Surveying the Field of LIS Publications

This week, I am comparing and analyzing journals in the LIS field to gain an understanding of the scope of the published literature and the field in general. I specifically chose to look at two journals, the Reference and User Services Quarterly, and Literacies, Learning, and Libraries. The following is a brief synopsis of these two journals and a direct comparison.

Reference & User Services Quarterly

This is the journal of the Reference and User Services Association, which is under ALA.

Audience: This journal’s self-described audience is “reference librarians, information specialists, and other professionals involved in user-oriented library services” (RUSA, 2013).

Material Included: The journal covers a range of topics related to providing reference service. A few examples include reference sources reviews and annotated bibliographies, advice for dealing with reference questions, technology and its relation to reference, collection development, and reader’s advisory. Topics are mostly adult-focused but there are occasional articles regarding reference for children, particularly in a school library setting. Topics cover a range of academic, public, and special libraries.

Some issues have loose theme such “E-books” or “The best reference sources of the past year,” but most issues contain a mix of information on patron interaction, copyright issues, training, available resources, and so on. Every issue has columns or articles on reader’s advisory and reviews of reference sources. Most of the recent issues contain articles on information literacy, technology, and social media.

Peer Review: This journal is peer-reviewed. Each submitted article is given to two referees who review the article and make a recommendation as to whether it should be published or not (RUSA, 2013). This means the information contained in the journal is very reputable, since it has been approved by multiple experts.

Other Interesting Features: Each issue has a debate-like article, in which two authors present opposing sides of a tough topic. Examples include use of spine stickers for reading level on children’s books, comparing its benefits for helping kids find what they need and its dangers of promoting self-censorship, whether or not to personally friend patrons on facebook, and the value or problems with using Google for scholarly research.

The editor also often asks conference presenters to write an article on their topic in order to make those presentations available to a wider audience than those who were able to attend the conference.

The reader’s advisory articles could be of particular interest to me career-wise, since I have heard from children’s librarians during observations I have done that general reference questions are declining, but the most common questions are advisory ones.

Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory offered a brief review of RUSQ, written by Amy Jackson (2013), that concisely summarizes what this journal is all about:

As the official publication of the Reference and User Services Association of the American Library Association, this journal communicates information regarding user-oriented library services to librarians in special, public, and academic libraries. In addition to reference trends and e-resources, articles also address professional development, literature reviews, and news of the association. Annotated bibliographies are also included. Recent articles examine participatory web design, campus book clubs, and instruction. A basic title for all library collections.


Literacies, Learning, & Libraries

This is a yearly journal published by the Alberta School Library Council.

Audience: The primary audience is teacher librarians, although anyone interested in education or school libraries will also benefit. The ASLC’s website describes the journal this way: “The Alberta School Library Council published Teacher-Librarian Today, an annual publication the mandate of which is to enhance the competencies of school library  professionals and to increase knowledge, understanding and awareness of the role of school library programs in education” (2010).

Material Included: Topics range from information literacy, serving kids in particular areas like the inner-city, advice on improving a school’s library program, advocacy for school libraries, recognition of awards received by teacher librarians, regional events, and technology and virtual service in school libraries. Articles cover a mix of the theoretical and the practical: “Submissions are requested that will stimulate personal refection, theoretical consideration and practical application ” (Solowan).

Each issue is based around a loose theme, such as innovation, the reality of school library programs (applying theories to real schools), and school librarians as change agents.

Peer Review: This journal is not refereed. Submissions are reviewed by the editor for approval and inclusion. All educators are encouraged to submit articles, but the majority of entries are written by teacher-librarians. These articles are still likely to be of good quality, but they have been evaluated by fewer individual people than articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals, which is something to be aware of.

Other Interesting Features: One issue (2012) included a research article written by two 6th graders, evaluating how 6th graders perform internet research. The article was well done, with all the components of a regular research paper, from hypotheses to research methods to graphs, charts, and tables. I was impressed that a journal editor would be willing to even consider a paper written by 6th graders as worthy of review, let alone publication. This is an unusual method for encouraging students to take education seriously and to produce excellent work, but I like it. It wouldn’t work for every journal, obviously, but this journal specifically focused on grade-school education is a great place for it.

While I do not plan on working in a school library, I do plan to work with school-aged children, so some of the information in this journal may be of interest to me in that capacity.

A Comparison

These journals are quite different in many ways. RUSQ has a broad focus, LL&L has a narrow one. RUSQ is peer-reviewed, LL&L is not. RUSQ is American, LL&L is Canadian. RUSQ is published 4 times a year, LL&L only once. RUSQ is subscription-based, LL&L is available online for free.

But even with all those differences, many of the topics covered are remarkably similar, including e-services, technology, information literacy, and how to best serve the patrons frequenting the readers’ libraries. I think this is indicative of the field of LIS as a whole. There are so many applications of the LIS skills and theory, and the implementation of that will look quite different in academic libraries vs. school libraries vs. special libraries. However, there are common threads tying these otherwise disparate groups together, including concerns with information literacy, access to information, technology and how it impacts library service, and so much more. By applying those broad topics to a designated audience, both of these journals perform an important service to the field as a whole.

— — —


ALSC. (2010). ASLC Journal: Literacies, Learning, and Libraries. Retrieved from

Jackson, A. (2013). Untitled [Review of the Journal Reference and User Services Quarterly]. Available from Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory.

RUSA. (2013). Instructions to Authors. Retrieved from

Solowan, D. G. (n.d.). Guidelines for Contributors. Downloaded from


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