In the first quarter of the MLIS program I had the opportunity to work on two co-authored papers for the first time. One group, for Information Resources, Services and Collections, consisted of Brendan Lax, Matthew Goddard and me. Our assignment was to prepare a briefing paper for an information organization of our choosing. We examined and evaluated trends in the information environment of Powell’s Books, an independent book seller in Portland, Oregon, who also has a strong online presence. My group divided the paper up into three areas to research. I researched the “Long Tail” and new print on demand options in the publishing industry. I then crafted several recommendations for Powell’s, based on these new trends. We also divided up the rest of the publication process with one person taking the introduction and conclusion, another the first editing run through and synthesis of the parts into a document with one voice, while I took the layout and design of the final paper to appear as a professional publication. We all re-edited and refined the document after the first major combining effort, working remotely through the use of email. I finished it all up by formatting the text into a two column layout with graphics and highlighted quotes interspersed throughout the document.
This project helped me refine my ability to work with other people to select a topic, divide labor fairly, and create a compelling paper with one voice, presented in a professional manner. I refined my research skills looking into ‘the long tail’ and print on demand technologies as they apply to the publishing and book trade world. I gained experience letting others edit and refine my work, which improved my understanding of the writing process as well as my portions of the project. I also gained valuable insights about writing by doing the same for my co-authors. This assignment prepared me for future written works by forcing me to distill the essentials of the topic down to its core elements, placing a premium on communicating a substantive amount of information clearly, concisely, and quickly. Working on drafting recommendations for ways to improve services in a real-world changing environment was a particularly gratifying experience.
The topic itself was interesting and the material we covered will inform my thinking about the ways libraries and information organizations will need to grapple with the changes occurring in the publishing world and those yet to come. Playing the role of a consultant for this assignment, by producing a document for a potential outside party, will prepare me for the professional obligations of a librarian, where involvement in assessment of my own or another institution may be required. As illustrated in the success of this paper, I know how to effectively work on collaborative written projects without rancor or ego getting in the way of producing a quality product. My ability to work with colleagues who may work in distant locations was enhanced through the process we employed to draft the paper, communicating mostly via email. My writing and editing skills were improved through the assignment, preparing me to successfully communicate across the library profession through the written word. All of this gives me confidence that, as I begin work on a paper with another librarian, I will be up to the task of researching the background of our topic, contributing insight into the issues surrounding it, and presenting it succinctly and thoroughly so that the library profession might be improved.