ATG Interviews Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University and Editor of both Magazines for Libraries™ and Magazines For Libraries™ Update

by | Oct 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Cheryl (2)

ATG: Magazines For Libraries™ Update has been posting reviews since Jan. 2012.  What is new about this version? The “Update” is being published as a blog, correct? Is that because it gives you more flexibility?  Are there other advantages?

CL: The former update was published quarterly, and offered only 10 reviews each quarter, for a total of about 40/year. This new Magazines For Libraries™ Update (http://www.proquest.com/blog/mfl/) is becoming more of a blog, with reviews being posted much more frequently and on a continuous basis, so yes – it does give us better flexibility and the chance to get onto newer titles faster. I’m the principal reviewer, but there will be other reviewers posting, too, and I’m hoping to find subject-expert readers who are interested in reviewing, much the same as I find authors for the printed Magazines For Libraries™ volume (those interested in reviewing should just get in touch with me at claguard@fas.harvard.edu). We depend upon the readership and expert librarian colleagues to make both these resources possible.

I’m also hoping that the new blog will give us more power for getting quality input and feedback about titles, including reader comments and crowdsourcing for content and quality.

ATG: What about disadvantages? Blogs are a “pull” technology. They are not “pushed” at the reader like a print or online subscription.  Are you relaunching in hopes of driving more traffic to the blog? If so, what is your strategy to build readership?

CL: The new Magazines For Libraries™ Update has the ability for a visitor to subscribe via an RSS feed, so essentially the posts will be “pushed” to the subscriber. ProQuest issued a news release to increase awareness of the blog. (http://www.proquest.com/about/news/)

ATG: What is the relationship between the classic print reference and the online Update?  Is the ownership of these two sources the same?  Has the ownership changed within the last few years?

CL: The classic print reference Magazines For Libraries™ volume continues to be what the extraordinary Bill Katz envisioned when he began it in 1969: the “go-to” resource providing librarians with the serials information we need to build and maintain quality collections that best meet our users’ needs. It also gets used in library schools for helping teach collection development methods, and it gets used widely in information literacy classes to help teach students how to differentiate between good and not-so-good information resources.

This online Update is going to focus on open access and niche titles that may not make it into the print volume quickly – or at all – but that will still be of high interest to libraries because of budget constraints (enabling libraries to expand some coverage in various subjects without taking a “budget beating”) and because many libraries are serving “niche” users demographically and geographically, and the niche titles will be essential for them.

Ownership and editorial management for both resources has been ProQuest for the last several years.

ATG: We notice that you will be reviewing subscription, open access, and niche magazines/journals.  How are you defining open access and niche titles? How many titles in total will you review in each Update?  How often will the Update come out?

CL: The open access titles we’ll be reviewing are those titles that (relying on Peter Suber’s definition from his Open Access Overview) are digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. We’ll rely heavily on titles that are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals and, to a lesser extent, the ROAD Directory of Open Access Scholarly Resources, this latter having been brought to my attention by Katina Strauch (for which many thanks, Katina!).

Niche titles are a little more subjective to define. I’m thinking of them as those titles that may be too narrowly focused to fit easily into a current Magazines for Libraries™ chapter, but that are still of such content and quality that they will have something substantial to offer specialized groups.

Since the new Update is being created on a continuous basis, there won’t be individual, discrete Updates, per se, nor will there be a specified periodicity except the goal of having at least 5 to 8 titles reviewed per month. So in serials’ speak I’d say the publication schedule is “irregular and continuous.”      

ATG: What criteria are being using to decide which titles to review? What percentage of the titles being reviewed is academic? What percentage is popular? What type of balance are you striving for?

CL: Great question! As you know, most of the open access titles that are presently produced are academic in nature, so among the open access titles I foresee a heavy emphasis on scholarly titles for the near future. The niche titles I’d like to concentrate on are those that haven’t been listed in the printed volume but that I’d really like to make sure librarians know about. I can give you two examples of those right off the top of my head: Small Axe: a Caribbean Journal of Criticism, and Southeast Asian Studies, both of which are excellent journals well worthy of librarians’ and other scholars’ notice.

I pick titles for review in a variety of ways: if something new pops up and it looks promising we try to cover it. If a colleague brings a title to my attention I give it a look and it may be reviewed. And I’m constantly checking resources like Ulrichsweb, LJ’s Best Magazines, the web, and newsstands for new and interesting titles. The Update will necessarily have much academic content, but we’re trying to increase the number of consumer, hobbyist, and special subject titles we cover. I don’t have a set percentage in mind, because so much depends upon what new titles are being brought to “market” (physical and virtual) and what niche areas will be of import to different segments of library user populations – both of these factors change constantly. One way the new Update can help us achieve this is by reader recommendation, followed by reader review. If an Update reader finds a promising title they think should be covered, by getting in touch with me about it we can consider if, and by whom, a review could be done.

ATG: How many contributors have you lined up?  How do you select your contributors? What qualifications do they need? How do you distribute the reviewing assignments?

CL: Right now I’m writing almost all the reviews. Chris Oka, a reference librarian at Northeastern University, is also doing some reviews – Chris has a gift for finding popular and unusual titles and I rely on her a lot for these. She possesses the characteristics I look for in reviewers: she meets deadlines, she writes clearly and accessibly, and she brings to the reviewing an indefatigable curiosity, which I think is the mark of a good reviewer. I have some other wonderful folks I may ask to review, as well, but I’m hoping to build a broader reviewer base among Update readers – so if anyone reading this article has an idea for a title to review, please do get in touch with me – we’ll talk. 

ATG: How do you hope the new Magazines For Libraries™ Update will affect the world of magazine and journal publishing? What do you hope it will contribute to the library profession?

CL: I’m hoping the new Magazines For Libraries™ Update will help librarians augment their collections with valuable open access titles; make informed collection decisions about what titles they buy with their shrinking budgets; keep useful, worthwhile publications alive in a highly competitive journal market; and provide a publishing venue for newer librarians to begin to write and review in the professional literature. I got my start in writing for libraries with Magazines for Libraries™Bill Katz was my advisor, teacher, and mentor in library school, and I worked on a number of editions, and referred many colleagues to Bill for doing chapters, before he asked me to take the volume on when he retired from it. So it’s my hope that the Update will continue and extend the legacy of work that Magazines for Libraries™, and Bill Katz, have done for so long.

September 27, 2014

Pin It on Pinterest