September 18, 2017

Editorial: 128 Years Young

By Francine Fialkoff, Editor

The oldest independent library publication gets an extreme makeover

Scannable. Sexy. Color-Coded. Consistent. Those are the words a dozen or so public and academic librarians who participated in a focus group—and many more we polled informally—used to describe what they wanted in the design of Library Journal . They told us they wanted a publication that was less “industrial looking” and that “better reflected the profession.” They told us to get more variety into our cover illustrations, to break away from our practice of featuring only smiling librarians from one generation.

They admitted that their tastes had been honed by the likes of USA Today and Entertainment Weekly and that they wanted a similar formula even in their professional publications. There was no doubt that they were satisfied with the content (“It’s written by colleagues”), though they felt we sometimes buried key elements of the Book Review, like interviews, by not featuring them on the cover. They wanted more articles that would appeal to the new generation of librarians, more best practices, more on using technology for collections and reader and reference services…more.

Their comments propelled us faster down a road we’d already been heading, both in terms of design and content. That’s why in the last few months we’ve introduced a NextGen column, to give voice to the new generation of librarians, and an InfoTech feature to complement our quarterly netConnect supplement and to make technology as integral to LJ as it is to libraries. We abandoned our conscious commitment to “people” on the cover of every issue and aimed at a better mix: a mystery genre spotlight (April 1), for instance, and a superhero (May 15).

Meanwhile, we worked with our incomparable designer, Penny Blatt, and our unflappable art director, Kevin Henegan, on the redesign issue you’re about to read. It’s scannable, color-coded by section and more colorful throughout, and uses consistent layout and fonts. Sexy? I’m not sure—though I think you’ll find pages like Front Desk (p. 17) intriguing and fun. We’ve introduced a new column by Cheryl LaGuardia, E-Views and Reviews , that puts her back where she started: prodding and pulling the electronic content industry to improve its products. The reviews that used to appear in Database&Disc Reviews have been integrated into the print Reference section, acknowledging the shift toward electronic reference.

Besides enhancing technology coverage, we’ve revamped every single section of the magazine. News has added an industry news segment. The review sections now include many Q&As with authors and book news briefs sprinkled throughout. Mystery, the most popular fiction genre in public libraries, has been expanded and follows Prepub Alert. Fiction opens Book Review, reflecting the craving for popular reading in public libraries, and Reference closes it. We’ve added prepub sections to Audio and Video and new releases on DVD.

Finally, we’ve launched the first-ever national best sellers list from libraries—the books most borrowed (p. 208). It’s based on aggregated statistics for circulation and holds from public libraries of all sizes around the country. We want to thank the vendors (GIS Information Systems, TLC, and Sirsi) as well as all the individual institutions (which will remain anonymous) whose statistics make this list possible. Future issues will indicate the book’s previous rank, as well as the number of weeks a title has been on the list. Eventually, we’ll have extended lists on our web site, and we’ll break them down by region and population served. We’ve had tremendous enthusiasm from librarians, as well as publishers, for library best sellers, and we hope it will show publishers the enormous influence that libraries have on readers—and vice versa.

For those wondering where John Berry is, turn the page to Blatant Berry. John and I will alternate writing the Editorial . When John took over the Editorial page in 1969, he promised, “We will edit by conviction.” That hasn’t changed, nor will the purpose of this magazine (with thanks to Melvil Dewey, our first editor, in 1876): to deliver the news, views, breakthroughs, and product reviews that you need to do your jobs and to advance librarianship and libraries.

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