Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Where Was Eric’s Manuscript?

I read both part 1 and part 2 of Eric Schnell’s missing manuscript saga. Eric describes his frustration with the publishing industry over the time it took from submitting manuscripts to finally seeing them published. His missing manuscript was submitted in December 2005 and appeared to be AWOL until August 6, 2007 when he received a package from the publisher containing his reprints. Twenty months later!

I am a neophyte when it comes to publishing. I recently just started writing articles. My first "real" article was "The Use of Blogs in Medical Libraries." Journal of Hospital Librarianship 6(1): 2006 1-13. I submitted that article in May 2005 and it was published about a year later. At the time I thought it took forever for it to finally come out. By the time it became available online I discovered they had spelled my name wrong (I am Michelle with two l's not one, thankfully that was caught in the print) and I felt the overwhelming need to update some of the things already published in the article. When I wrote my article there were just a few blogs out there pertaining to medical libraries and librarianship. By the time the article was published, some of the blogs mentioned had died off and others had started up.

After having a few more articles under my belt I have begun to realize that a year turn around time appears to be the norm in the publishing world for library articles. Perhaps it is because I am of the MTV Generation and I expect things to happen at a faster pace, but like Eric I have got to think that the traditional means of publishing must be improved upon. We should not be waiting until 2009 to read about Kathyrn Greenhill’s wiki approach to writing conference papers. Had I not read Eric’s blog I would have had no clue about Kathyrn’s interesting use of wikis. There needs to be a faster method for scholarly communication published in journals to be distributed to the interested community.

In Scott Plutchak’s comment he wonders whether Eric is referring to Haworth Press and mentions they should not be considered a representative of "traditional publication." He states that "major" biomedical publishers have been able to get manuscripts through the peer review process and published electronically in a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately many library journals are published by Haworth Press leaving librarians with fewer options for writing and reading relevant and timely articles. I am also fairly certain the slow pace an article takes on its way publication is not just problem at Haworth. I have been asked to write articles for other publishers and have played the same waiting game as Eric. Perhaps this a problem unique to non-medical publishers. However, as more librarians are adopting rapidly changing technologies and using them in them in the workplace, timely publication is even more critical. Publishers must adapt.


At 3:30 PM, Anonymous said...

As a librarian new to publishing as well, I have heard that the aforementioned publisher can be slow as molasses. Quite honestly, I think the reason some librarians choose to submit to them is because their editors are easier to deal with and don't expect the level or rigor required by the new editors of JMLA. While I appreciate scientific rigor, if we take out all the library journals that are not extremely rigorous, what do we have left? Just a few, and the competition for them is high.

As long as tenure and promotion use publishing as a measuring stick, publishers are going to have the clout to keep doing all the same old tricks.

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous said...

While Haworth is slow and their publishing schedule can be unpredictable, JMLA is no speed demon. I have written for JMLA and an article submitted in November still doesn't get published until April. Granted 5-6 months is quicker than 20, but that is still too slow.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous said...

An article submitted by a certain date is just a fractional part of an issue. If the issue is a quarterly, it is likely that it will be published in the NEXT calendar year.
Granted, twenty months may seem interminable to the individual author but the frequency of a particular journal should play into your decision to submit your work. I've been on both sides of this dilemma. Pay attention to submitted/revised/accepted dates in the articles you read.

At 9:21 AM, Bogie said...

Anonymous 2: you do realize that JMLA is a quarterly publication? From submission to preliminary acceptance to revision to final acceptance to publication in 5 months is not bad for a print publication coming out every three months.


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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: