Monday, January 5, 2009

Professional publishing in libraryland

frozen puddle / January

In between semesters, when academic librarians can take a collective gulp of air before plunging ahead, is a good time to take stock of the work you've been doing and where you're heading. For a while I've wondered how to contribute more broadly to the library profession, and I think the traditional answer would be to try and publish in the professional literature.

A wise professor in library school, however, pointed out the two basic categories of library literature -- the 'how we done good' kind and the serious research kind. Meaningful contributions to the profession are found in serious research because (in theory) they are universally relevant, rather than only being useful to a few libraries.

Since adopting this high-minded approach, however, I've discovered the reasons why serious research is not the only literature in the professional journals: 1) Serious research is frequently expensive. It doesn't have to be, but the amount of time and energy and materials can add up. 2) Research requires some expertise. Granted there are many Ph.D.s among us, but that degree is not always a requirement to become a librarian. And while many people with master's degrees are entirely capable of conducting research, they may have to learn from scratch. 3) Bearing these last two points in mind, scholarly publishing is a requirement for tenure and promotion for librarians at many institutions (not mine!).

I feel I have the energy to overcome the first two reasons and am not concerned about the third, but I am short on ideas to write about. From my position, what can I study that would be worth communicating to the library world at large? Of course I'm interested in where I work, but what's so remarkable about it? What is worth studying seriously? I think after my first four months there, it still remains to be seen ... 


  1. You should probably write about issues in scholarly publishing for librarians. Considering that is what this post is about. We hardly ever look in our own eye for a beam when library journals are some of the worst for copyright for authors, cost, electronic access, and they are bloating as fast as any profession.

  2. I wonder which brave library journal would be excited to publish such an article (-: