Versus part I: book subjects vs. journal subjects

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The first of two articles/rants on stupid things library people say.

There’s a lot of talk about “book subjects vs. journal subjects” at the library at the moment. By “book subjects”, what is meant is arts, humanities and social sciences, whereas “journal subjects” include those in engineering, medicine, science and technology.

It will surprise no-one that this division is wholly idiotic. You might well read a few books per course for your Bachelor in engineering, and you’re unlikely to be able to ignore journals while studying for your degree in philosophy. On the other hand, a professor of a “journal subject” is likely never “to have to” author an academic monograph on their subject, whereas a professor of a “book subject” probably will. The professors will both have to author articles (and, in fact, will likely author an equal number of articles).

So, taking stock: “book subjects” equate to “book and journal subjects” whereas “journal subjects” are “mostly journal subjects”. No, that’s too simplistic. A “book-subject” journal article is also typically longer than a “journal-subject” article.

Subjects that tend to have shorter articles also tend to be based on empirical research and experimentation, whereas a “book-and-journal” subjects tend towards other methods, and will typically place value on historical context and background assumptions. In a natural sciences, it is typical to ignore work that is considered to be empirically invalid. This is not the case in subjects that do not subscribe solely to empiricism and positivism.

Lest we forget: the job of the library is to present a way for users to get the content the want, be this journal, book, DVD, streaming media, whatever. It isn’t our job to whine about facts of life that cannot be changed, nor is it our job to talk nonsense about things we typically know nothing about — like, er, the content of other people’s work. The best thing you can do is the work of the library — and if you can’t manage to do that in terms of what I said in the first line of this paragraph, maybe you need to find something else to do.

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One Response to “Versus part I: book subjects vs. journal subjects”

  1. Versus part II: digital vs. paper « Infonatives Says:

    […] Infonatives Information culture, library weblog for English, Linguistics and Religion @ NTNU (plus some techie/librarian stuff) « Versus part I: book subjects vs. journal subjects […]

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