The Wonder of the Unremarkable
Rain and Snow

Too Predictable to be Annoying

In the waning days of the Clinton administration, when many of my friends who'd had such high hopes when Bill was first elected were down in the dumps over the unsavory aspects of his character and the failures of some of their most cherished initiatives, I was fond of saying, "Bill Clinton has never disappointed me."  I rather liked Bill, happily voted for him twice, and think that, all things considered, he had a pretty good presidency.  But I never had illusions about his ego, his excesses, and his feet of clay.  Much as I wish he hadn't been an idiot, I never felt personally betrayed.

I feel the same way watching the flurry of dismay being expressed over the latest issue of The Journal of Access Services, which is apparently a collection of edited blog posts from the Annoyed Librarian.  I'm not disappointed that this appeared in a Haworth journal because, with very few exceptions, I don't have much respect for Haworth as a journal publisher.

I hasten to add that there are very many fine librarians working on Haworth journals as editors and editorial board members and some good material has shown up in the pages of some of those journals.  Medical Reference Services Quarterly has distinguished itself over the years as a pretty useful journal.  But, particularly in the last decade or so, Haworth's approach has been to come up with smaller and smaller niches, and then rope in a bunch of librarians to serve as editors and editorial board members, feeling fairly confident that they'll be able to eke out just enough subscriptions to make the journal marginally profitable.  They exercise little, if any, quality control and clearly provide little support and guidance to their editors.  Most of the journals, particularly the newer ones, are obviously starved for quality manuscripts, so it's not as if they're really filling a need.   Librarians complain about the excesses of commercial publishers, and proclaim the ethical superiority of open access, but when offered the ego stroke of their name on a masthead, appear to be happy enough to work their asses off to enable a two-bit publisher to make some money.   I remain hopeful that the Taylor & Francis acquisition will result in some judicious pruning of the title list, but that remains to be seen.

Personally, I enjoy the Annoyed Librarian.  The kerfuffle over her column in LJ seemed to me a pretty sad example of how librarians (like anybody else, I guess) can quickly lose their senses of humor when the satirical knife gets a little too close to home.  As AL herself has said, the silliest thing anyone can do is to take the Annoyed Librarian seriously.  (And I'm definitely on the side of those who think there is a world of difference between a pseudonymous blogger and an anonymous one). 

But while I think it's fine for Library Journal to pick her up as a columnist, to devote an issue of a supposedly peer-reviewed scholarly journal to a series of edited blog postings that are meant to be nothing more than light entertainment in the first place is pretty reprehensible.  I haven't seen the physical issue (and, of course, it goes without saying that this is not an open access journal) so I don't know how the editor justifies it -- but I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a valid justification.

To those librarians who say, "That's it, I am never going to submit to another Haworth journal again!" I say, "Good for you and it's about time."

But as far as being disappointed by Haworth?  Nope.  Not surprised at all.


Jeff Scott

Would you say that Hawthorne's move is the same as Library Journals? Make money off of the controversy via the Howard Stern effect?

It seemed to irritate one layer with Library Journal (mostly top bloggers), but the second move has irritated the academics. Two sides of the same coin?

T Scott

I think it's unlikely that anyone at Haworth had much to do with this specific instance -- editorial independence is the keystone of scholarly publishing and I've no reason to think that Haworth breeches that (although one would think that they would exercise enough oversight to insure that normal standards of peer review are being followed). Responsibility for the contents of a journal lie with the editor -- in this case, David Pena at Miami Dade College. The introduction to the issue is written by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (Princeton), so he may have served as guest editor. I assume that in his introduction he explains why he thought this was a good idea, but since I don't get the journal, I don't know what that explanation might consist of. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but as I said in my post, I'd be hard pressed to imagine why one would think it a good idea to devote an issue of a supposedly scholarly journal (that only comes out quarterly), to a series of edited blog posts from a satirist. And that's nothing against AL -- I'd be annoyed if someone suggested doing it with MY blog posts.


Add this wrinkle to the mix, and it gets more perplexing and even less appealing:

"I’m on the editorial board for this journal and this was news to me; it just showed up in my mail Friday afternoon."

The comments to this entry are closed.