Thursday, June 5, 2008

MLA Conference Report ~ Journal, Journal on the Wall

Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference 2008 Report

A behind the scenes look at the review process, this session was an entertaining conversation, prodded by questions from the moderators, between Publisher’s Weekly (PW) Reviews Editor Jonathan Segura, and Library Journal (LJ) Senior Editor Nancy Aberman. They answered a variety of questions from how reviewers are chosen to why a book receives a starred review.

While PW’s main audience used to be booksellers now, like LJ, librarians are a major focus. Both editors spoke of the growing importance of their online presence. Finding reviewers is a constant challenge. LJ reviewers receive a byline. PW reviewers receive a small stipend. Aberman said when hiring reviewers she tries to find out not just what they like to read, but what they can write about. Reviews in both journals are 200 words but in PW that includes the title (and those long subtitles). PW reviews consist of a summary and evaluation. LJ reviews are a combination of educated opinion, credentials and that all important recommendation at the end.

One question that stood out was about the all important starred review. The questioner stated she purchased these books and oftentimes they didn’t circulate. Both editors were unapologetic. Outside of the best-selling authors, this is a way to get attention for new and mid-list authors – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

~ Deb Kern, Director, Dickinson Memorial Library, Northfield

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