- Writing and Publishing: The Librarian’s Handbook
Librarians are word people. We read, we write, we share stories—often composing narratives of our own. We write to convey information, to achieve tenure, to express creativity. Editor Carol Smallwood taps into this by collecting a set of works about [End Page 585] writing and publishing, written by and for librarians. With experience in school, public, and special libraries and 18 books to her name, Smallwood has found a niche of her own as an anthologist, identifying topics of interest and then inviting contributors to share their stories.
Writing and Publishing is comprised of 92 essays by 47 librarians who address a wide range of writing topics and genres, from books and blogs to research papers and newsletter articles. Smallwood’s purpose is “to acknowledge the many contributions by librarians who write and to encourage beginning librarian-writers.” (p. xi) Chapters are loosely gathered into major sections entitled Why Write?, Education of a Writer, Finding Your Niche in Print, Finding Your Niche Online, and Maximizing Opportunities. Contributors are published librarians and include academic, public, and school librarians, educators, and technology experts.
Accessible and informative, this collection is a rousing chorus of encouragement from mentors who want us to succeed with our own publishing efforts. Many chapters are practical how-tos that will help readers understand a process or how to create an action plan; others are more philosophical essays. There is some overlap in advice—readers are frequently reminded to write often, to not be afraid of bad first drafts, to follow submission guidelines, and to prepare for rejection—but for the most part, the essays are discrete and focused. Some topics, such as understanding your audience and editing your work, will be relevant to all librarian-writers. More specialized topics, like writing children’s books or restaurant reviews, will appeal to a narrower audience of readers.
Because the scope is so broad, the coverage of each topic is neither comprehensive nor deep. Among the scholarly topics, for instance, new academic librarians will find useful primers in Robert P. Holley’s “Writing for Tenure” and “Peer-Reviewing,” while practiced writers will appreciate Michelynn McKnight’s “Interdisciplinary Publication” and “Research Evidence in Qualitative Data.” But those with a serious need for a full understanding of scholarly communication will be better served by more specialized guidebooks. References and additional resources, included with some chapters but missing from many, would have been welcome additions for readers wanting to delve deeper into a topic.
The collection is most notably thin in its treatment of electronic media. On the whole, Writing and Publishing would have benefited from a greater recognition of the richness of online opportunities and the blurring of lines between print and online publication. The division between parts 3 and 4, Finding Your Niche in Print (37 chapters) and Finding Your Niche Online (only 8 chapters), seems artificial in these days of open-access journals, e-books, and electronic newsletters. A more current approach might have been to organize chapters according to the type and purpose of the writing, such as scholarly publishing or book reviews, rather than the delivery mechanism. The book’s organization is at times mysterious, and many chapters beg for see also references.
Nevertheless, beginning writers looking for an introduction to genres, as well as experienced writers exploring new genres, will find a starting point and a source of inspiration here. Writing and Publishing is recommended for all types of libraries as a professional development tool for faculty and staff, and selections will be useful for library and information science educators. Librarians on tight budgets should not be tempted to substitute Smallwood’s previous [End Page 586] anthology, Educators as Writers (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), which includes librarians as part of its audience. Writing and Publishing is a more useful, more extensive, and better-edited work that holds greater value for both librarians and educators.
Emblematic of Writing and Publishing is Paul Blobaum’s chapter on finding...