Emerging LIS professional communication models …

I’ve recently submitted an article to a professional journal, my first ever. I’m quietly thrilled about it and hope it gets published. Writing and submitting was a useful experience both in understanding the information needs of academic users and in focusing my ideas. Based on a piece of research I wrote over a year ago, I also had to make some effort to bring aspects of it up to date.

But in doing this, I also begun to wonder about the longer term relevance of the journal / article model, especially for professional communication. It seems somewhat slow and unwieldy, and whilst peer review was usefully editorially, was it truly necessary in what is often at best a quasi-academic discipline?

In full-on academia, there are noted shifts away from traditional publishing. PLOS has built a powerful brand around an established traditional open access journal and a variety of experimental publishing platforms. The Physics community has made strong investment in ArXiv and economists have long favoured locally published working papers to quickly disseminate research. I suspect diversification of practice across disciplines is only going to continue.

In the U.S, its my understanding that publishing in LIS journals is necessary for career advancement. It is not the case in the UK, although I’m sure my C.V. could do with a few more. Critically, LIS journals subs cost money and articles in them may never reach potential readers, especially those early on in their career. With professional development budgets shrinking along with the profession itself, is this really the best model to share much needed research and examples of best practice?

Librarians are fantastic at building social networks and sharing findings, both in brief and in-depth. Slowing that process down to the pace of journal publishing (often over six months) can negate the impact. In theory, its simple for me to write up and publish any research myself. My Mac has a ‘print to PDF’ option. This blog can host it and Google can index it. Or I could do it properly and publish in semantic HTML. All I need it time and enough folk on Twitter to publicize it. So what exactly is being gained through an LIS journal? The journal could of course reject me, but my blog has live analytic s of usage and a comments section where my peers can voice their opinions, in person or anonymously.

This is a highly personal opinion, one largely formed out of supposition rather than any noted study of usage. I’ve nothing against those in publishing either, they play a vital role in gluing the profession together. I’m more concerned about the impact of the current model.

I’d be interested in hearing how folk think getting published in an LIS or related journal can add value over a blog or simply publishing a working paper or report online.


8 thoughts on “Emerging LIS professional communication models …

  1. Congratulations Ed! What’s the article about? I agree that a lot of things could just be self-published and publicised, but what happens in a year or two when someone is literature searching and hoping to further develop what you’ve done? Will they be able to find it? Google Scholar’s good but I’m not sure I’d rely on it entirely given the way they’ve broken their main search.

    I think if I had a proper article published I’d want it in a journal that’s ideally both open access and indexed in LISA/LISTA, but would then also post it to my blog, academia.edu profile and tweeted. Is that. Overkill?

    • Digitization stuff. Hopefully is will get published.

      Out of interest, how ‘long-term’ is useful professionally to you? 5-10 years? Could you trust a journal publisher to keep things around forever, especially for a fringe non-profit subject like LIS research? Its interesting you mentioned a subject specific index. Our figures and those I’ve studied recently suggest usage of these services is itself dropping, but they do provide a certain greater degree of purity and certainty over Google Scholar. A web scale service like Summon is again only has useful as long as its subscription lasts. For my last literature review, I used a mixture of LISA searches and Google / Duck Duck Go, probably a common model. I also cited a couple of blog posts, so I’m already operating in a mixed mode.

      No, I don’t think what you want is overkil, just sensible. Open Access for actual access, a journal for prestige / review and getting into LISA for indexing / discovery.

      • I think for our sector five years is often enough apart from historical context, but a lot of research would need even longer than that. There are no guarantees that the material will be sustained unfortunately, but if it’s been indexed the reference is there and you’ve more to go with if then looking for it in Google.

        Re. Databases, I think it comes down to the resources you’re shown – I was introduced to ERIC when I was studying education, thought it was a great idea and have tried to find out the relevant databases for any subject I’ve worked with since. I’m sure the vast majority of students in their first degree stick to the general because they don’t know about the subject ones. It just adds a relevance filter if I start with a subject-specific database. I do move onto broader searching in WoK and Google Scholar when I’ve a better idea of what I’m looking for, or if there’s so little written on my topic that I need the broader starting point. Different tools for different types of search.

  2. Hi Ed,
    Yes, for day-to-day keeping up with my professional interests, I’m reading a lot fewer journal articles than a few years ago. In fact the journals are increasingly stuffed with uninspiring quasi-academic papers by authors for the purposes of advancing their careers. Similarly conferences and exhibitions do less for me, except for that all-important personal contact, or “networking.” I find the more informal blog posts, and articles in code4lib journal and Computers in Libraries, for example, much more useful. But I guess something to be said in favour of journals, to use a Lorcanism, is “gravitational pull”. You might be famous and have lots of followers, but journals and the indexes that index them are likely to be more famous, so will get your work seen by more people, albeit more slowly. Perhaps a useful development for would be more “current awareness” services that select significant work regardless of how or where it has been published, like Current Cites, or something more crowsourcy, along the lines of digg.

    • Thanks Lawrence. The CILIP blogger scheme could be useful in that context, if it provided some degree of indexing, archiving and distribution on top of a badge on a blog.

      It may even be a cheaper way to fun professional networks (or at least one function of them.) I know folk in Cambridge have built a highly effective professional network just by running the 23 things course for a couple of years.

  3. Ed, I wonder if this is partly about the relationship between the research and the practice. In the LIS field the distinction is much less obvious – or at least a lot of the theory first derives from the practice.

    Indeed, there is some work looking at how the ‘pure’ research can be made to have more impact in the working library context as well as having impact more generally (e.g., the work undertaken by http://lisresearch.org/).

    Therefore the emphasis on research that seems to pervade so many other subjects (even very vocational ones) just doesn’t seem to exist quite so much in the LIS area. The practical seems to be valued more – maybe?

    There is also a lack of impact from LIS research in areas other than librarianship (and closely related fields). You rarely see LIS research quoted in computer science, philosophy, management etc. At least I haven’t.

    So maybe the more informal methods of professional communication, blogs etc, are a practical and valuable way for the profession to keep up to date and share knowledge and practice. But there may also be a crisis in the research side of things that needs to be addressed – making it have deeper and wider impact. LIS is by nature very interdisciplinary, yet LIS research seems to lack reach beyond a very small group of LIS related fields. And maybe it needs to feed into professional roles more, as it does in the US?

    Apologies for the stream of consciousness, but a great post and one that’s made me think!

    • Thanks Ben. I can imagine the issue being compounded for the JISC by having a lot of research output captured in blog format. I understand that UKWAC are holding onto it, but is it being reflected down the line in publication and abstracting services?

      I think the practical should be valued, especially in what is increasingly a service based profession. Pure LIS work, indexing, classification and cat theory itself needs to practically orientated to remain valuable.

  4. Pingback: Joeyanne Libraryanne » Writing for Publication

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