Submitted by Linda Zieper, editor
This year, the fifth I have served as Update editor, has been by far the hardest and most beset by problems. These began before the 2000 annual meeting and are not yet resolved. Problems with distributing the newsletter, both in paper and electronic format, have diminished its usefulness. Coordination between editor, headquarters and production house is improving. Dealing directly and almost exclusively with Michael Birklein, ION Communications, who has become familiar with the publication’s style and bibliographic conventions, has made editorial oversight of the layout much quicker and simpler than the initial process that involved considerable involvement from headquarters staff. While there were difficulties and delays in the production of the last issues under Adler Droz and the first issues under Clarke Associates caused in part by production schedules that, understandably, could not accommodate the late submission of essential columns, more significant problems arose from decisions taken largely without participation from the Publications Committee or the editor about the format and content and distribution of Update. These are the issues that I would draw to the attention of the committee and the board.
The decision to change Update to a publication that would be essentially distributed through the Society’s Web page was made without notifying the editor or the Publications Committee and without consideration of format or notification or involvement of the membership. The choice of a PDF representation of the familiar paper format was agreed to at the 2000 meeting of the Publications Committee, which understood this to be an INTERIM solution based on the Society’s need to cut distribution costs. I have files of complaints about difficulties members have encountered in viewing and printing Update in this format. (My own dissatisfaction with this format needs no reiteration.) My efforts to change the format of the Web version to one that would be timelier, easier to view, and took advantage of hyperlink technology met reactions that ranged from support (from the committee) to unresponsiveness and insult. With the assent of the board liaison to the committee, I have included a survey form in the February issue and distributed the survey questions on ARLIS-L. This survey has a submission deadline of March 15; results will be available for review at the Publications Committee meeting on March 30.
Institutional members retained paper subscriptions at the change to Web dissemination; individual members were offered an opportunity to request mail delivery. Some of these report that they do not receive copies by mail. (I myself had requested mail delivery in order to know when the issues were mailed and did not reliably receive them until the December issue). Did the database of individuals who had requested mailed issues suffer some problems in the transition between association managers? I believe individual members should be offered another opportunity to request paper delivery.
Over the course of the year, some issues in PDF format have been entirely or partially unreadable for some members (including at times me). I have printed out copies and sent them to those who contacted me. I expect there are others who did not bother to bring their inability to read the issues to anyone’s attention.
There have also been delays in mounting the issues: the December 2000 and February 2001 issues appeared on the AWS only on February 27, after their (particularly the December issue) absence was noted.
Costs and Advertising Revenues
The precipitate decision to move away from
paper production was based on the
costs of printing and mailing. These costs were never shared with the committee or
the editor. There have more recently been questions of the costs of producing Update at the number of pages necessary to include the news of the various segments of the Society that are the reason for the newsletter’s existence and the large amount of advertising, mostly lengthy job announcement set in large type that the newsletter contains. Does the revenue for these advertisements justify the cost of producing the pages that contain them? The Society evidently pays an agency fee to acquire the publishers’ advertisements; does that fee justify their inclusion? The job postings are more problematic. Because Update appears bimonthly and has a long production lag, job postings frequently appear after the application closing date. These postings have already appeared on ARLIS-L and the JobNet on the AWS in a more timely fashion. I suggest that they be dropped from Update and their cost be diminished accordingly. Print listings for positions are of decreasing use to job seekers; when my library recently posted a vacancy on listservs, regional job boards, and print publications, we found only one applicant through the print publications.