|RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS|
University of Nebraska
Writing is an intellectual pursuit.
The cry of "We Shall Publish" that I wrote in the March TSLL Research and Publications column has been heard. Evidence to that fact can be found on the front cover of the October 2001 issue of AALL Spectrum. The front cover headliner reads "Trends in Technical Services: Electronic Resources, Creative Innovative Opportunities and Challenges," with the lead article "Going Paperless: The Trend in Acquisitions" by JoAnn Hounshell (Head of Acquisitions at Northwestern), and the next article "From Automated Classification to XML: Trends in Cataloging" by Eloise M. Vondruska (Associate Director for Bibliographic Services, also at Northwestern). You may also be interested to know that Naomi Goodman (Technical Services Librarian at Valparaiso University) is the Spectrum's "Chapter News" column editor.
One of the services I'd like this column to perform is to build a platform of colleague names and what they are thinking about publishing, what they are currently working on, and what publishing they have recently manifested. I say "manifested" because publishing is more than bringing out your intellectual pursuit via paper format to your colleagues.
Let's expand our scope of what we think of as what constitutes "publishing." In technical services we might still be thinking that publishing is what professional colleagues research and/or write about, involving some topic that results in a paper format article or book. We might still be thinking that to get something published means hours outside our jobs that are spent researching and making outlines and sending drafts to editors and having the drafts re-written several times and anxieties and frustrations that it will just never get done. So.... we just don't even get started. Publishing is seen in our minds as this thing out there we'd just as soon not tackle. Many of you may have to publish as part of fulfillment of responsibilities needed for promotion and tenure. Well, I'm here to tell you that, although that certainly can be true, it is just as true that publishing is also any tangible contribution you have made which results in shared information to an audience and which promotes, influences and contributes to the body of "literature." I'd like to urge you to consider the words "any tangible contribution" as also encompassing in-house, or local (your greater institution or city), or state, or regional, or national, or even international publishing efforts.
Once we have expanded our scope of what constitutes publishing, it's amazing how the barriers that once prevented you from wanting to publish are removed. In previous TSLL Research and Publishing columns we have published many tips on how to get started publishing and tips on where to get published. In this column and future columns I will strive to give you concrete topic ideas that flow across my desk (that's before the concrete ideas harden – old construction joke). And speaking of construction, writing is a lot like construction, only you are the project manager. The project manager assembles the various elements together, and using time lines, looking at design layouts and eventually looking at blueprints, you determine the project is a good one— worthy of spending time and money to complete your published product. The construction workers are also you when you actually sit down and begin writing sentences. The materials you use are words, the computer and keyboard, e-mail, or the fax machine. Some till use envelopes and postage stamps. After the project's completed and you see the final product "out there" you (hopefully) are excited to see it published in its final form. Most likely you want to get some kind of recognition for it. Right?
My e-mail address is at the top of this column. I encourage you to send me a quick e-mail anytime you publish something. Anything. I mean it! If you have recently given a presentation to some group and have made handouts or used a software application program slide show, or recently mounted some substantial documents on your web site with things like your mission statement, or some bibliography, or some new creative special service or activity you or your department has begun which you've documented and made available to the public eye. Let me know. I'd like to include your name and contribution to this column for your colleagues to read about.
I've noticed in past TSLL Research and Publishing columns that information is provided to guide the reader to publishing resources. Oftentimes it's just a citation. The expectation is that you will then go seek out those resources when the time to start publishing is at hand. Perhaps that expectation isn't a good one. So, I will attempt to cull out actual concepts from the content of the citation to include in this column. That way you can just read about it more in detail within the column itself. I know how difficult it is to go out and seek those citations, read through them, digest them and then use them in your pursuit to write. For example in the previous TSLL issue I gave reference to a great article in Law Library Journal (78 LLJ 197). The article, "Commentary: Writing is Good for You and You Forget the Pain" by Nancy Carol Carter. The article is a condensed version of remarks she gave for an AALL educational program at the 78th annual meeting in New York. It's a nice four-page article. In it she touches on areas that we can find helpful for this column. Below, I have taken snippets from her article (I encourage you to read the whole thing).
*Why Write?* [It] "will broaden your knowledge and understanding of a topic." It "will ensure your grasp of the subject." It will "separate yourself from the rest of the crowd." It can provide "professional recognition, increased job opportunities, and invitations to speak at programs.." "Also, researching and writing an article will make you a better librarian in an unexpected way. You will be better able to relate to the needs of the researchers your library serves if you use your library for your own writing projects." "Remember, every written work need not be a literary masterpiece. A good, solid piece of writing that imparts useful information can be a real contribution."
*Finding time to write.* "Time to write is a mythical concept; you might just as well believe in unicorns and the golden fleece. You must take time to write. Notice that I did not say make time to write. Making time implies that through some clever juggling of your calendar, there will be time to write. For most of us, taking time to write means imposing a draining and time-consuming activity over an already busy life. Expect to invest some evenings and weekends. Expect to feel some frustration as other important activities suffer when you take time to write."
*Getting started.* "Selecting a topic can be daunting. "... consider writing about matters that interest you as a practicing librarian. Don't overlook the obvious. A quick example: when Golden Gate Law Library decided to create a fee-based membership plan, I realized that an article on this useful subject should be written for LLJ. Once committed to writing, you become more attuned to picking up likely topics. Conversations with other librarians and lawyers or a reference question can spark ideas for articles." ".... Once you have a topic in mind, make a commitment to someone– your joint author or an editor, for example." ".... The key to getting started writing is to realize that a first draft is nothing but a vehicle for capturing some initial thoughts and ideas. Every writing book will tell you that nothing slows down the writing process so much as attempting to write a last draft first." Nancy Carol Carter's article also talks about "The Working Environment as a Factor in Productivity," "Getting Edited" and "Capitalizing on Your Effort" which I will not include here.
In addition to the points made in *Getting started*, above, I would like to emphasize the fact that AALL is actively, aggressively seeking proposals and submissions through its Publication Program. The AALL Publications Committee welcomes proposals for new publications. You can visit their web presence at: http://www.aallnet.org/committee/publications/. There, you can learn more about their activities and you can contact them electronically with questions, ideas and comments.
Contact Joe Thomas (email@example.com) for an idea that I have been mulling over the past several months, about beginning a new TSLL regular column "Technology Trends in Technical Services." I don't have time to write up a proposal for the TSLL Editorial Board for my idea, but I think one of you reading this could do it. Joe will be happy to discuss the concept and see if it's worthy as a regular column, or if it should first begin as a "guest editor" article series to see how it's received. Contact me if you are wondering more about the content and goal of this would be. [editor's note: Please contact me about this or any other ideas for long-term columns or one-time reports. – JT] Other topic ideas that come to my mind, might be:
Next column I hope to begin some nuts and bolts about the research process.
That wraps up another column. Coming in to work on this column on a beautiful autumn Saturday morning was not easy for me. Imagine all the extra work our TSLL editors and contributors and the rest of the TSLL volunteers do to get this fine publication published! They all deserve our thanks and praise!! <insert applause> TSLL is our greatest vehicle for communication with each other I believe. The extra work is all worth it.