Career Strategies for Librarians
by Wayne Jones
Here are my tips on how you can improve your chances of getting your article published in one of the
many library and information science journals:
1. Have something to say and make sure that someone else has not already said it.
I mean this as both an encouragement and a warning. You should be encouraged because there are
lots of journals out there, printed, online, and available in both formats -- lots of journals that may be to
some extent competing with each other, and so they are anxious to get your article before someone else
does. That's not to say that there are no standards, or that the journals are desperate for copy, or that it is
a crude business of producing more widgets than the competitors -- but just to say that there are
markets out there for you.
You should be (fore)warned, too, though, because you likely can't just write something up and send it in
and expect to have it published. You should poke around first, do some research in order to determine
that the thesis of your article has not already been endlessly thrashed out by others. No, you don't have to
have discovered something that will revolutionize LIS as we know it, but there should be something new
in what you say.
2. Write it well.
I've worked as an editor for about seven years now and I've seen the whole range of quality in the articles
I've read. Most of them are well-written, a small proportion are extremely well-written and a joy to read
(and a cinch to edit), and another small proportion are very badly written. Articles in this last category can
sometimes be cases in which the editor in effect makes the thing readable, and saves the author
considerable embarrassment by preventing his work from being exposed to the public in shoddy form.
So, once you've written your article, set it aside for a while, and then re-read it not so much for the ideas
but for the clarity of the writing. Then give it to friends or colleagues whose abilities you respect. Then
read it again, and submit it to the journal after having incorporated all that you have judged necessary to
3. Be rigorous about the format of your notes.
Most journals will provide guidance about how you should format notes -- all the niceties about whether
it's a period or a comma, what goes inside the quotes and what doesn't, what's in italics, and so on. It
can be pretty tedious for you if you are not the type who is fascinated by that level of excruciating detail.
Instead of trying to work your way through the latest edition of _The Chicago Manual of Style_, for
example, you might take your best guess, and leave it to the editor to fret over and fix.
And, indeed, editors do spend a substantial portion of their time poring over these details, but if you
really want to impress a journal editor, why don't you take it upon yourself to get them right? It will also
give him or her more time to check out what really matters, which is the text of the rest of your article.
4. Don't be intimidated.
In May I participated in a panel presentation on getting published, during the conference of the North
American Serials Interest Group in San Antonio. I offered this advice then, and in a way I think this is the
most important advice. Nicely laid out articles in respected journals can positively glow with authority
when you read them, and you might have trouble imagining that your own humble offerings should even
dare to be so presumptuous as to vie for the same space.
Don't think that. The writers of those articles have gaps in their knowledge and limitations in their work
experience just like you. They don't know it all, and yet they have written articles about what they do know,
and you should feel that you could do the same.
About the Author:
Wayne Jones worked as a librarian for 16 years, most recently as the head of serials cataloging at MIT
and, before that, at the National Library of Canada. He has edited books and written articles, mostly
dealing with cataloging, e-serials, and the web generally. Wayne now runs his own freelance editing
business (canEdit.ca) in Toronto. Visit his website at http://www.canEdit.ca.
Article submitted Dec 2001
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.