Sunday, 6 May 2012

LIKE 35 - Books: why bother? with Anne Welsh

On Thursday 26th April, I attended LIKE 35. After a mad dash from work to get there in the nick of time I was thrilled to be met by Tina Reynolds holding a glass of wine towards me as I entered, bedraggled and flustered, through the door. After composing myself and finding my table, I then sat down to listen to Anne Welsh, a lecture in cataloguing and historical bibliography at University College London. She started by asking us who amongst us wrote blogs, articles and then books - even though the numbers decreased each time I still found myself slighly in awe of the amount of people surrounding me who had written books. Anne then went on to ask why bother try to get published at all when there are so many options for people to find information available.
Some of the reasons were:
  • it structures your thoughts - (I think any type of writing does this)
  • a book defines your reputation in your chosen field - (I agree with this - one of the reasons I chose UCL to complete my Masters was because the lecturers had written the books we would be studying - it made me think they would really know what they were talking about)
  • books are finalised thoughts not just the embryonic musings one has in a blog (I've heard a few people say this now - that seeds of books have been borne through blogs)

I had previously thought that academics were encouraged to write books as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) but Anne explained how even though books are needed as they help to consolidate all the information available on a topic, because they are no longer accepted by the REF  more practioners are writing instead of academics. Apparently, this has always been the case in America - they have workbooks where Britain has theory books. While it would be a shame if the number of theory based books were to reduce sometimes when you're a practioner yourself and you haven't got a lot of time to digest the theory and come up with amazing ideas related to it it can really help to read a book which highlights exactly what others have done and how it has worked in practice.

Lastly, Anne spoke about digital versus print and how students, in particular, perceive it.  She claimed that research suggested students believe printed books are more authoritative but that they prefer the portability of digital. She did suggest too that students might only have said they preferred the digital version in the studies due to being given free kit and that this opinion many change if they were required to upload it onto their own devices.

Overall, the session wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was hoping for something a little more related to how to get started writing, although to be fair Anne did ask us to consider our audience, who our competitors are and whether print is the best format before submitting a proposal. However, it was an enjoyable and interesting session and encouraged me to to think about thought processes, the REF and book styles. There's one more LIKE evening to go and then there will be LIKE's inaugural conference - which I am very much looking forward to.

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