The List: Twelve
Christmas Shopping

My Last Issue

When I first took this on, I thought I'd do three terms as editor.  During the first term, I'd just be getting the hang of it.  I'd take the second term to really hit my stride, and then the third to stretch myself and make my mark.  Since the MLA Bylaws seem to imply that the editor can only serve two terms (although I did figure out a loophole), by the spring of '04 I was reaching the point where I'd have to petition the board to let me serve one more term.  I went to bed one night in April, weighing the pros and cons, intending to use my writing time the next morning to draft a letter to Carla laying out my case.  But when I stretched out on the couch the next day, coffee at the ready and notebook in hand, I realized that sometime during the night I'd come to the realization that I didn't want to give it another three years after all.  I'd accomplished much of what I'd set out to, and I'd put off other things that I was interested in because I didn't have the time.  I wasn't playing nearly enough guitar and it'd been ages since I'd been able to get to Marty's regularly.  And Lynn wanted me back on weekends.

Now I'm in the thick of editing my last issue (it'll come out in April), and I know it was the right decision.  I've been drenched in the library literature for six years, and it's harder and harder to put myself in the frame of mind of the typical reader.  I was getting ready to cut a couple of background paragraphs from one of the articles I was working on yesterday, thinking, "You don't need to go into all this -- everybody knows this stuff...."   And then I pulled myself up short, thinking, is this really common knowledge?  Or does it just seem like it to me?  I left the paragraphs in.

I've always tried to be very conscious of the widely diverse audiences the JMLA has, from academics who are doing pretty esoteric research to solo hospital librarians who are just looking for some practical things they can use to make themselves more effective.  Increasingly, that audience is more international, and comes from outside health librarianship (the impact of open access, as I pointed out in the October editorial).  There have been very few times that I've rejected an article strictly because I felt it was out of scope.  Hell, I'm interested in everything -- shouldn't that be the case for all librarians?

Writing the editorials has been the best part, of course.  The deadlines forced me to struggle harder with writing than I've ever had to before, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  Twenty-four editorials (counting the two that haven't appeared yet -- one of which I haven't written yet), and there are a solid handful of paragraphs and sentences that I'm proud of.

My favorite moment, though, has still got to be running into Kent Smith in the lobby of the Dolphin hotel in Orlando during MLA 2001.  He greeted me warmly, and thanked me for the editorial I'd written for that January's issue.  He told me that they'd passed it around on the mezzanine at NLM.  "Keep up the good work," he said.

At that point, I'd known Kent for nearly twenty years.  He'd been the Deputy Director at NLM when I went there as a Library Associate in 1983.  His accomplishments and contributions were legion, and whenever I'd see him, I immediately felt like I was still the same 27 year old fresh graduate, in awe of people like Kent, and trying to figure out what this library stuff was all about.  To have him greet me like that, and compliment me like that, was mind-blowing.  I said to Lynn, "It never really occurred to me that people would actually read this stuff!"  Probably a good thing I felt that way early on, or I would have been too intimidated to write anything at all.

Now, I'm eager to have it behind me.  Another couple of weeks and I'll finish up the editing, and then I'll write that last editorial.  I've put down a few paragraphs; I've got a couple of ideas that I'm playing with.  But I never really know how the editorials are going to turn out until I see the sentences emerge on the screen.  I wonder what I'm going to say this time...

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