Every piece of writing should tell a story. This is as true for a report for my boss (like the update on our investigations into the impact of journal cancellations that I need to get done this week), as it is for an essay that I may be preparing for print, or a tale about Josie that I post here. Same thing for any kind of a presentation that I might do for a conference: What's the plot? Who are the characters? Where's the dynamic tension? How do I want the audience to feel when they've come to the end?
I have lots of stories to work on in the next few months:
In two weeks I'm doing a presentation on open access for the annual meeting of the NCRR/SEPA program directors. My assignment is to take 10-12 minutes to discuss what open access journals are, why SEPA PIs should be interested in publishing in them, and any other advice I have about "publishing in open access journals or publishing in general." To do this adequately in the time allotted is practically impossible. Approaching it as a story helps to keep the presentation concise and on track, rather than just a scattering of semi-related facts.
The editor of the JMLA asked me to write a guest editorial for the January 2011 October 200910 issue. I'm quite thrilled about this since the editorials that I wrote while I was running the thing include some of the best writing that I've ever done, and I've missed having that challenge. I'm going to use the opportunity to write about the experience of participating in the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable. The report stands on its own and we've been pleased with the reception that it's gotten, but what I'm interested in relating in the editorial is what it was like on the inside -- as far as I'm aware, the Roundtable was the only occasion during all of the smoke and thunder surrounding the open access discussions of the past decade or so that a group of stakeholders covering the range of views that we did was brought together to have the kinds of intense discussions that we did. There ought to be more of that.
I promised Flannery that I'd work with BtheA on an article about medical humanities for the theme issue of the JMLA that he's putting together. I'm far, far behind on the original schedule that I'd set for that, although I do have a pretty good sense of how I want to approach it. The tension between the need to educate physicians for the science and to try to help them become fully rounded human beings at the same time remains unresolved, and I'd like to dig a bit into the issues surrounding that tension.
In June I'll be in San Francisco as part of a panel presenting at the annual SSP meeting. My brief for this is to talk about budgets in libraries -- the things that publishers don't necessarily know or think about. The panel comes out of the efforts of the Chicago Collaborative, part of our range of education activities designed to bring librarians and publishers to a greater understanding of the challenges and issues that each other faces. In this case, the story that I want to tell has to do with the varied ways in which libraries get funded, the multiplicity of priorities that are always jostling for resources, the gradual shifting in how library directors are thinking about allocating those resources -- and what that might mean for publishers.
July takes me to the annual CESSE meeting in Pittsburgh to talk about open access, public access, and the various issues that the Roundtable occupied itself with. Until I got the invitation, I didn't know that CESSE existed, but it's no surprise since there is an association for everything. It's possible that I'll have crossed paths with some of these folks at other meetings, but I do particularly like going to meetings that are outside of my usual orbit. Librarians spend too much time talking amongst themselves. They need to get out more.
And then there's the Doe Lecture. I don't actually give that until May of next year, and don't need to have it ready to send to the JMLA editor for a month or two after that, but I've started to think about the story arc for it. As I've remarked to a number of people, while I've had the opportunity to do many interesting and valuable things with the Medical Library Association, the only two things I ever really wanted to do were to edit the Bulletin (back when it was the Bulletin rather than the Journal) and to someday give the Doe Lecture. It means a great deal to me that I'm going to have that chance.
All of these stories, of course, are variations on the same themes -- the radical changes occurring in the realm of scholarly communication and the tremendous opportunities that they present for librarians. The tale unfolds in the telling. As always, when I'm looking ahead to a presentation or a piece of writing, I'm eager to find out what I'm going to say.