Publish Or Perish. Ever heard that phrase before? It echos through the halls of the university and hearts of grad students around the world, prompting many-a-late night in the library and archives (which is a good thing!) researching, writing, writing, writing. And to what end? Potential recognition for publishing in a journal, a new line on your resume, or respect as a “leader” in the field? How and where does this sort of academic rigor fit into the common experience of the library, museum or archives student? Does it?
It would seem that for a majority, writing and publishing a journal or book might not matter at all. In fact, this could be one area that challenges the idea of “Big Tent Librarianship” that our own Britt Foster wrote about weeks ago, since it is most often the academic librarians that are expected and required to “publish or perish.” Well, in the spirit of all things hackery, I’d like to propose that that is hogwash, and that as students in this field it is our responsibility to foster a culture of writing and sharing for the purpose of opening discussions across the field, regardless of institutional affiliation or professional track.
Ok. Great. Really inspiring little paragraph there. Here comes the honesty – the work of writing and publishing is not easy. And I really dislike the whole structure of it. In fact, the reason I took up blogging here and on my own blog was to avoid the whole publishing thing entirely. Peer review really rustles my feathers, and the potential for rejection is nothing short of the worst. My personal thoughts on journals are that they are an old, outdated, closed model for keeping information and data in the hands of the field “leaders.” (That doesn’t sound anti-authoritarian at all, right?) ;)
HOWEVER – I recognize that sometimes utilizing a model that might need a facelift can become the change that it needs. The good news is that others are having similar recognitions, and doing something about it. For example, my fellow HLS editor Julia is also an editor for B-Sides, an open access peer reviewed journal that showcases student and alumni work at UIowa. The open access journal, and the idea of open data (a growing concept in Scholarly Communications) generally, could become a real watershed moment in the old publish or perish conversation.
Finally, I have a recommendation. The Library Student Journal is where we should all begin. Not only are they focused on publishing works by students specifically, but they also are evolving the model by supporting open access to the articles and by publishing continually instead of bi-montly or quarterly as many other journals do. Or, publish your research papers and projects on your own site/blog. The point is that as students, we are in the position that we can try new things, share our research in new ways, and ultimately have an integral part in developing the corpus that will inform future students and the profession. And listen, your Information Organization final paper might not be amazing, but you might have one great insight that could affect a peer or colleague to something even greater.
Lets make a deal – I’ll overcome my disdain for the journal/publishing process and submit something if you will. Any takers?