Recruiting is underway for a new Editor in Chief for the Journal of the Medical Library Association. The call went up last week on mlanet.org. We’ve listed, in the call, some of the elements that we’ll be considering, but we haven’t set any firm requirements. I hope the list doesn’t scare potential candidates off. The most important qualification is having a passion for it, a desire to make a difference, a willingness to make it a priority and to put in the time. I hope people with an interest will contact me to find out more before deciding that they shouldn’t bother because they think they’re not qualified. I certainly wasn’t when I became editor 20+ years ago. It turned out alright.
I’m chairing the committee. Again. Last time (5 years ago), my co-chair was Mark Funk, and that was great. We were doing a major re-think of the editor’s role and how the editorial team was structured. We needed somebody to give it all a very fresh look. We had good candidates, a tough decision, recommended Katherine Akers, and she’s done a superb job. The editorial process and the editorial board are much stronger and more effective than before she dug into it.
It’s a big job, but there’s good support from the editorial team and MLA headquarters staff. I asked Katherine about the time commitment and she said about 20 hours a week when she started, but then tapering to about 10 as she got things organized to her liking. The initial ramp-up should be much easier for whoever takes it on this time. Again, if somebody’s uncertain about the level of support they think they’d need, they should check in with me so we can discuss it.
The “what’s in it for me” question comes up. That’s fair, but the biggest benefits are intangible. Depending on how you view your career, it may be a useful resumé item, but I never thought about it that way. I never thought about “career” that way. Being editor gave me an opportunity to have impact, large and small. It made me think about scholarly publishing and the role of professional societies in ways that were new for me. It opened many doors, gave me a platform to explore ideas and make connections with people across the scholarly communication landscape. It certainly advanced my “career” in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m sure that’ll be the case for whoever steps into the role next. Although it’d be terrible if that was somebody’s primary reason for doing it.
We’re looking for a successor a little sooner than expected. Katherine just took a job outside of medical librarianship (one that looks like a great fit for her) and decided it made sense for her to step back and appoint an interim while we look for a new EIC. She’s staying on as a Senior Editor, so we can continue to rely on her expertise through the transition. The new EIC will, of course, put their own stamp on things, but they’ll have a very solid structure to work with.
So there we are. It’s a very good committee, with some folks with non-MLA editing experience who’ve already contributed a great deal. Despite the holiday season I’m hoping we can get some good applications by the end of the month and have a recommendation to the MLA Board of Directors by early February. Wish us luck!