Writing in the library: A story of exasperation

by Tegan Darnell, Research Librarian
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

As a research librarian doing a work–based Doctorate, with some work time dedicated to research, I thought I would find time to write. I even have time in my electronic calendar set aside for research activities. What I have found, however, is that a university Library is no place to write.

We work in an open plan office space, surrounded by our colleagues and in particularly close proximity to members of our work team. It is a great space to work together, to chat about incidentals, or encourage communication. I do not dislike it. In fact, I rather enjoy it when I’m busy answering inquiries or responding to urgent issues.

I have tried all the things to try and write.

I have tried:
• headphones
• headphones with loud music
• headphones with soft music
• wearing a hoodie
• wearing a hat

and even

• sitting under my desk with a laptop.

It doesn’t help. People can see me. They know I am there. They can say ‘Excuse me’, tap me on the shoulder, or send me an email – and they know that I just got it because it popped up in my notifications and they can see my computer screen…

It is no place to write.

I tried writing in the Library space. Surely, I thought, this would be the ideal place to write.

The private study carrels were all taken, so I sat down on a lounge with my laptop actually in my lap, ready to go.

“Hi! How is your research going?” someone asked within fifteen short minutes.

Shortly after returning to my writing, some students started moving the furniture around to set up a table for a group project. A few minutes later, the security gates went off. A small child took up residence on the lounge opposite me, rolling around on the seat. A student (and parent) snapped at the child and dragged them away by the arm.

The Library is no place to write.

Research writing takes focus. It takes time – dedicated time – and concentration. I have none of these resources in abundance.

I get out of the Library.

On campus is a small, abandoned office with carpet that lifts off the floor under the chair. The corridors here are silent, and no one ever pops in for a visit. There is no name on the door. There is no phone connection. This room is not connected to the heating or air conditioning system and has its own noisy air conditioner on one wall. I leave it turned off.

I turn off my email, and turn on an alarm to let me know when I can have a break to check for urgent messages.

Forty-six minutes of writing.
Bing dong bee ding! Bing dong bee ding!

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

The author’s side of peer review

by Kristin Hoffmann
Associate Librarian, University of Western Ontario

In the last few months, Brain-Work has featured two discussions of peer review: How to be an effective peer reviewer and Peer reviewing as a foundation of research culture, both aimed at librarians who might be serving as reviewers. In this post, I want to look at peer review from the perspective of the author who is reading and responding to peer reviewers’ feedback.

I get butterflies in my stomach every time I see the subject line in my inbox announcing an email that contains reviewer comments. Reading reviewer feedback feels like the closest I come these days to getting a grade back on a test or an essay, and I still desperately want that A. What I have increasingly come to realize is that reviewers’ feedback isn’t going to determine my final grade in the course, and that it can really be a process of giving supportive and formative feedback.

Here are some suggestions I have that will hopefully make the process of reading and responding to peer review feel less daunting and more supportive:

1. Ask someone else to read your paper before you submit it. It’s always a good idea to get a fresh perspective on your work. Also, getting feedback from someone you know will help prepare you for getting more feedback from the reviewers.

2. When you get the reviewers’ comments, particularly if they include lots of suggestions for revision, let yourself complain and vent about it – for a day. Then put the complaining behind you and move on.

3. Remember that the reviewers’ feedback is intended to improve your paper. Read it with that in mind. In my experience, reviewers have always provided at least one helpful suggestion. (Exception: a review that says simply “this was terrible and shouldn’t ever be published.” That review isn’t going to improve your paper, so go ahead and complain about that terrible review that should never have been written, and then move on.)

4. You don’t necessarily need to take all of the reviewers’ suggestions or address all their questions. The reviewers don’t know your research as well as you do, and it may be that their suggestions would change the focus of your paper beyond what you intended. It could also be that they’re asking for changes because they didn’t clearly understand your intent as you had presented it in the paper—and that should be a sign to you that you need to change something, even if the change is perhaps not exactly what the reviewers asked for.

5. Stay in contact with the editor. Let them know that you are working on changes. If the editor had sent a “revise and resubmit” decision and you’ve decided not to resubmit, let them know that too. Ask the editor for advice if the reviewers’ suggestions aren’t clear, or if the reviewers have provided conflicting suggestions.

For more advice about reading and responding to peer review, the following offer more good suggestions:

Annesley, Thomas M. 2011. “Top 10 Tips for Responding to Reviewer and Editor Comments.” Clinical Chemistry 57 (4): 551–54. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2011.162388.

McKenzie, Francine. 2009. “The Art of Responding to Peer Reviews.” University Affairs. http://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/the-art-of-responding-to-peer-reviews/

The Open Source Paleontologist. 2009. “Responding to Peer Review.” http://openpaleo.blogspot.ca/2009/01/responding-to-peer-review.html

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.