Guest Post, Part 1: Are Archives Graduate Programs Adequately Preparing Students for Publishing, Researching, and Writing in the Profession?

Thank you to Joshua Zimmerman, lecturer at San Jose State University’s iSchool, for this fantastic post. His in-depth perspective is in 2 posts and I encourage everyone to read it thoroughly. Josh has great strategies to help emerging professionals prepare for and contribute to the intellectual discourse of archival scholarship. (Read Part 2)

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Are archives graduate program adequately preparing students for the profession? As an adjunct lecturer in the Masters of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) online master’s degree program in San José State University’s iSchool, this is a question that I’m constantly asking myself as I hear from students and other professionals. For readers of this blog, perhaps a more relevant but related question would be: are archives graduate programs adequately preparing students for publishing, researching, and writing in the profession? As the one responsible for teaching MARA 285 Research Methods in Records Management and Archival Science, I’m extremely concerned with this question. I thought that readers might be interested in how our research and publishing culture is being taught in one small corner of the profession.

As you read this, I want you to think back to how you were introduced to the norms of researching and publishing in our profession? Were these skills taught in your graduate program, did you already have them, or did you have to pick them up later? Finally, what do you wish you would have learned about writing, researching, and publishing in the archives profession as a graduate student? Keep the answers to these questions in mind as you read below. I’d love to know how MARA 285 stacks up to your experiences, good or bad.

Assignments and Assignment Format

The overall structure and framework of MARA 285 is one that I inherited from a colleague, Jason Kaltenbacher who is also an adjunct professor in the MARA program. While my lectures significantly differ from his, I’ve kept the assignments and overall structure basically the same. Other research courses in the iSchool (and in other MLIS programs), I have found, employ a similar assignment format. I ask students to complete an annotated bibliography, topic proposal, literature review, and final proposal. These assignments build on each other and help students complete the steps in putting together both a formal proposal and the framework of a major research project. Since the internet survey has become the preferred data gathering tool of the profession, I also ask them to complete a group survey project where they develop a short internet survey, cover letter, and rationale statement for each question. 

Social Science Focus

When I first took this course on and looked at the assignments and overall structure, I felt that I wanted to radically change the end project to a publishable article. This would be immediately usable to students as they could submit it to journals and present it elsewhere at conferences or on professional or personal blogs. Within the last couple years, my alma mater (Western Washington University) changed their MA thesis requirement to a much smaller publishable article which, I think, seeks to address this aim. Yet, after using the old proposal assignment structure that I inherited for two years, I’ve completely changed my tune.

I discovered just how important it was to snap students out of what I call the “term paper mentality,” an assignment format that most students are particularly used to and, as I’ve discovered, often revert to if given the chance. This course structure offers students the chance to approach a topic systematically, more like a project than a paper. Instead of writing a term paper and trying to wrap up all the loose ends up by the end of the semester, the objective is only to build the structure in order to execute it after the course concludes. This means, that they design the research, but they stop short of sending out the survey, conducting the field work, or digging into records in an archives. I feel that this format ties in better with the assigned textbook chapters that break down different aspects or approaches to research. It also forces students to step back and formalize what they are doing and more importantly, how they plan on doing it. They are asked to put together a research schedule and justify why they are qualified to conduct this research as part of the final proposal.

Challenges, Problems, and Issues

One problem that I encountered during the first year concerned appropriate topic choices. Other courses in the MARA program such as Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation or Management of Records and Archival Institutions have clearly defined topic limits. These are built into the course. For instance, you probably can’t write a term paper on medieval recordkeeping for the Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation class.

MARA 285, however, is wide almost wide open as far as potential research topics go. That medieval recordkeeping topic is fair game in MARA 285. While there are endless opportunities for topics, there are nevertheless some limitations. I ask that students choose a topic related to the archives, RIM, or library science fields. I encourage students to bring in their interests and give it a records twist. For instance, last year, one military historian in the class designed a project around military recordkeeping. Though the course is taught from a social science perspective, I want students to specifically engage the professional literature of archives and RIM. This year, in addition to some clarifying language and a preemptory blog post on the MARA program website, I’ve added the typology of archives research topics by Couture and Ducharme (1). This typology spells out all the flavors of research conducted in the archives profession (and by extension, RIM). This seemed to have helped students frame their research within the profession.

Another problem that occurred this year was students’ lack of confidence in their professional experience. Unfortunately, due to scheduling, some students take this class as a first year student and in their first semester. To those working in the profession, this might not be a big issue, but for someone who is brand new to the profession, this course might be a bit daunting because it asks students to choose a topic in the profession and develop it over the course of the semester. As mentioned above, I provide guidance on choosing topics in the lecture, but especially for the literature review which asks students to isolate the major literature on their particular topic, this has been stressful or at least it has been related to me as such. This is sometimes daunting for seasoned archivists, let alone first year students. 

Incorporating Perspectives

In addition to the assignments and readings mentioned above, I’ve added a video series called Research in the Wild. In it, the class gets to hear about the research and writing process from other archivists and records managers. I launched it late in the course in 2015 with a few videos, mostly 5-10 minutes. This year, I have a video for nearly each module and hopefully a lot more for next year. Video submissions have addressed specific project-related research challenges as well as more broadly, research agendas, theses, the editing process, differences in publishing in and out of school, and Fulbright Scholarship research among others. In my own archival program, I enjoyed hearing from guest lecturers and talking with archivists and RMs on field trips and it’s these experiences that I’ve tried to recreate. I felt a bit uncomfortable asking archivists and records managers to do free work for me, so I decided to donate to SAA’s Mosaic Scholarship on behalf of those who submit videos. If you’d like to submit a video for next year or know someone who might, please let me know (zimmerj6@gmail.com). From some early feedback from students this year, I’ve learned that the writing process might be more important than I initially thought. So as a result, I’ll be seeking archivists and RIMs who want to talk about this aspect of the profession.

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NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Announce Fellowships for Digital Publication

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is proud to join the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in announcing the recipients of the first round of NEH-Mellon Fellowships for Digital Publication. The new special opportunity within NEH’s fellowship program is intended to stimulate the emerging field of digital publication.

Read the full press release.

Some of the projects have an archival foundation or components. See the full list of awarded projects.

Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation (Free Webinar)

Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation

Presenter: Alison M. Lewis, Chief Acquisitions Editor for Library Juice Press

This free webinar will provide an overview of the processes involved in having a book published with Library Juice Press. Topics covered will include types of books we publish, submitting a proposal, working with your editor, creating a quality manuscript, and an overview and timeline of the publishing process. The intended audience is anyone curious about our publishing process, particularly those who are potentially interested in submitting a book proposal to us. Authors and editors who currently have a book contract with us may also wish to attend. The presentation will last approximately 45 minutes, with 10-15 minutes for questions afterwards.

February 1st, 12 noon EST. One hour duration.

No prior registration is necessary. Just go here at the meeting time:
https://libraryjuice.adobeconnect.com/working-with-ljp/

Rory Litwin
Library Juice Press
http://libraryjuicepress.com/

CFP: Library Publishing Forum 2017

This is not archives-specific, but has potential to be relevant to or have participants from archives.

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Library Publishing Forum 2017
Evolution, intersection, and exploration in library publishing

The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) is accepting proposals for the 2017 Library Publishing Forum, to be held March 20 – 22, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. An international, community-led organization with over 60 member libraries, the LPC promotes the development of innovative, sustainable publishing services in academic and research libraries to support content creators as they generate, advance, and disseminate knowledge.

Library publishing programs often venture into new territory: experimenting with integrating digital media into scholarly works, reaching out to new partners and audiences, turning pilot projects into fully-operational initiatives, encountering unforeseen challenges, and boldly going where few libraries have gone before.  At the 2017 Library Publishing Forum, we invite library publishers and partners to share their experiences and ideas, identify opportunities for collaboration, strengthen a community of practice, and explore strategies for navigating this expanding and evolving subfield of academic publishing.

We welcome proposals from Library Publishing Coalition members and nonmembers, including librarians, university press staff, publishing service providers (vendors), scholars, students, and other scholarly communications and publishing professionals. We especially encourage first-time presenters and representatives of small and emerging publishing programs to submit proposals. We invite proposals for long form (40-60 minutes) and short form (10-15 minutes) sessions, in the following formats. Proposals for long form sessions must involve multiple speakers or actively engage participants in discussion or other activities.

Speakers: individual or panel presentations, debates, panel discussions, lightning talks, case studies, manifestos, critiques. Collaborative Conversations:  birds-of-a-feather, roundtables, unconference-style sessions, sharing ideas and approaches, collaborative problem-solving.  Applied Practice:  workshops, hackathons, remixing, doing, creating, hands-on activities.

Other formats and approaches are very welcome, especially sessions that incorporate interactivity and audience participation.

We invite presentations that address any library publishing topic. Topics that we find interesting and timely include:

* Intersections & Connections – building teams, partnerships, making connections within & beyond institutions
* Merging & “Mainstreaming” – integrating publishing into the core (and expected) services of an academic library, evolving from experimental to established
* Inclusion & Expansion – advancing a plurality of voices and perspectives by design in library publishing
* Flops & Failures – overcoming challenges, moving on from failures, learning quickly from what hasn’t worked in order to establish what does
* Teaching & Reaching – how can library publishing enhance learning for students and professionals both in and beyond librarianship?
* Predicting & Preserving – how are library publishers grappling with usage data/predictive analytics and the preservation of digital scholarship outputs?
* Unconventional & Unexpected – challenging conventional wisdom, exploring off-the-wall approaches, drawing inspiration from unusual sources.

For more details about how to submit a proposal, please see the event
website: http://librarypublishing.org/events/lpforum17/cfp

Proposals are due December 13, 2016.

On behalf of the Program Committee,

Rebecca Welzenbach

Going to SAA? Opportunities to Talk about Publishing

Every year, there are opportunities to talk to SAA staff and editors about publishing. Speaking from experience, taking the initiative to speak to them can bring opportunities. At the very least, you’ll make a new connection and learn more about publishing with SAA. As I wrote a year ago, it was the SAA Write Away! breakfast that started my involvement with SAA publishing. That was five years ago and I’m still involved. And if you recognize names of authors, editors, or anyone else associated with publishing, I encourage you to introduce yourself and start a conversation.

As a former editor, I truly enjoy talking to anyone about publishing. I see everyone as a potential author and I want to motivate people to write and help them reach their potential. If you see me at SAA, I will gladly talk to you about writing a journal article, a book, or anything else about publishing. And if we don’t have time to chat at SAA, please follow up and we can schedule a time to talk. Truly, this goes for anytime, non just at or around SAA.

So go forth and converse about publishing and writing!

SAA Bookstore Hours:
8:30-5pm, Wednesday;
7:30-5:30 Thursday
7:00-5:00 Friday
8:00-10:00 Saturday

Thursday, August 4
One Book, One Profession Discussion: 12:15-1:30 Brown Bag
American Archivist Article Discussion: 12:15-1:30 Brown Bag
Toast to SAA Authors: 3:15-3:45

Friday, August 5
Write Away! Breakfast: 8:00-9:00
Office Hours, American Archivist, Publications Board, Dictionary Working Group: 12:30-1:30

 

Help SAA Shape Future Publications

The SAA Publications Board needs you! Take this 10-minute survey about your book reading preferences and help shape the future of book publishing at SAA. Submit your responses today (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/saabooks), and enter your name in the drawing to win a new iPad with complimentary digital access to three SAA books.

As a former member of the Publications Board, I know your voice is important. Publishing is changing and evolving, and knowing how both members and non-members would like to access is important to the development of SAA publishing. Please share your opinion!

Forced Writing: On the Tenure-track

Most of us became archivists because we love history, organizing, libraries, and “old stuff.” Though we had to write during library school, many of us did not plan on writing more than finding aids. However, many academic librarians and archivists are expected to publish as one aspect of receiving tenure. It is stressful when your job is contingent on fulfilling this obligation.

If writing isn’t a passion, forced publishing is definitely a challenge. At my institution, obtaining tenure has requirements related to librarianship, publishing/creative works, and service. When I started, I was one year out of finishing my PhD. Obtaining that degree made me much better prepared for the publishing requirement and for that I am grateful. Library schools may emphasize writing, but it’s more of a requirement for that degree than to pursue publishing.

It is stressful for many tenure-track archivists to publish. As noted previously, I’ve had many discussions with people who wonder if they have anything to say (see here and here). There is a time requirement to go up for tenure, therefore a time requirement to publish articles or book chapters. On the one hand, it forces you to be proactive in deciding what to write about, as Eira Tansey wrote. On the other hand, it can be an incredible amount of pressure.

I’m not well-versed in tenure requirements across all academic institutions, but I will generalize that many require publishing peer-review articles. Having one or more articles evaluated by professional peers is much more rigorous, therefore has more weight, than publishing newsletter articles, blog posts, or other informal writings. Writing a book has merit as well, but as we have fewer book publishing options than other academic disciplines, that is harder to accomplish (plus it takes a lot longer).

Having gone through the tenure process and as a supervisor to library faculty, here’s what I can offer:

  • Pick a journal first. Find one that aligns with your interests and passions. Read a few of the recent articles, browse past issues to see topics, etc. Contact the editor to ask if your idea would be of interest. And read the information for authors. While we all may aspire to write for The American Archivist, it’s highly competitive and you might be better off starting with another journal.
  • Don’t want to write about archives practices? Depending on your institution’s requirements, consider publishing in non-archives journals. Try library or other academic disciplinary journals. Do archival research on a topic of interest. (Blatant self-promotion, I used the archival research I did for my dissertation to publish in Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History)
  • Start with an idea. You don’t have to have an exact argument to start writing. Once you research and write out your thoughts, it will evolve and become focused. Interested in digital forensics? privacy and confidentiality? outreach? Have you read an article or book that you strongly disagree with or you think could be improved or reacted to? Read a few books and articles to see what’s been said, what you agree/disagree with, then write.
  • Find colleagues with similar interests to see about co-authorship.
  • Start with a library school paper or presentation and expand it.
  • Write about something that interests you. It’s hard to be disciplined about writing when you have little or no interest in the subject.
  • Write about a project you completed, an initiative you started, or your experience with any aspect of archives. While theory is important, many archivists are interested in others’ practices that they can implement or adapt.
  • Write, write, write.
  • Start earlier rather than later. It can take 1-2 years to publish an article, taking into account the writing, peer-review, editing, and final publication. There’s no guarantee of acceptance, and you may have to submit, resubmit, or rewrite more than one article or for more than one journal. (Yes, an article I wrote with colleagues was rejected)
  • Create goals, timelines, outlines, number of pages to write a day/week, place to write, music to listen to, number of diet cokes to drink, and so forth. When you accomplish your set goals (say, weekly), reward yourself.
  • Make writing a priority and be disciplined. Carve out time daily/weekly (whatever works for you) to keep momentum and progress.
  • Write, write, write.
  • Take it a little at a time. Thinking about the entire article can be overwhelming, so focus on a section. Before you know it, you’ll have the whole article written.
  • Find support, whether at your institution, other colleagues, a writing group, or friends. Talking to people about your ideas or having others read your writing can go a long way to stay motivated.
  • Write, write, write.
  • Allow yourself to gripe and complain. Then let it go and keep writing.
  • Don’t try to make an article perfect. Be coherent, concise, grammatically correct (or at least mostly), and cite your sources. But remember that editors and reviewers will always have feedback, suggestions, and grammatical corrections.
  • Write one article at a time.
  • Don’t be overambitious. For example, if you are interested in doing a survey but don’t have experience in qualitative/quantitative analysis, it could be difficult to take on such a project.
  • Write, write, write.