portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.4 (2003) vii-ix
[Access article in PDF]
An Editor's Life
Gloriana St. Clair
The rhythms of a scholarly journal—submission, review, revision, editing, and finally publication—have dominated my life since 1990 when I became the edi tor of College & Research Libraries. Next year, I will assume new, limited responsibilities as Editor Emeritus while Charles Lowry takes on the role of Managing Editor. Sue Martin will remain as the Executive Editor. The thirteen years I spent at C&RL (1990-1996), Journal of Academic Librarianship (1996-2000), and portal: Libraries and the Academy (2001-2003) have been years of change in librarianship.
For me, the editor's job was about encouraging librarians to share their research and vision on shaping a better future for the scholarly community, and about choosing. In my 1990 inaugural editorial, I encouraged librarians to do more research. The portal board's commitment to helping librarians do quality research by setting up a mentoring program made that desire a practical reality. In choosing, I encouraged change based on solid analysis, logical thinking, a vision of the future, and a concern for students. Directions included the ongoing transition from paper to digital, the impending move from inputs to outcomes, and the focus on students.
Paper to digital: The scholarly communication system, which academic libraries serve, is moving itself, at a varying pace, to a digital approach. Graduate students, the faculty of the future, expect the convenience and added functionality of 24/7 electronic journals. Undergraduates also prefer electronic resources and believe that they are more credible. In the last two years, survey after survey underlined the preference that students and faculty have for using electronic information. portal article download statistics suggest that articles published in Muse are read much more actively than those in the early issues of C&RL, and BioMed Central now boasts that every article in its database is accessed 2,500 times—an astonishing number. 1 An intriguing recent study by Cornell librarians also indicates that computer reference, while still abysmal, is getting much better. 2 Many librarians are actively engaged in realizing the digital future, but more are critical, suspicious, reluctant, and hostile. My energies are focused on a digital future for scholarly communications and its academic libraries.
Inputs to outcomes: Many libraries continue to judge themselves and their peers by measuring the critical inputs—number of volumes added, number of serials, number [End Page vii] of staff, budget, etc. The focus of the larger academic community is shifting towards outcomes. At a recent training for Middle States Commission on Higher Education team chairs and evaluators, speakers focused on the need to be worthy of public confidence and to be able to continue a peer evaluation system, rather than having a government evaluation system imposed on higher education. Middle States' new "Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education: Eligibility Requirements and Standards for Accreditation" focuses on a library that is adequately supported and staffed to support student learning. Libraries will be judged by what information seeking skills students attain. The transition from the older way of thinking to the newer will be fascinating, and Middle States evaluation teams will expect to see this new thinking in self studies being reviewed this year. I think this new expectation will strengthen relationships on campus.
Faculty to students: Dennis Dillon's amusing recent "Observer" column, "The Librarian's World and Welcome to It," in the Chronicle of Higher Education, provides an incisive critique on the politics of journal acquisition on university campuses. 3 Faculty continue to want the library to subscribe to specialized and expensive journals in their narrow research fields. The late Anne Buck at CalTech was one of the most successful of my friends in employing analysis of journal use to convince her faculty to drop little used subscriptions. Most libraries cannot afford the journal acquisition game Dillon satirizes. When I became an editor, changing the library paradigm from acquisition to access was a trend. Some libraries still haven't accepted that shift, much less moved on to consider how their local collection relates not...