A #citylis 2014-2015 Term 1 Twitter Archive

#citylis logo

The taught component of Term 1 of the 2014-2015 academic year at the Library and Information Science scheme at City University London has finished today. #citylis is our hashtag and it is used by staff, students and members of the public.

Throughout the term I archived the Tweets tagged with #citylis and I have now uploaded to figshare a spreadsheet containing 4940 Tweets (there’s likely to be some duplicates there, and it includes retweets).

Priego, Ernesto (2014): A #citylis 2014-2015 Term 1 Twitter Archive. figshare.


Retrieved 18:14, Dec 12, 2014 (GMT)

All the usual information about collection methods, limitations etc. are included in the ReadMe sheet of the file.

The data is shared as is. This dataset is shared to encourage open research into scholarly activity on Twitter. If you use or refer to this data in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

#citylis term 1 twitter actitvity top tweeters


Some Tips for WordPress.com Beginners


wordpress.com logo

[Links open in new windows. Post updated 15/10/2014 at 9:02 PM GST]*

I have adapted the following from a longer, slightly different document I created for my Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA) module at #citylis this year. It contains some tips for wordpress.com beginners and perhaps some for more advanced users.

Blogging is one of those online practices that apparently everyone and anyone can do but that in practice do pose various challenges particularly for beginners but also for more advanced users. If you are reading this already you are likely not to be completely alien to blogs, so I apologise if some of the suggestions are too basic.

I believe blogging is an essential element of any professional’s portfolio. I’d recommend this 2012 blog post by Ryan Cordell: “Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and ReflectionProfHacker, October 3, 2012.

Please take into account Ryan’s post is written from an USAmerican point of view and with an academic audience in mind. Also, some context in technologies might have changed since he published the post. However, it is possible to adapt his reflection, shared materials and suggestions to our own field and circumstances.

Below are some of the issues I consider important in blogging, and that can be sometimes overlooked:


  • “A blog” (short for web log) is a dynamic web site that is frequently updated. It should not be confused with “a blog post”.
  • “Blog posts” or simply “posts” are dated entries that are published in inverse chronological order; i.e. the latest one will appear on top and will push previous ones down.
  • Your blog has a web address or URL, and if you want to refer people to your whole site you should give them a link to that address (ending in our case in wordpress.com). If you want to refer people to an individual blog post, however, you must refer them to the “permalink”, i.e. the unique URL or web address for that particular entry.
  • URL vs Blog Name. Your blog’s URL is the the Web address of your site, for example https://epriego.wordpress.com/. Your blog’s name is a human-readable word or phrase, in my case “Ernesto Priego”.
  • It is good that at least one of the terms in your URL appears also in your blog name and/or tagline. The tagline is important: it must be a short phrase giving more information about what your blog is about.

Authorship: Bylines!

  • Your byline/username: Please make sure you have updated your User Profile section. Your username should be different from the name that will be displayed publicly as your byline: jdoe is not the same as Jonathan Doe. For clear instructions on how to update your Profile and byline, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-profile/.
  • If you have guest bloggers it’s easy to add them as contributors, and this way they can also get a byline. Do not type “by Joe Doe” in the body of the text and leave your own byline as owner/administrator of the blog, give the author its own byline! To learn more about the different user roles in a blog, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-roles/.


  • A WordPress “Theme” is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with a specific design for a blog. You can browse different free themes here https://theme.wordpress.com/.
  • Deciding what theme to choose depends on several factors. Deciding for whom you will be publishing and what you expect your site to achieve will help you decide what kind of impression you want to give.
  • Please choose a theme that will indicate your “byline” (your authorship) clearly– different themes display bylines differently (say at the top of a post under the title or at the bottom of the post). Also make sure you choose a theme that displays a post’s tags and categories. Not all themes do. For a forum discussion on how to find a theme that displays bylines, see http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/which- themes-automatically-display-bylines?replies=12.
  • For general help about themes, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/themes/. Bear in mind not all themes might look the same on all browsers. So keep trying. You can change themes several times. You won’t lose any content published or saved as draft, but you might lose any widgets you have customised. (On widgets: http://en.support.wordpress.com/widgets/ ).


  • Assuming your intention is to have a blog within a professional network, it’s advisable to keep the tone and the language professional. Do proofread your posts and pages carefully; just because it’s theoretically faster to publish online it does not mean you can be careless.
  • It’s online, so do hyperlink. Decide if you will set your links to open in the same or in another window. For accessibility opening links in the same window is advised, but that will mean that your readers will be expected to return to your site to continue reading. You decide.
  • Use your posts to learn some basic HTML tags: practice switching from the visual to the HTML (text) editor.
  • Include images in your posts, but make sure you have the legal right to use them. Upload any images to your media library, never embed images hosted elsewhere. Some good resources to search for images licensed for reuse are:
  • CILIP has some excellent guidelines on how to write a blog post for their own Blogger Challenge, (hint, hint!). Some of the excellent advise they give is the following:

Write for screen reading, bearing in mind that people read differently on a screen compared to reading on paper. For instance:

Use sub-headings to break the blog into meaningful chunks of information

Try the inverted pyramid structure – start with the conclusion, cover the most important and interesting information first and provide more detail later in the piece


  • Bear in mind that WordPress will automatically create an URL for your posts based on the text you provide in the ‘Title’ field of each post. If your Title is too long, it will create a very long permalink. Long permalinks are a bad idea as they break more easily, even when using URL shorteners for social media sharing (on URL shortening, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening).
  • WordPress allows you to edit your URL (just under the blog post title field) so it’s not as long even when your title is long (long titles are not a great idea either, but sometimes you just have to). Just make sure your URL contains enough keywords. You can get rid of stopwords (like conjunctions and prepositions for example) that alre also included in the title and body of your post.


  • Most professional blogs will have at least one ‘About’ or ‘Bio’ page where you describe who you are and what the purpose of your blog is.
  • It is important you say who is behind the blog: you can give away as much or as little as you want bearing in mind one of the intentions of asking you to set up and maintain the blog is for you to practice creating and keeping a professional presence online.
  • For support on Pages, go here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/. If you decide to have more than one page, think if what you need is another page or a category instead. (See below).

Categories and Tags

  • Think of Categories as the sections of a newspaper. I would suggest one main category for your blog, to be used for those posts that generally fit the description of your blog. You can create other categories if you want to use your blog to write about various, different topics.
  • Tags, on the other hand, are keywords describing the content of each of your posts.
  • Categories and tags can be the same term– but they fulfill different roles. Hierarchically cateogies are superior, at a web site level, and tags work at a lower, post-based level. For a simpler explanation go to http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/categories-vs-tags/.


  • If content is available on the Web people will always-already want to share it or do something with it. Creative Commons provides free legal tools for online creators so they can license their work for various uses.
  • Creative Commons licenses complement copyright, so you retain all your authorship rights, whilst deciding which rights you will be granting your audience. To choose a license, go to http://creativecommons.org/choose/.
  • For blogs I recommend CC-BY or CC-BY-SA. You can copy the HTML and then add it to a Text Widget to the sidebar of your site.
  • If you want to know more about Creative Commons, you can download the guide I co-edited:

Collins, Hellen; Milloy, Caren; Stone, Graham; Baker, James; Eve, Martin; Priego, Ernesto (2014): Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors (OAPENUK 2013). figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.928467


 In recent years I have blogged about academic blogging a lot. I once called blogging “the utltimate form of collegiality” (I was younger and more optimistic). I also have various slideshows openly available online.

There’s way much more that can be say about blogging, and opinions about the best way of doing it are as varied as there are blogs. Some of it is pretty subjective.  After all, the fun part of blogging is the freedom it gives you. Blogging, however, is about publishing information as much as it is about organising information.

As an information science scholar I can’t help observing that blogs that have a coherent architecture, are search-engine aware and are updated periodically with consistent, engaging content are often, in my humble opinion, the best.

*Obviously I don’t always follow my own advice… I try though! ;-)

Interviewed by Open Access Button


I was interviewed for the Open Access Button weekly series highlighting Open Access Button users from around the world, discussing their work, and sharing their stories. You can read the interview here.


#LibPub Session 10: Libraries, Publishing: The Future?

Image from ‘An Introduction to the Study of Metallurgy, etc’, 000144847 via the Mechanical Curator
Image from ‘An Introduction to the Study of Metallurgy, etc’, 000144847 via the Mechanical Curator

Today we’ll have our last taught session of the term. Time flies when you are having fun…

For the past ten weeks we’ve been unveiling pieces of the complex, large jigsaw puzzle of the libraries and publishing landscape. “Libraries and publishing”, “library publishing” and “libraries as publishers” are three distinct inter-connected terms that refer to distinct issues and different levels of granularity. It can be argued that each of them create different scenarios, like neighbour countries in a larger map, often the borders blurring yet still present. We must also remember that the “landscape” we can see is possible by a series of layers we cannot always see (they might be below us… or above), and that the map is not the territory.

Through a series of lectures from different professional voices and points of view, the aim has to been to facilitate an understanding of the ways in which publishing (and this means current understandings of what the term means) and to explore the impact that this will have on libraries, other information providers, and their users.

We have discussed how the technical (this includes “technological”) economic, social and political factors defining the transformations in publishing, and consequently in librarianship. The module has had a strong emphasis on scholarly publishing, but we also covered trade publishing and the industry as a whole. As technologies diversify the forms in which information is recorded and disseminated, the quantity, quality, form and content of the recorded information that libraries acquire, collect, archive, preserve and make available has also changed, and this includes the methods for performing these functions. These discourses, technologies and methodologies have not evolved out of a vacuum, but as integral/integrated pieces of the social, cultural, economic and political landscape.

Today we’ll have a guest lecture by Alastair Horne (@pressfuturist); one of the best-known UK specialists spearheading online innovation and social media engagement  in UK publishing. He will discuss with us his vision of the role that social media currently plays in the publishing landscape. Though we have covered and discussed social media throughout the module, Alastair’s presentation will give us a chance to zoom in and grasp the key issues.

The intention of this last session is also to discuss the key issues we covered throughout the course and to brainstorm all together as a rehearsal in preparation of the coursework submission.

As usual, this #LibPub #citylis post was originally published on my City University London blog.

#LibPub Session 9: Researcher-led Open Access Publishing & Reference Management

Image from ‘Illustrated Battles of the Nineteenth Century. [By Archibald Forbes, Major Arthur Griffiths, and others.]’, 001266335. Via the Mechanical Curator, British Library
Image from ‘Illustrated Battles of the Nineteenth Century. [By Archibald Forbes, Major Arthur Griffiths, and others.]’, 001266335. Via the Mechanical Curator, British Library

Session 9 is taking place today. As every week our lecture will be divided in two segments.

The first one will cover researcher-led open access publishing, and the second one will concentrate on tools for online reference management. I see open access publishing and online reference software, including altmetrics or alternative metrics, as important components of the scholarly publishing landscape and research cycle, working closely together.

Paywalls create friction as they require scholars from different institutions (and those not working at  academic institutions) to subscribe to the same journals at the same time in order to successfully share publications. A reference without access to an output’s full text and/or resources is like an empty signifier, a roadsign leading to a wall. For online reference managers to fulfill their function fully, openness is required, not only for successful sharing amongst individuals but for successful metadata sharing. This often means going beyond the PDF…

So for the first segment of today’s session we will be honoured to have a guest lecture from Brian Hole, a researcher and publisher working within the humanities and information science, with a focus on ethics and inclusive systems.

He is the founder of a researcher-focused publishing company called Ubiquity Press, which specialises in open access academic journals and open data. He will talk to us about how they work on different ways to break down barriers to publishing, and the several interesting projects they have underway.

Ubiquity Press in on Twitter @ubiquitypress.  Brian is on Twitter @brian_hole.

In the second section of the lecture we’ll take a closer look at online reference managers, and why they matter for publishers, libraries and the research process, including funding and research assessment. As we are on the days in which you are getting ready to start working on final coursework and dissertations, I am hoping greater awareness of what you can achieve with these tools will be helpful. Though we will mention software like EndNote and RefWorks, we will be focusing on Zotero and Mendeley, and particularly the latter, which is currently my personal favourite.*

*I know this is controversial as Mendeley was bought by Elsevier. That didn’t make me happy either. I use Zotero too, as I know I’ll want to stop using Mendeley eventually. However, so far Mendeley works very smoothly online and I really like that.

#LibPub Session 8: Developing Digitally: Researchers, Social Media & Libraries as Publishers

Image from ‘Fair Diana. By “Wanderer” … With illustrations by G. Bowers. [A novel.]’, 003846960      Author: BOWERS, Georgina.     Page: 50     Year: 1884     Place: London     Publisher: Bradbury, Agnew & Co.
Image from ‘Fair Diana. By “Wanderer” … With illustrations by G. Bowers. [A novel.]’, 003846960 via the Mechanical Curator, British Library

Session eight already!

Today we will again offer two professional points of view on the relationships between libraries and publishers. We are very privileged to be able to discuss library and publishing issues with professionals in the field, in today’s case one experienced academic librarian and one experienced publisher and academic!

Diane Bell, Research Librarian at City University London, will talk about her role,  Library researcher development, using social media tools, working with researchers and publishers to build hybrid collections  eg. demand driven acquisition and City’s Read for Research promotion. A guiding question will be once more: “should libraries be publishers or just libraries?”

Diane is on Twitter @DianeLouiseBell

We will also have a guest lecture by Nick Canty, Lecturer in Publishing Studies at the Department of Information Science at University College London.

Nick has also worked in the publishing industry for almost 15 years as a commissioning editor and publisher. He will discuss at what we mean by publishing – the industry as well as the function,  what’s happening in the publishing industry (trade and academic), libraries as publishers and
how libraries and publishers might exist in the future….

Nick is on Twitter @NickPublisher

Some links for your perusal:

  • City Unviersity London Library: Read for Research. Library Services are giving City’s researchers the opportunity to help build up City’s research book collections.
  • Canty, NP; (2012) Libraries as publishers: turning the page? Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues, 23 (1) 55 – 62. 10.7227/ALX.23.1.7
  • Canty, NP; (2013) Social Media in Libraries: It’s Like, Complicated. Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues, 23 (2) 41 – 54. 10.7227/ALX.23.2.4

I’m sure this session will help us brainstorm further the key issues shaping the complex jigsaw puzzle of what the future holds for  library publishing, publishing and libraries, librarianship and publishing…

As usual this post was also published on my City University London blog.

Today: #LibPub Session 7: Learned Societies and Libraries as Publishers

Title: "[Illustrated Official Handbook of the Cape and South Africa. A résumé of the history, conditions, populations, productions, and resources of the several colonies, states, and territories. Edited by John Noble. [With a map.]]", "Miscellaneous Official Publications" Contributor: NOBLE, John - Clerk of the House of Assembly, Cape of Good Hope Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 010095.de.1." Page: 671 Place of Publishing: London Date of Publishing: 1896 Publisher: J. C. Juta & Co. Edition: Second edition. Issuance: monographic Identifier: 000598049
“[Illustrated Official Handbook of the Cape and South Africa. A résumé of the history, conditions, populations, productions, and resources of the several colonies, states, and territories. Edited by John Noble. [With a map.]]” Via the Mechanical Curator, British Library, Flickr Collection

Today in our Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society module at City University London we’ll have the opportunity to zoom in at two key issues in contemporary scholarly publishing. One is the role of Learned and Professional Societies and the other is the role of libraries and institutional repositories.

To guide the discussion we’ll have two guest talks:

  1. “The A-to-LPSP Guide to Scholarly Publishing: what does the future hold for learned and professional society publishers?”, by Suzanne Kavanagh (@sashers).
  2. “Libraries, Institutional Repositories and Digital Collections: What is ‘Publishing’ Anyway?”, by Neil Stewart (@neilstewart).

Suzanne Kavanagh is Director of Marketing and Membership Services at the Association for Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). She has 20 years’ experience of working for academic and professional publishing companies in marketing and sales roles.

ALPSP works with not-for-profit organisations and those who work with them to publish scholarly communications. ALPSP’s members work closely supporting library and scholarly communities. Drawing on ALPSP’s own research into the challenges they face, as well as wider political, economic, social, cultural and technological factors, Suzanne will challenge the students to consider what the future holds for scholarly publishing.

Neil Stewart is the Repository manager at City University London, and a fellow member of the Library Tech Committee of the Open Library of Humanities. City’s repository is called City Research Online, it comprises CRIS (Current Research Information Systems) and an open access repository.

Neil will consider in which concrete ways libraries and repositories can be considered to be doing publishing, and will invite us to consider critically what the meaning of ‘publishing’ is.

Librarians and information professionals require a critical and informed understanding of the multiple aspects of the scholarly publishing landscape of today. How can libraries harness the experience of Learned Societies? How can libraries turn the current financial, cultural, political, and technical challenges that scholarly publishing faces today into opportunities to diversify and enhance their remit? These are some of the issues we can start thinking seriously about in our roadmap towards a librarianship of the future… for the present day.

As usual this post was also blogged at my City blog: http://blogs.city.ac.uk/epriego/2014/03/21/libpub-session-7-learned-societies-and-libraries-as-publishers/

#LibPub Session 6: Libraries and Archives Disrupting Publishing?

Winchell, Alexander. Image from ‘Preadamites; or a demonstration of the existence of men before Adam, etc’, British Library 003949013. Via The Mechanical Curator. Public Domain.
Winchell, Alexander. Image from ‘Preadamites; or a demonstration of the existence of men before Adam, etc’, British Library 003949013. Via The Mechanical Curator. Public Domain.

Today we’re back at our Libraries and Publishing module at #citylis. Last week there was no lecture due to Reading Week. I hope students had a chance to catch up with the readings on Moodle!

[On Wednesday evening I came back to London from Nairobi. I had the privilege of participating in the Discoverability of African Scholarship Online workshop that took place  on 10-11 March 2014. It was organised by the OpenUCT Initiative and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. I uploaded a fileset with relevant workshop materials to figshare, here, in case anyone is interested (if you are into the present and future of librarianship, you should!).]

Today we will be discussing how library collections and archives interrogate (disrupt?) previous and current conceptions of “publishing”. We’ll do this through two  presentations by two very special guest speakers:

  • Dr James Baker, Digital Curator, British Library
  • Dr Geoff Browell, Senior Archives Services Manager, Library Services, King’s College London

By hearing about their two different professional experiences in the present day, we will be hoping to stimulate a discussion about how future libraries and future publications will co-exist.

Some links to check out:

Don’t forget you can share resources and engage with us with the #LibPub and #citylis hashtags on Twitter.

I can’t wait. See you later!


New Article: Opening Teaching Landscapes

Open Praxis logo

This is not so much ‘news’ anymore but I hadn’t found the time to post about it here.

I collaborated with Javiera Atenas (UCL) and Leo Havemann (Birkbeck) in an article now out on Open Praxis,  a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and flexible education. It is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education – ICDE.


Atenas, J., Havemann, L., & Priego, E. (2014). Opening teaching landscapes: The importance of quality assurance in the delivery of open educational resources. Open Praxis, 6(1), 29-43. doi:10.5944/openpraxis.6.1.81


Scholars are increasingly being asked to share teaching materials, publish in open access journals, network in social media, and reuse open educational resources (OER). The theoretical benefits of Open Educational Practices (OEP) have become understood in the academic community but thus far, the use of OER has not been rapidly adopted. We aim to understand the challenges academics face with in attempting to adopt OEP, and identify whether these are related to or stem from the functionalities afforded by current repositories of OER (ROER). By understanding what academics and experts consider good practices, we can develop guidelines for quality in the development of ROER. In this article we present the findings from a study surveying academics using OER and experts who develop and/or work with ROER. We conclude by suggesting a framework to enhance the development and quality of ROER.




Open Educational Resources; Repositories; Quality Assurance; Open Educational Practices

One of the joys of Open Access and CC-BY licensing is that we as authors have the freedom to distribute our the version of record of our article through multiple channels whilst having a unique identifier for the journal article.

Javiera, Leo and I have been working together on more ongoing research that will hopefully see the light of open access day sooner than later ;-). They are awesome collaborators and it is an honour to be working with them.

Research Blogging citation

Javiera Atenas, Leo Havemann, & Ernesto Priego (2014). Opening teaching landscapes: The importance of quality assurance in the delivery of open educational resources Open Praxis, 6 (1), 29-43 : http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.6.1.81

#LibPub Sessions 4 & 5: Scholarly Publishing and Reference Books -and comics!

Screen Shot from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia
Screen Shot from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia

I‘ve been so busy I just couldn’t find the time/energy to write a post for the fourth session of our Libraries and Publishing module at #citylis last week. But here I am!

Blogging is a great way of leaving a public register -even if limited- of the module sessions; I also like to feel like we are sharing a little bit of what happens within the four walls of the lecture theatre with other interested parties out there. Blogging therefore is definitely well worth the effort, but sometimes it’s just very hard to do it as regularly as one would like to.

Anyway, our fourth session last week was about scholarly publishing, which is one of my favourite topics. I really enjoyed being able to dedicate a whole session to it. We focused on scholarly publishing in the UK and I aimed at presenting a general picture of academic journal publishing today, what it means and how it generally works, particularly in relation to libraries and users.

We looked at some reasons why libraries cancel journal subscriptions and went over the “serials crisis”, gradually moving towards open access publishing, the different options out there, the differences between editorial workflow, access type and business models; briefly mentioned institutional/national mandates, as well as challenges and opportunities posed by openness, including licensing and atttitudes towards intellectual property.

Gosh Comics London: The Culture of Comics
Gosh Comics London: The Culture of Comics

This week a group of us also did a “research field trip” to two Central London comic book shops, Gosh! Comics and Forbidden Planet. This was an activity related to our third session, on comic book publishing and libraries. Though both shops sell comics they are two completely different establishments, and we went there hoping to get some insights into what different strategies they use to organise, classify and display their stock. We also came out with some nice books! (Thank you to those who came last Tuesday or who visited the shops in other days on your own!).

Gosh! Comics window... The Encyclopedia... #LIbPub everywhere!
Gosh! Comics window… The Encyclopedia… #LIbPub everywhere!

Tomorrow, for session 5, the topic is the past, present and future of reference book publishing. I have preapred two case studies, Palgrave Macmillan and Oxford University Press, to present an overview of how these two major publishers work, focusing specifically on their online products.

We will also have the honour of welcoming Dr Katharine Schopflin who will talk to us about her research in book history on encyclopaedias as a form of the book. Her lecture is titled “Encyclopaedias: publishers, librarians and end-users”, and will provide an overview of the status of the encyclopaedia from its origins to the present, inviting us “to consider whether the encyclopaedia has a generic signature which carries beyond the material form of the book.”

#LibPub Session 3: Comic Books, Libraries and Challenges in the Digital Age

Watchmen – from comic book to graphic novel to folder… Image by Ernesto Priego. Watchmen © DC Comics
Watchmen – from comic book to graphic novel to folder… Image by Ernesto Priego. Watchmen © DC Comics

A book is a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages, exclusive of the cover pages, published in the country and made available to the public.”

-UNESCO, 19 November 1964

My work is dedicated to the proposition that the academic enterprise as a whole needs access to appropriate historical documents.”

-Randy Scott, 18 October 2001

For our third session of our Libraries and Publishing module at City University London, we will focus on comic books as an interesting case study whose analysis might help us understand some key issues around publishing and librarianship in the digital age.

“But comics?” You might ask.

The history of comics  has been defined to a large extent by comics’ stigmatised nature as subcultural material. In turn, this stigma has been incorporated in the ways in which the language itself is expressed in the form of different types of publications, such as hand-made mini- comics or luxurious slip-cased hardback limited, signed and numbered editions, a phenomenon which is related to the medium’s struggle for cultural recognition (Groensteen 2007; Lent 2001).

Moreover, self-imposed or external stigmatisation is expressed as formal and thematic constraints that have generated specific and complex cultural phenomena, including types of texts (newspaper strips, periodical comic books, graphic novels), genres (superheroes, political satire, humour, horror, romance, pornography, crime, biography, reportage, etc.) and dedicated ‘subcultures’ -there must be a better term- around them. Paradoxically, what arguably started at the dawn of the 20th century as an art form of and for the masses has been in danger of becoming a niche market only for the initiated. The artistic complexity of the texts has reached very high levels of sophistication, and so has the expense at which the books have to be produced, therefore increasing the cover prices substantially.

As the comic book market has become more specialised, its products have become more expensive, and its audience more elitist. As seen in the development of comics inthe last few years since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (1993) onwards, digital technology would only further complicate things, sometimes in unprecedented ways.

The literature discussing the past, present, future and after-lives of books is considerable and increasing by the day, but comic books have been so far greatly excluded from the debate. With the notable exceptions of The Oxford Companion to the Book (2010) and Bettley’s The Art of the Book (2001), most literature in the fields of book history and topics concerning the history of writing and digital textuality, including studies of books as artistic objects and of the material page make no mention of comics at all, in spite of the fact they do refer to other forms of multimedia or text-and-image publications such as collage books and illustrated books.

The relationships between “content” and “document”, “text” and “publication”, “medium” and “message” are intricate, and today’s information professionals need to be aware of this. If, as Randy Scott puts it, comics “ can help librarianship as a whole break some new ground in terms of proactive information handling”, it is because they are examples of multimedia that defy previous forms of categorization and description, both as messages (that which could also be described as “content”) and as publications (that which could also be described as “medium”, “form”, “material support”, etc.).

Randy Scott, the head librarian and founder of the Comic Art Collection, Special Collections Division of the Michigan State University Library, remains one of the best-known comics librarians in the comics scholarship field. In his pioneering Comics Librarianship. A Handbook, (1990) he writes:

A major reason that there are not enough histories, analyses and reference books about comics is that collecting comics is a very difficult job, and libraries have not been collecting well enough. Although there are some significant university collections of comics material, there are very few libraries that routinely acquire the best of what is newly published, even of political and non-fiction comics (1990:9).

The Library of Congress has never provided cataloguing for comic books as it does for almost every other category of published material. Until the late 1970s, no librarian anywhere on Earth would have been able to prove, using any standard library catalogues, whether such titles as Wonder Woman, Superman, or The Amazing Spider-Man even existed as bibliographic entities (1990: 14-15).

The need for specialized skills, the needs of a specialized readership, and a sense within libraries that the time is right to begin giving comics more serious attention, all these things make it seem possible that comics is a field that can help librarianship as a whole break some new ground in terms of proactive information handling (1990:23).

Scott’s remarks are relevant because they offer the context in which comics as publications were  located in relation to academic information handling and humanities research at the time he was writing. During the same now-distant 1990s, George P. Landow, some seven years later, would argue that “any information medium that encourages rapid dissemination of texts and easy access to them will increasingly demystify individual texts” (1997: 84). If our understanding of “individual texts” has changed with the inception of the Internet (not to mention the Web), our understanding of comic books as “texts” (in this case as “publications”) should also change. How have things changed 24 years after Randy Scott’s Handbook was published?

The book Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research, History and Cataloging was released in April 2010. Edited by Robert G. Weiner, includes an article entitled “Webcomics and Libraries”, by Amy Thorne (pages 209-213) and includes an updated take by Scott on the Comic Art Collection at Michigan State University (pages 123-126). However, the volume seems to me very ill-equipped to deal with the transformations in comics publishing and libraries brought about the digital age.

During the first part of the lecture we will discuss the challenges that comics, as specific types of publications, pose to librarians, publishers, and booksellers of today.

Comics, in any form or format, are of course an international phenomenon. Casey Brienza (@CaseyBrienza) is a sociologist and Lecturer in Publishing and Digital Media at City University London’s Department of Culture and Creative Industries. I am incredibly pleased to say she will be our guest speaker for the second part of the lecture tomorrow. She has done extensive research on different aspects of Japanese comics (manga) publishing, focusing on, amongst other topics,  the rise of manga in the United States and its implications for the globalisation of culture. Looking forward to tomorrow!


Bettley, J. (ed.) (2001) The Art of the Book. From Medieval Manuscript to Graphic Novel. London: Victoria and Albert Publications.

Groensteen, T. (2007) The System of Comics. Jackson: The University of Mississippi Press

Landow,  G.P. (1997) Hypertext 2.0. The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lent, J.A. (2001) “Comic Books”, entry for Censorship. A World Encyclopedia, A-D, Jones, D. ed. London: Fitzroy Daerborn

McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press

Priego, E. (2012). “Audio: Randy Scott on the Superpowers of Librarians (2001)”. The Comics Grid  [blog post]. 29 June 2012. http://blog.comicsgrid.com/2012/06/audio-randy-scott-2001/ Accessed 13 February 2014. Web.

Scott, R. W. (1990) Comics Librarianship. A Handbook. Jefferson and London: MacFarland & Company

Suarez, M.F., Woudhuysen, S.J. & Woudhuysen, H.R. (2010). The Oxford companion to the book: Essays, A-C / Vol. 1, Oxford University Press

Weiner, S. (ed.) (2010). Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research, History and Cataloging. Jefferson, N.C. and London: MacFarland

This post is part of my residence during February 2014 as blog curator of the Digital Reading Network, covering the topic of “digital comics“.

Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society (#LibPub)

From "Mystery of the Million-Dollar Briefcase", author and source unknown, United States, 1960s. Panels 5-6. Via Nick Page (16 February 2011).
From “Mystery of the Million-Dollar Briefcase”, author and source unknown, United States, 1960s. Panels 5-6. Via Nick Page (16 February 2011). Click on image to go to source.

This term I will be leading the Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society (LAPIS) module at City University London.  The first session is tomorrow.

The purpose of this module is to facilitate an understanding of the ways in which the publication of recorded information is changing, and the impact that this will have on libraries and other information providers, and their users.

The module framework relates these issues to forces for change which are technical, economic, social and political.

Some of the topics we will discuss will be the “Information Society”, the “Knowledge Economy” and the “Sharing Economy”, we will attempt a a brief history of publishing, trade publishing and scholarly publishing, and will see how academic libraries and national libraries are facing challenges that are very much specific to the 21st century. We will look at scholarly journal and monograph publishing, trade publishing, comic books, reference books, social media, blogging and journalism, forms of measuring online attention, open linked data, disruptive publishing, repositories, open access, etc. 

This module considers that publishing, as an element of “the information communication chain” (Robinson 2009) can refer to the synthesis of two previously separated processes, creation and dissemination. LAPIS considers how changes in publication and dissemination of information (documents) impact on organizations and services – thus this module focuses on the corresponding parts of the chain; “publication/dissemination” and “organization”.

We will have a series of guest talks by professionals in the field, including Jean Liu (Altmetric); Casey Brienza (City University London); Katharine Schopflin (the MDU); James Baker (British Library); Geoff Browell (King’s College London); Suzanne Kavanagh (ALPSP); Neil Stewart (City University London); Nick Canty (University College london); Brian Hole (Ubiquity Press) and Alastair Horne (Pressfuturist).

The module will invite students to consider how users and their behaviour are changing, which clearly can be related to “usage” but also “creation”, the user as created. Do we need publishers in an age being defined by social media? Can the library be a publisher? What is publishing in the age of user generated content, and do publishers need libraries when every publisher and every user could potentially develop their own library systems?

I will be using #LibPub (for Libraries and Publishing, not Libraries and Public Houses!) on Twitter to share some resources related to the topics covered within the module, and I will aim to make regular updates here as a way of extending our activities beyond the four walls of the lecture theatre and the student Intranet. Hope you find it interesting.