Manchester ramblings by Helen Kiely

On Tuesday morning I hot-footed up to the train station and hopped on the train to Manchester to attend the CILIP NW members day and AGM entitled ‘Exploring the World of Publishing.’ It was my first time attending a CILIP NW event so I was a little concerned I would a. not know anyone and b. get totally lost. Luckily I was proved wrong on both counts and was lucky enough to run into several people from the network.

At the welcome Michael Cook said that the best thing about the CILIP NW meetings is that you always go away having learned something totally new- knowing very little about publishing I knew that this would definitely be the case for me!

The keynote speaker kicking off the day was Kate Arnold current CILIP President who took us though several topics including the work CILIP is doing in line with the CILIP Action Plan 2016-2020 from advocacy (#amilliondecisisions etcetera) to the changes in membership fees. She reminded everyone that these would be voted on at the CILIP Extraordinary General Meeting on 23rd March in London, and reminded everyone who wouldn’t be able to attend to make sure they cast their vote via proxy- more details are available here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/egm17 .

I was particularly interested when she discussed the future of library and information professionals, both in terms of who/what types of professionals come under CILIPs remit of membership and also in relation to the Open Access movement. She noted that for many academic publishers the writing is on the wall, as it were, and the future of academic articles is likely to be a continuing trend towards Open Access publishing. Academics, of course, generally gain nothing from their work being behind a paywall where others cannot access it which in turn affects both the impact of their work and contributions upon the wider community. It is important to for the impact this will have on library services in terms of accessing, supplying and researching information.

At the same time, she noted that whilst it becomes increasingly easy for people to publish directly online, bypassing publishers entirely, there is still a need both for peer review in the sense of academic articles, and a role for library and information service staff today- including ensuring any produce work is indexed and tagged to ensure it is searchable. She highlighted that some publishers are now advertising meta-data tagging as part of a package of things they can do for article producers (with the likely eventual aim of charging an additional fee to do this) whilst said writers are not aware that they already have access to that expertise within their own institutions as part of their library services.

The next speaker of the day was Maria Grant, Editor of Health Information and Libraries Journal who gave another very interesting view into the world of writing for publication with many useful tips to those who struggle to focus on what they want to write and to those who want to develop experience in writing for academic publication. Some recommendations included:

  • Keep an ‘ideas diary’ wherever you go and jot down ideas for papers as they come
  • When deciding which paper to prioritise working on, write down your working titles and rank them in order of interest, time it will take to produce, information available and any other relevant criteria
  • For those interested in starting out in academic publication, look into becoming a reviewer on a journal or start small with newsletter publications and other forms first
  • Expect your manuscript to come back with revisions
  • Another helpful thing for beginners is to work as part of a team with more experienced authors and learn from them

Along with much more information. She also raised this very interesting point: institutions expect their academics and teachers to write for publication, but not necessarily their library and information service staff.

The next speaker was Catherine Jones, a librarian judge for the 500 words writing competition. Most people are likely now aware of the yearly writing competition for children on the BBC (500 words) but what I certainly wasn’t aware of was that the first wave of judges are comprised of librarians and teachers, who each read around 20-30 entries and mark them. Catherine discussed the marking criteria and also how the OUP archive all of the children’s stories, using them to notice trends and patterns including new words and how much the world around them affects what the children write about, for example the words of the year for the 2016 entries was ‘refugee’ and overwhelmingly in a positive context. Also, who knew that the ratio of happy stories was highest in Llandudno? (More amusing and interesting infographics are available <a href=http://global.oup.com/education/dictionaries/500-words/childrens-language/?region=uk>here</a>)

After a delicious lunch (including a sneaky two of the chocolatiest brownies ever) the final two speakers were Ra Page, from Comma Press and Jackie Ould from the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. Ra gave a real insight into the drivers between big publishers and small time and independent publishing houses both in the difference their structure makes in affecting their publishing decisions, and a little with regards the implications of the rise of amazon in relation to its effect on the publishing market. His publishing house also produces a lot of translated works, including a book of ‘Refugee Tales’ I am definitely adding to my ‘to read’ list, and the first collection of Iranian science fiction stories. He also talked about the difference the form of the short story makes to the types of stories that are told.

Jackie presented a different aspect of fiction publishing based around her work with BME children in Manchester to produce and publish their own books retelling the stories of people they could relate to or admire, including Noor Inyat Khan and Olaudah Equiano, and celebrating black British history. To find out more about the trust’s work go here.

In all it was a very varied series of presentations and I enjoyed each one both for their content and the speakers who come from very different aspects and perspectives but all were passionate and enthusiastic about their subject. I had a terrific day and was so glad to have had the opportunity to attend.

Helen Kiely – Knowledge Services Assistant at Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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