Who is Qualified to Publish?

As I have conversations with archivists, I’ve repeatedly heard variations of this question and comments: am I qualified? who will be interested in what I write? others know more than I do so who will read my writing? I’m not sure I have anything to say. Many people, including me, have these thoughts. In graduate school, we read numerous articles and books and see those authors as authorities. In return, it’s hard to see ourselves as an authority, therefore develop an insecurity that we are not qualified.

Restricting authors to an idea of “qualifications” discourages writers. Instead, I prefer the question: do I want to publish? There are variables, such as tenure-track positions having a writing requirement. But if one truly has the ambition to write, I say go for it.

When I was in library school and even into my PhD program, I did not expect to become a published author, much less an editor. However, once I started, I found myself enjoying it. As a tenure-track archivist, I am required to publish to achieve tenure. I, too, questioned whether or not I was “qualified.” Because peer-reviewers read articles without knowing the author(s), they evaluate based not on the author’s qualifications or prior writing experience, but instead based on how well one constructs an argument and supports it. (more about peer-review in a future post)

I encourage anyone to submit for publication. While I of course solicit for Provenance, I suggest authors review the various journals (see list) to find one that best suits their topic. Especially, review previously published articles to see if theirs fits within the scope of the journal. There are an increasing amount of journals, therefore an increasing amount of opportunities to write.

The qualified question most often comes from students or newer professionals. My response is that without new voices, the literature can get stale or repetitive. Publishing should be ongoing conversations about a variety of topics, as well as a platform for new ideas. Our profession continually evolves and as such, so should the literature. So try to not think of whether or not you are qualified, but why you want to publish and how your ideas/experiences can benefit other archivists.