Web Magazine for Information Professionals

MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship

Lori Widzinski, the editor, describes the evolution of MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship.

MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship (MCJ) made its debut in April 1992 as a peer-reviewed electronic journal on the Internet. The concept for a peer-reviewed journal in academic media librarianship arose after an extensive literature search revealed very little regard for this specialty. There are several scholarly publications in librarianship, but none in the U.S. focusing exclusively on academic media librarianship. As Head of the Media Resources Center in the Health Sciences Library at the State University of New York at Buffalo, I thought about filling this void with an electronic journal. I contacted my counterpart in the Law Library at SUNY Buffalo, Terrence McCormack, and at the end of our discussion, we had decided to explore the possibility of starting an electronic journal. By this time in cyber-history, peer reviewed scholarly journals were appearing with increasing frequency. For us, this new frontier seemed the logical synthesis between the manageability of the electronic format and a perceived need in the scholarly literature of academic media librarianship.

Working with our institution's Computing Center, we prepared "technically" for distribution of the journal. Using the LISTSERV software, we would e-mail the table of contents with abstracts to subscribers. Readers could then ftp any articles they were interested in studying. We compiled an editorial board to assist with the peer review process, and provide input on journal operations. A mission statement, author guidelines, style manual, ISSN, and copyright policy were all established. The response from our first call for papers was impressive. When the first issue was distributed to our 450 charter subscribers, it contained four peer reviewed articles, and represented the work of dedicated media professionals and librarians from across the United States.

MC Journal logo Typically, articles for MCJ focus on a variety of issues facing media professionals in institutions of higher education. Everything from cataloging the Internet to copyright to distance learning. Although the word "librarianship" appears in the title of the journal, we use the word loosely to apply to media professionals in higher education. We hoped to bridge a perceived gap between media professionals under the administrative arm of academic libraries and those managed by computing or media services departments. While targeting those in the library field, media professionals who may not necessarily hold an MLS or be classified as librarians but who work in an academic media center are included.

From the technical standpoint, publishing an electronic journal has been a smooth process. E-mail distribution is much more cost efficient than snail mail, and it speeds up the review process considerably. Web access exceeds the capabilities of e-mail, and offers exciting possibilities for future development of the journal. The problems facing electronic scholarly publishing are more philosophical in nature. Issues of journal credibility and value to the tenure process; archival storage and retrieval; and copyright implications are now of primary concern to the world of e-scholars.

MC Journal's success can be measured through its development from an electronic journal of ASCII based files for ftp retrieval, to gopher accessible files, and now to a site on the World Wide Web. It has grown to include three regular columns: "Inter-Media", written by Michael Albright of Iowa State University, focuses on making the most of the Internet for media professionals; "Technology Watch" by our Associate Editor, Terrence McCormack, takes a look at new technologies in our field; and the practical, everyday life in an academic media situation is represented by a different author with each issue for the "Media Works" column. Another landmark in MC Journal's development occurred when the H.W. Wilson Company chose to begin indexing the journal with the Spring 1995 issue. The journal is now international in scope, as authors from Australia and Canada are included in the publication. As of this writing in August of 1996, we have distributed seven complete issues containing twenty-four peer reviewed articles. Our subscription base has dropped to 272 subscribers, however the web site (http://wings.buffalo.edu/publications/mcjrnl) received 1,642 hits in July 1996, 573 of those requesting the most recent special issue which was distributed in early July 1996 on Distance Learning.

With web technology advancing, presumably peer-reviewed electronic journals will evolve and mature with resulting increase in accessibility and credibility. Future directions for MC Journal include encouraging authors to exploit the capabilities of the web and include multimedia options within articles. It seems only fitting that a journal devoted to media librarianship should itself be available in a non-print medium.