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Charleston Advisor: response to David Goodman and Margaret

X-edited-by: aokerson@pantheon.yale.edu
Date: Thu,  6 Jul 2000 16:37:33 EDT
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Subject:  Re: response to David Goodman and Margaret Landesman

I wanted to respond to recent comments by Margaret Landesman and David

Some unique aspects of the Charleston Advisor,...and why it isn't free...

1. We are paying reviewers for what they what they write.

It's not much, an honorarium ($200 ) but does help encourage individual
librarians who otherwise -heavily committed in their work and professional
lives (the kinds of experts you want writing for this kind of publication)
might never write for us. David--what would entice you to write a review
of an article of the kind we publish? The things you mention are, I would
guess, not inducements for you personally.  I doubt you would see an
increase in your salary, position or even fame for writing it. (At least
I've never been anywhere where salary, position etc. were tied to such
reviews). I think you would have to believe it was important, and then
have a reason to write it, beyond the fact that you use it. The Advisor is
helping a lot of librarians decide there is a reason to share their
expertise--and providing them a forum to do it, a rigorous review process
for their work, and deadline for publication and a small financial

I can tell you from experience that they are a lot of work to write. And
having been on the both ends of the critiques...you have to be prepared to
defend what you say.  I think people are writing them because they want to
help other libraries facing the same decisions they have to make. The
money helps us interest them a little, but yes it's more than money.

2. If the pro-bono approach that David Goodman calls for had worked in
this arena, then the Advisor wouldn't exist. But other library review
outlets were not tackling the length and evaluative discussion in the ways
the critical reviews we are publishing do. Library publications, as I'm
sure you've noticed, don't go in much for critical statements about
anything. For one thing, when you make a value judgement, which we
require, you have to be prepared for liability and credibilty issues. It's
also nice to know what you are writing really is being read-and used. This
isn't an "archival publication" in the traditional sense. It's a working
tool for libraries. I have to admit that in many cases I'm sure stuff I've
written never got read (and some of it doesn't deserve to be)Given what
the Advisor does, the reviews are read, both within libraries and in the
publishing community. We've seen that some of the things being written are
having an impact--not only on decision makers in libraries, but decision
makers in other areas. (Cross ref has decided to include libraries ..at
least in a limited way-perhaps in response to our critique)

3. The Advisor began because librarians couldn't find critical reviews of
the products they were having to make decisions about. And I think that's
a valid reason for it's existence. In addition. We are finding that we are
providing a voice for the publishing and content providers to respond to
criticisms as well.

If there had been a good "free" source doing these things, then the
Advisor wouldn't exist.

Or if existing review mechanisms were covering these titles then there
wouldn't be a need for it.

I believe we are providing a service for libraries that is unique and
saves libraries money and time and helps them make informed choices.

4. One of the unique areas we have been publishing lately are in-depth
comparative reviews of products. See for example the comparative Medline
review-which is free at the website. in Vol. 1, Num. 3 January, 2000)

Take a single review (the one I asked if David would be interested in
doing...you name the database or product David) and multiply the effort by
several factors to do a comparative review.. review. They are standard in
other areas (you see them often in computer type magazines) but I've
seldom seen them attempted except in extended essays in a few library
publications that otherwise carry single-item reviews.

I'm involved with the Charleston Advisor because I think there is a real
need for this type of publication. And given what I know of the costs of
bringing it up and the benefits it can provide, I don't think the price is

Librarians daily make decisions for products that costs hundred and often
thousands of dollars. The Advisor helps begin that decision process. By
creating it I believe we are saving libraries time and money.--

If we don't provide libraries with information like that, then the Advisor
won't survive.

There are over 50 reviews in the website database at the moment, and a
subscription provides IP filtered access to them online, which many
libraries are finding more useful than the paper copies.(that's much less
than the average cost of an article in other academic publications (except
perhaps the mega titles like Nature and Science..-no matter what academic
journal you compare it with)

What does it cost an institution to do a full comparison, or review in
depth a single product?

I would guess its much more than the cost for the annual subscription rate
to libraries.

Each issue also has free access areas (doing some of what David calls

Table of Contents, Columns, Editorials, and a selected high profile review
from each issue. Part of the reason for this is some of the issues David
cites. --

And yes, --we are looking at increasing the number of reviews.

P.S. No I don't get paid for my editorial efforts with the Advisor.

And I don't expect to become more famous, more tenured, or earn more money
because of my involvement.

If anything--because of comments from David, and perhaps Margaret (too
much money, to little product--it's just another expensive journal) I
could see myself become less respected, and less portable (if I wanted to
go somewhere else) and not only disliked by some producers we have written
about, but thought of as a traitor by some librarians.

So, If this response seems too lengthy--I don't mean to offend either
David, whom I respect tremendously, nor Margaret whom I don't believe I
know, but whose arguments I myself have used in various forms...  . Katina
Strauch and and others like George Machovec, our managing editor, had
waited for quite awhile to see such a tool come into existence. It didn't
and so I'm proud to be collaborating with folks who are making it happen
--and really pleased to be able to help shape it in this early stage.

Chuck Hamaker

Rebecca Lenzini
The Charleston Company
618 S. Monroe Way * Denver CO * 80209
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