Hamburg resident helps launch scholarly journal

Photo courtsey of David J. Reimer, Sr. Christina Steffy

Hamburg resident Christina Steffy is a member of the College and Research Division (CRD) of the Pa Library Association (PaLA), which launched a scholarly, open access journal to share information about the research and practices taking place in Pennsylvania’s academic libraries.

“I have always felt proud to be a member of PaLA, particularly CRD board, because it is always working to improve the profession. The journal is a fine example of that,” said Steffy. “So I’m proud not just of the journal, but of my profession, of PaLA, and of my colleagues on the CRD board. We all volunteer our time to help the profession grow. Now we have given those who are not able to be involved in the organization at the committee level a way to contribute to the profession as well.”

The journal, Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice (PaLRaP), was introduced at the PaLA annual conference in Gettysburg in October. PaLRaP is peer reviewed by members of the Pennsylvania library community and is available for free online. The journal will be published two times a year and is published by the University Library System, University of Pittsburgh, through the E-Journal Publishing Program. The first issue was published in May and is available on the website.

“The journal will benefit everyone in the library community because library professionals – librarians, library technicians, etc. – and library students can write for the journal. So this will allow us to see topics and issues from different library professionals’ perspectives. Also this can be a stepping stone for people to begin their scholarly publishing work – they might start in this journal, learn about the scholarly publishing process and then move on to publishing in larger journals,” said Steffy.

The idea for the journal began in 2011 with the Open Access Committee being formed and working on the project in February 2012. CRD board’s first step was to form committees for all of the new projects it was working on to reach out to academic librarians. The committee created a survey that was sent to members to determine the amount of interest in reading, submitting and peer reviewing articles in a journal such as PaLRaP. Questions in the survey also included what people wanted to see in the journal.

According to Steffy, the response was overwhelmingly positive with academic librarians excited about the idea of reading this type of journal as well as contributing. Items to be included in the journal were narrowed down to include research, articles, practice articles, commentary and news items.

Next, the committee had to decide what platform would be used to host the journal. University of Pittsburgh’s OJS platform was decided in part due to reputation, reasonable cost, and the level of guidance and support received. Roles were assigned for the editorial team and the layout and website as well. People in the Pennsylvania library community were invited to be peer reviewers for the journal. Submissions were called for at the October meeting and the deadline was mid-January. The first issue was published on May 1.

“In addition to this journal benefiting the library community, we hope it benefits the open access movement,” said Steffy. “The open access movement is wonderful because of the world of information it opens to everyone, but it’s dangerous because when anyone can publish anything, you have to be sure that what you are getting is credible information.”

She added that the open access movement is one reason why the job of librarians should be of more value because people need to understand how to critically evaluate what they find online.

Steffy, originally from Leesport, resides in Hamburg and is the librarian at the Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing in Pottsville. She is a graduate of Rutgers University where she earned her master’s degree in library and information science. Steffy also holds two bachelor’s degrees from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

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