Being Editor-in-Chief

For the past two years I’ve been the Editor-in-Chief of Open Shelf, the e-magazine of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). I’ve decided it’s time to step down.

Previously I was the Editor of Access, OLA’s print quarterly. However, starting and nurturing an online magazine which published every two weeks was a whole new adventure. And it has been a blast.

Open Shelf

What Has Been Learned?

Publishing is an act of passion. If you weren’t a bit obsessed with doing this you wouldn’t put in the necessary time and effort. As they say, it isn’t work if you love what you are doing.

As Editor I’m always worried about the “food chain.” Will enough articles be submitted to keep our twice a month schedule going? And they were. We are a community with many writers … excellent writers … with wonderful stories to tell.

We are also a community that needs a bit of prodding. So, ask, always ask. Many of the articles in Open Shelf were a result of simply asking people to write about their experiences or ideas. People love to be asked and we loved publishing the results.

Fun … have fun with the magazine. It is certainly fun working with the writers and the Editorial Board. Certainly publishing annual April Fool’s Day issues (2015 and 2016) was fun (if occasionally controversial). Put this in the category of not taking ourselves too seriously.

Our “formula” is very simple: short articles written in a conversational tone for a generalist library audience. I think this formula has been the strength of Open Shelf; I hope it continues.

A (Small) Regret

Initially I was obsessed with “readability” – a UX for Open Shelf that made the articles attractive and easy to read on any device. I’d give us a B+ on that (some of this is a limitation of the WordPress theme; some of it is shortcomings on our vision of how to do this). I also thought about all the various digital extensions that were possible online and not available in a print magazine. We’ve experimented with video, audio, long form, mixed media, and others. But so far, only experimented (so a C- on that one). If I have a regret about my time as Editor it is that I didn’t push the envelope further on things beyond text and pictures. The new column by the wonderful Amanda Etches (Incidentally) is a good example of where we could go with creative new ideas.

The Next Editor

I’m excited for whomever takes over the Editor-in-Chief role (OLA has issued a search). It is an extraordinary opportunity to work with many wonderful people and to learn a tremendous amount about libraries and the communities around them.

Sure, I  had to wrestle with WordPress, struggle with the peculiarities of our theme, admit my obvious limitations as a proof reader (I failed Grade 4 spelling … and it shows), confront terrible hosting services (now gone), and learn how to publish issues from hotel rooms with terrible WiFi. But it has been a blast.

…Mike

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