The biggest disappointment of my six-year tenure as editor of the Journal of the Medical Library Association was my complete failure to reduce the time lag between submission of an article and its actual appearance. Indeed, during that period of time the lag actually increased slightly, in part due to one of the big successes -- a radical increase in the number of manuscripts submitted.
The new editorial crew is doing quite a bit better, in large part due to the fact that they've got several co-editors to share the workload. They are still hampered by the fact that they're dealing with a quarterly publication. I was just flipping through the latest issue (July 2007) and the lag between submission and acceptance seems to be four or five months, but then it's still got to get into a print issue. The anonymous commenter on The Krafty Librarian complains that five months is still too long, that an article submitted in November doesn't appear until April. As long as there is a print quarterly associated with the JMLA that's going to be tough to get around -- if an article is submitted in November, the January issue is already in production, so April is the earliest that something can appear in print.
They're experimenting with one way of getting around this by posting preprints online -- there are currently four articles up that won't appear in print until the October issue. (Whether or not they should only be available to MLA members -- as is currently the case -- is something I haven't made my mind up about yet).
Eric's frustration at the delay in getting his manuscript published leads him to conclude that traditional publication "can no longer be the trusted source for the dialog and communication going on in our profession today." But equating one poor-quality publisher with "traditional publication" is an overreaction. While some of the Haworth journals have made strong contributions, primarily when they've had smart and dedicated editors, as a publisher Haworth has a long track record of poorly produced publications targeting smaller and smaller niches. Do we really need a Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries and a Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship? But Haworth continues to slice the field into tinier chunks, because they know they can continue to get librarians to serve on editorial boards and librarians to subscribe just enough to make a bit of a profit on each of those titles. And as long as librarians continue to do that, and to submit their articles, Haworth has no incentive to improve things, and librarians have no cause to complain.
There are alternatives. Consider, as an example, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (I serve on the editorial board) -- open access, online, solid peer review, fairly quick turnaround. Or Biomedical Digital Libraries, one of the Biomed Central journals. These are journals started by librarians, for librarians. The combine the best features of traditional publishing with smart use of new technologies.
On many campuses today, librarians are working with their local faculty to encourage them to make smarter choices about where they submit their manuscripts. Librarians should do the same. If you're unhappy with "traditional publishing," your first step should be to quit sending them manuscripts and quit serving on their editorial boards. Publishers will only adapt when they're forced to.