The Social Journal: Introduction

The opportunity for this talk came about indirectly because of Allen Renear and Caveat Lector, directly because of Geoffrey Bilder, who read Caveat Lector at the suggestion of Allen Renear and decided to take a flyer on an utterly unknown librarian. I have not forgotten. I am still grateful.

I shared the podium that day with Allen himself, as well as Leigh Dodds and the inimitable Jason Scott. In one of those inordinately strange coincidences that recurs more often than a coincidence should, our talks fit together as though we’d planned them to. We didn’t; it was part luck, part my luck at joining such a talented brace of speakers.

The day before this talk, I took a tumble down the stairs at the bed-and-breakfast where my husband and I had been staying, spraining my right knee badly. The Tube trip from there to the Kensington hotel hosting the symposium was exquisitely painful. I hobbled into the hotel lobby to await transport to the speakers’ dinner in my tourist Mary Janes rather than the proper conference heels I could not possibly walk in, in no great frame of mind.

I had another ugly shock coming. Too young in my career to know quite what the STM Association was and what sort of person belonged to it, I had envisioned my audience as consisting of the professionals I was accustomed to from my previous mini-career in publishing: project managers, acquisitions editors, publishing craftspeople like typesetters and graphic artists, that sort of person.

At the tony Reform Club dinner that evening, I learned that on the contrary, I would be addressing people whose titles ran to two-word phrases starting with V or even three-letter acronyms starting with C at the biggest academic publishing houses in the world. I returned to the hotel that night starkly terrified. I am not given to stage fright, but I have never before or since come closer to ditching a talk by calling in sick.

Since it was far too late to rewrite my entire talk, I gave it as planned. The bad knee turned out to be a lefthanded benefit; it hurt so badly I couldn’t concentrate on my fear.

And what do you know, the talk went fine.