Call for Peer Reviewers: JCAS

The Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies (JCAS) seeks peer reviewers for its 2017 special issue: “Governance of Digital Memories in the Era of Big Data.” This special issue will discuss ethical issues regarding institutional memories’ governance in a digital context, which links to the ethics of remembering and forgetting. As we consider our developing digital culture, memory is becoming a distributed endeavor. The issue is addressed not only to “traditional” memory keepers, but also to the emerging community of social actors willing to join the debate about the importance of collective construction of memories. If you would like to participate as a peer reviewer for this special issue, or serve as a peer reviewer for JCAS on an ongoing basis, please email the journal at email.jcas@gmail.com. Sign up by March 31. For more information, visit elischolar.library.yale.edu/jcas.

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Katy Sternberger
Marketing Associate
Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies
email.jcas@gmail.com
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Writing Progress

I recently received feedback on my reference and access book draft. A previous post describes my writing process, and of course several times I’ve mentioned the importance of feedback. The notes I received are extremely helpful, as there are thoughts, questions, and suggestions that never crossed my mind but once I read them, make perfect sense.

Naturally, some are easy fixes and some require more thought and/or research. As a pretty scattered writer, meaning I jump from section to section, I expect that makes it difficult for the reader. I think frequently about the book’s organization. The aspects of reference and access overlap continually, and at times it’s difficult to sort out which points should go where. I also make a lot of notes about ideas and thoughts, and even questions about what should be included, what requires more in-depth discussion versus making a reference and referring to other literature.

Feedback is not a reader stating do-this or do-that and the writer complying. It’s a conversation about how to develop, organize, expand, eliminate, cite, reference, discuss, and write. That conversation leads to the writer achieving a better understanding on how the text is read and interpreted, as well as the reader gaining a better understanding of the writer’s goals and thought processes.

For me, this conversation increases my motivation. Notes and feedback provide clarity in my mind about how to proceed and if I’m on the right track. I’ve spent the past few days reviewing the comments, rewriting, reorganizing, and rethinking. And all this has now led to a milestone – 25,000 words (about 65 pages). While I still have a long way to go, I see what I’ve accomplished so far.

And writing is about accomplishments: the first page, first chapter, first draft, first feedback, etc. So as you write, don’t just think about where you need to go, think about what you already achieved.

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.

 

 

SNAP Twitter Chat about Publishing

Last week I participated in a SNAP Twitter chat (#snaprt, @SNAP_Roundtable). I’ve participated before, but it’s been a while. SNAP does a great job of hosting the chats and having prepared questions. There aren’t many opportunities for such interaction to discuss publishing and I appreciate that this topic comes up every so often for discussion. Most of the conversations I have are one-on-one and occasionally speaking to groups. I’m always happy to participate in these discussions, as are others involved in publishing. From my perspective, I don’t always know who wants these conversations (beyond SNAP) so I encourage others to just ask! I’ve worked hard to make myself accessible, but I know that other editors, authors, or others involved in publishing will also participate. So don’t be afraid to ask.

There’s always so much that comes up during these chats. I won’t be able to recap everything, but I want to touch on a few of the topics. I suspect many people outside of SNAP have the same questions so I hope you find this helpful.

How do I know what’s interesting to others?; it’s already been done. Understandably, when one is new to the profession it is hard to know what to write about and whether others will want to read it. It takes time to catch up on where scholarship is. I’ve encouraged people to write about their interests or where they see gaps. No one knows every article or book written, and that’s where a good editor comes in. Many submissions to Provenance cited scholarship I didn’t know about. However, often I and the peer-reviewers recommend additional articles if we believe it necessary. No matter if you are new or seasoned, there is the question whether others will find it interesting. So, talk to your peers, coworkers, friends, colleagues, and ask. Or email an editor and ask. Pick a topic, read a few articles, and think about it. Then write and submit. The only way you will know for sure is if you submit and accept the feedback. There’s been a bunch of new journal issues (just browse the most recent posts) so start there. Read more in a previous post.Others know so much more and I don’t want to BS. That sentiment is appreciated. The longer I was an editor, the easier it was to spot a graduate course paper submission. I don’t say that as a bad thing, because grad school is about generating and discussing ideas, learning about the profession, and engaging with scholarship. When I was writing my dissertation, I frequently felt what most grad students do – that I’ll look dumb if I forget that one book, that one article, where my committee would think “How could she not know about that?” But you know what, that seldom happens. If you do appropriate research, you become the expert and you’ll find the resources. Don’t try to read every word of everything; start by reading book reviews and abstracts. Chances are, you’ll miss something and a good editor will provide it for you. And absolutely don’t BS. As long as you can provide evidence for your argument, are clear and articulate, don’t use a lot of colloquialisms, and are logical, you’re more than halfway there. The best way to learn as much as others know is through writing and research. How do you think they became experts?

Turning a conference presentation into an article. Do it! As you prepare for a presentation, keep track of your sources, write an article alongside your presentation. But please, don’t submit only the text of your presentation. Remember, writing for publication is different from reading your ideas in front of an audience. Several times, I followed up with conference presenters and suggest they submit to Provenance. So think about it before you present and you can have a solid draft or full article for submission.

Revise and resubmit is hard. Yes, and honestly, it seldom gets easier. I did write a post about this a while ago. And this question reminded me that I meant to write more (hence the part 1 of many), so I will get back to that at some point. But if any of you want to share your experiences, whether good or bad, I welcome all perspectives and guest posts. And, as noted also below, a blog post is a great way to start writing.

Write to non-archivists. This part was particularly interesting to me. We are not limited to writing to each other. Yes, that strengthens our profession and engages each other. But what about librarians, users, historians, and others? Bringing non-archivists into our writing sphere will help us understand our users more as well as raise awareness of the archival profession. Do you collaborate with donors, faculty, users, or anyone else you can co-author with? What about asking researchers to write about their experience? When I taught classes, I always try to find non-archivist perspectives. One article I used multiple times was Joan Zenzen’s “Administrative Histories: Writing about Fort Stanwix National Monument” (sorry, I wish it was open access but is available through JSTOR or request through interlibrary loan). And a excellent book is Kate Eichhorn’s Archival Turn in Feminism. Can’t help but enjoy a book written by someone who reveres archivists. In other words, think outside the box. Also, you are not limited to archives publications. Write for disciplinary journals, library journals, digital humanities journals, government resources, or whatever falls within the scope of your interests.

Some general tips:

  • don’t let your profession define what you write
  • book reviews and blogs are a great place to start
  • write with a publication in mind instead of squeezing it into requirements
  • find a writing group

It was a great conversation and lots of great ideas came up, both about writing and topics of interest. I also keep thinking about what else we need to do to continue these conversations. Don’t forget, I welcome suggestions for topics. I thank all of you for reading this blog but I see it as only one way to share experiences. So let’s keep the conversations going in whatever ways we can!