shelf editorial team. Send all articles and ideas to the Open Shelf Editor-in-Chief.

Martha Attridge Bufton
T 613-520-2600, ext. 2985

Open Shelf features short articles (approximately 400 to 750 words) written in a conversational tone (i.e., accessible to a broad audience). If you have an article or an idea that is substantially longer or shorter than this—shorter than 400 words or as long as 1,500 words—please contact the editors before sending it for submission.

If you are submitting an article or story idea related to academic libraries, please contact the Editor-in-Chief of InsideOCULA. InsideOCULA is the official publication of the Ontario College and University Library Association (OCULA).

InsideOCULA Editor-in-Chief

Photographs, illustrations, or other graphics are encouraged where they augment the article. We also encourage contributors to submit ideas for podcasts (from three to 12 minutes in length). These podcasts could be “stand alone” articles or be part of a longer feature article. Likewise, short videos (three to 12 minutes in length) are also welcome. Short video submissions must contain full transcript(s) of the content contained within the video in order to allow for greater accessibility.

Submit your finished article in electronic format (preferably Word or RTF) as a simple attachment to email to Photographs, illustrations, videos, and podcasts should be sent as separate files/documents and not imbedded in the text document.

Please also provide a brief bio (no more than 100 words), including your current job title, institutional affiliation (or other preferred identifying information), and contact information. In addition, include complete contact information at the end of your article. If we publish your article, we also require an author photograph (high resolution preferred).

Publication schedule

Open Shelf publishes once a month (except January and August). Submissions are accepted any time throughout the year.

Copyright permissions, deposit, and republication

The contributor(s) retain(s) all rights under Canadian copyright law. However, Open Shelf is an open-access publication, and unless otherwise specified, the contributor(s) of a given article or submission and the publisher (i.e., the Ontario Library Association [OLA]) agree that the contributor(s) grant(s) to OLA and the general public a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyright license.

Under this license, the contributor(s) grant(s) to OLA and the general public a royalty-free, worldwide, non-exclusive license to publish, reproduce, display, distribute, and use the article or submission, in any form, in Open Shelf. Any photographs or illustrative material as well as video or audio material must also be compliant with the Creative Commons license.

For photos that contain a recognized individual, or a recognizable portion of an individual, authors should secure the individual’s permission in writing for use of the photo in Open Shelf. Photos taken at public events or news events, or crowd shots taken in a public place, do not require permission from the subjects.

As per the Creative Commons license, if the contributor(s) choose(s) to republish an article or other published submission (e.g., a podcast) in another publication, the Ontario Library Association must receive credit as the original publisher. The attribution statement must be formatted as follows:

This [article, podcast, video] originally appeared in the [Month Year] issue of Open Shelf magazine. Open Shelf is the official magazine of the Ontario Library Association, published for members and the larger community as a continuing education service to provide information about trends and issues affecting the association as well as libraries all across Ontario and beyond.

Open Shelf generally does not publish articles that have been previously published.

Photographs, illustrations, videos, and podcasts

Please supply photographs, illustrations, videos, and podcasts as attachments to email. Photos must be saved as a TIFF, a GIF, or an EPS file, and in colour with a good tonal range.

Captions and credit(s) should be provided for all images submitted; i.e., please identify the subject, activity, place, and other relevant details shown in the photo and provide a brief text for a caption in addition to the name of the photographer(s).

The same applies to other illustrative material such as drawings, prints, graphs, charts, etc. All submitted material is subject to editing.

When recording podcasts, we suggest using a program such as Audacity and sending an MP3 file.


We ask for:

  • Each article to be assigned approximately three to five tags in order to make the content within the article more searchable. An article of about 500 words should not need more than five tags, while it should be assigned a minimum of three tags.
  • Tags to be created according to the methods, suggestions, and rules listed in the tagging document, which is attached in Appendix A.

Copy editing (clarity, simplicity, style, word count, grammar, punctuation, spelling, citations)

Open Shelf articles are to be written in a conversational tone. The editorial team will proofread and/or edit as needed, which may include some “heavy” editing for style because we are dedicated to ensuring a good reader experience. We will read and proof and/or edit your article for clarity, simplicity, proper use of the Open Shelf style guidelines (see below), word count, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and citations.

Copy editing is an important step in our publication process—all Open Shelf articles are proofread and/or edited, including those written by our editors. These changes do not mean that we’re not good writers—they mean that we’re trying to make our articles the best they can be and meet a high professional standard. You will have the opportunity to review and discuss the proofed and/or edited version before publication. Decisions of the editorial team are final.

We ask all contributors to think about the following when submitting their stories:

Clarity: Clarity includes the overall structure or outline of an article, redundancy, and ambiguity.

Think of the basics of newswriting, the five Ws―who, what, when, where, why. When writing, think of how your work will affect readers. Why should they care? What impact will it have on them? What’s new or different? In addition, think about repetition and/or redundancy—are you saying the same thing twice, or can repetition be justified?

Simplicity: Keep prose simple and readable. Pretend you’re explaining what you do to someone outside the profession. Avoid jargon.

Reading online is different from reading print. As a result, writing for online publication is different as well. Shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs are more effective online. Subheadings are encouraged to break your text into logical sections (e.g., one subheading for every three or four paragraphs). Highly recommended as a guide: How to write short: Word craft for fast times by Roy Peter Clark (2013).

Word count: Although articles can vary in length (from 400 to 750 words), in general, “less is more.”

Spelling: Open Shelf uses Canadian spelling based on the latest edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd edition, 2004) and follows the style guidelines of the Canadian Press stylebook (17th edition, 2013). See below for detailed guidelines on and examples of general house style and usage.

Citations: Open Shelf is a general magazine, not a scholarly journal. References are generally unnecessary and should be avoided. If your article does require citation of sources, provide them within the text of your article, column, etc., with as much or as little bibliographic information as necessary for identification (see examples below). Include a URL where available and appropriate. Links as part of your text to external sources are encouraged but should be used sparingly (broken links frustrate readers and are time-consuming to track down).

If you do feel that the works you cite require full identification, please provide a list of them in bibliography style at the end of the article, formatted according to APA Style (6th edition, 2009). If you have any questions about the details, please feel free to contact the editors.

Format of references

Following are some examples of in-text references:

Article in a journal

As Karen Wallace mentions in her article in Feliciter in 2007, “Marketing mindset: Focusing on the customer, from technical services to circulation,” …

Article in an electronic journal

David Fox reports in “The scholarship of Canadian research university librarians” (Partnership, 2007) that …

Chapter in a book

Paul S. Piper says that … (“Google and privacy,” in Libraries and Google).


Sharron Smith and Maureen O’Connor’s book, Canadian fiction: A guide to reading interests, provides …


The Open Shelf style, which conforms with Canadian Press style, the InsideOCULA Style Guide, and Elements of Indigenous style by Greg Younging, is to be used consistently throughout articles.

Capitalization (names, titles, headings, subheadings, Indigenous terminologies)

The first word of a heading and any proper nouns will be capitalized. All other words will be in lowercase (e.g., Canada 150: Diversity and library schools). Exception: When standard font requires all caps.

Terms for Indigenous identities; Indigenous governmental, social, spiritual, and religious institutions; and Indigenous collective rights should be capitalized. For example:

  • Elder(s)
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Oral Tradition
  • Potlatch
  • Sweat Lodge
  • Traditional Knowledge

Note: Consult Elements of Indigenous style by Greg Younging for more examples.

Numbers and dates

  • words one to nine, numerals 10 and up
  • spell out common fractions below 1
  • 4,200
  • 4.5 million
  • 19th (not superscript)
  • 1970s
  • the ’60s
  • 40 percent
  • $99 billion
  • $11 billion (US)
  • 10 a.m.
  • March 23, 2010
  • September 2007
  • 18th century
  • 20 degrees C
  • Grade 7

First reference/abbreviations

On first reference, refer to an organization, a publication, etc. in full and provide the abbreviation in round brackets. For example, Ontario Library Association (OLA). All subsequent references can use the abbreviation.


  • No serial comma (i.e., comma after second-last item in lists of three or more items) unless necessary to avoid confusion (e.g., my colleagues, John and Diane = two people, but my colleagues, John, and Diane = more than two people).
  • Em dash with no spaces on either side (—). The em dash is used in pairs. It is considerably longer than a hyphen and used to create a strong break in the structure of a sentence or to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to understanding a sentence (e.g., Thousands of children—like the one in this photograph—love ice cream).
  • En dash without a space on either side (–). The en dash is shorter than the em dash but longer than a hyphen. It is used to connect values in a range or that are related (e.g., 40–50 people).
  • Hyphen (-). A hyphen is shorter than either an en dash or an em dash. Generally, hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea (e.g., six-page document, two-year-old child).
  • Spaces between initials (e.g., J. K. Rowling).
  • Space before and after, but no full spaces between periods of ellipses. Use sparingly and not at the end of a sentence (e.g., It was a dark and stormy night … when there was a knock on the door).
  • No space on either side of a slash/virgule.
  • Terminal punctuation (e.g., a period) at the end of a bulleted-list item if the item is more than a few words, is a complete sentence, or is more than one sentence. In a bulleted list, if one item uses terminal punctuation, then all the items must use terminal punctuation.
  • Period within quotation marks at the end of a sentence ( .”).


  • No “http://www” before internet addresses unless necessary.
  • Lowercase in email addresses.

Specific words and phrases

  • Afrofuturism
  • anti-intellectual
  • anti-oppression
  • binge listen
  • binge watch
  • blog post
  • book list
  • book lover
  • book talk
  • bylaw
  • cell phone
  • copy editing
  • co-worker
  • custom-build
  • decision maker
  • drop box
  • e-audiobook
  • ebook
  • e-community
  • Elder
  • e-learning
  • email
  • e-resource
  • ex-officio members
  • First Nation or First Nations
  • genre-less
  • guided reading instruction
  • health care professional
  • homepage
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • internet
  • Inuit
  • Inuk
  • lifelong learning
  • listen-alike
  • lowercase
  • Métis
  • microaggression
  • microloan
  • mid-career
  • movie star
  • multimedia
  • multi-task
  • net (the internet)
  • newswriting
  • non-exclusive
  • offline
  • Ontario Library Service – North (en dash and spaces)
  • Oral Tradition
  • percent
  • Potlatch
  • pro-inclusion
  • read-alike
  • readers’ advisory transaction
  • re-educate
  • reimagine
  • relearn
  • resume (cover letter and resume)
  • sidebar
  • side panel
  • staffless
  • storycast (podcast)
  • Sweat Lodge
  • takeaway (message, conclusion)
  • 3-D
  • three-quarters
  • tool kit
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • uppercase
  • watch-alike
  • web (the internet)
  • website
  • world view


Reference guide for tagging

We ask for tags to be created according to the methods, suggestions, and rules listed in this document.

Tagging should be treated like indexing. Indexing an article involves focusing on the main topic and important keywords that the audience may attempt to search for or want to learn more about. Tagging requires asking: What is the main topic of the article? For instance:

  • What is the major concept discussed in the article? (E.g., Participatory design)
  • Is there a location vital or specific to the topic at hand?
  • Is there a specific organization relevant to the topic?
  • Which type of librarianship (academic, government, public, school, or special) would benefit from the article?

The current sentiment regarding the appropriate amount of tags per article is that using fewer tags is best. Attempting to compile a list of all of the keywords within an article can result in a search results page containing articles that discuss the search term only in a peripheral manner.

We ask that each article be assigned approximately three to five tags in order to make the content within the article more searchable. An article of about 500 words should not need more than five tags, while it should be assigned a minimum of three tags.  

There is an effective text-analysis tool that can help with tagging:

Voyant Tools provides a beneficial list of single-word keywords.

How to create tags
Copy and paste your article into the text-analysis tool mentioned above to generate at least three tags. (You can also try the Natural Language Understanding app, which analyzes text and helps with tagging as well.) Editors will assign tags to articles by irregular writers and on an as-needed basis.

For video or podcasts: The transcript for the video/podcast will be used to assess which tags will be attached to the post.

For comic strips, or other media with minimal text: The editors will determine which keywords figure most prominently in the piece and should be assigned as tags.

Using Voyant Tools

a. Copy and paste the text of the article into the text box and click “Reveal.”
b. Note the keywords listed under the “Terms” button on the top left-hand side of the results page.
c. The top terms are the keywords most frequently mentioned within the article and should be noted.

Minimize redundancy
Aim to avoid redundancy. Consult the tags that already exist and note which are similar to your list. To the best of your ability, use tags that already communicate your concept rather than reword a concept.

1. Always give preference to the root word; e.g., using “digitize” over using “digitizing,” “digitized,” or “digitizes.”


  • If the word is a proper noun; e.g., the name of an initiative such as Digitizing the library today.
  • When possible, give preference to the person over the place or thing. For instance, choose “public librarian” over “public library” or choose “digital librarian” over “digital library.”

2. Contractions are not preferred unless they are proper nouns; e.g., for a library program called “It’s Literacy Day,” the “It’s” must remain.

3. Hyphens are not preferred. Rather, leave a space between words that are sometimes hyphenated; e.g., Maker space or Makerspace, but not Maker-space.

4. When naming a two-word-plus keyword or concept, always capitalize the first word and use the lowercase for other words; e.g., Participatory design or Academic library.


  • For an abbreviation, all caps is acceptable. For example, OCULA is acceptable.
  • For the names of associations, such as Canadian Colleges Athletic Association, leave the capitalization of the first letter of each word.

5. Certain words, such as “university,” “information,” “management,” “book,” “education,” “research,” “higher education,” are too vague on their own. These words are largely more effective when compiled into two-or-more-word concepts or keywords. For example, the word “research” would need a qualifier, as in “evidence-based research,” to be used as a tag.

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