Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Broader Question

I'm late to this particular party, which might be the closest thing to an unforgivable sin in the blogosphere (god, what a horrible word). But sometimes being late to the party has certain advantages.

Perspective, for one. Reflection, for another. Context, for a third.

So by now everybody who could possibly care one way or the other knows that the Journal of Access Services ran an issue that consisted entirely of articles by the Annoyed Librarian. Hilarity ensued, and you wouldn't have needed a Magic 8-Ball to predict exactly how: it's the death of peer review! OMG, how can anyone take the Journal of Access Services seriously now?! Or library science scholarship for that matter?? How will I explain this to my students? What were the editors thinking?? (It turns out the editors didn't even know--how's that for setting the dog among the pigeons?)

Let me advance this thought: if the state of scholarly publishing in our field is so perilous that a joke issue of a journal (something not unheard of in other disciplines, including ones with a much longer and more substantive history of scholarship than ours, which is most of them--the British Medical Journal's Christmas issues come to mind, or the Annals of Improbable Research) is capable of destroying it, then we have much, much bigger problems than the Annoyed Librarian.

Assuming that you think the Annoyed Librarian is a problem.

I'm not here to accuse those who think so of having no sense of humor. I personally find the AL's schtick pretty one-note; this profession has plenty of sacred cows, but once you've shot them, is it necessary to come back around and beat up on the carcass? Maybe the AL agreed, and decided to do this as a way of following his or her own act. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. Because if this stunt and the response to it generates an examination of library science scholarship, and particularly its flaws, then it will have served a useful purpose.


Kaijsa said...

I love the Annals of Improbably Research! Just had to get that off my chest first.

I couldn't get too riled over the Annoying Librarian, but I have gotten riled over comments from some "famous" library bloggers that peer-review is lame anyway and that nobody reads LIS lit, so it doesn't matter if Haworth whores itself this way. I agree we have a long way to go toward generating a truly awesome body of scholarship for our profession, but I also don't want to dismiss it out of hand. I do read LIS lit, and Educational Research lit, and Composition Studies lit, and so on.

Like you, I've been chewing on this for a while. Sometimes, even in the age of the internet, it's good to be a little late to the party.

datamuse said...

I don't want to dismiss it out of hand, either, considering how much of it I read (especially recently). I do take issue with the current trend toward anything with numbers attached, especially since, having met and worked with some actual social science researchers, I think our field has a long way to go in this area.

But I'm biased, because I like the critical and philosophical writings better, and that's the kind of research I prefer to do and I wish we'd gotten more training in that in library school. Yes, I must proudly proclaim that I've become a fan of Patrick Wilson.

If I went around my campus proclaiming that peer review was lame, a lot of the faculty I have better relationships with would probably never speak to me again.

I'm inclined to agree with posts like T Scott's, that this says more about Haworth than about library scholarship in general. (Haworth's bad reputation isn't confined to library science; I've heard a couple of faculty from disparate disciplines criticize them.)