Interview: Mark Aaron Polger, founder of Marketing Libraries Journal

mark-aaron-polger.jpgMark Aaron Polger is the First Year Outreach Librarian at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York (CUNY), and an Information Literacy Instructor at ASA College. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Marketing Libraries Journal, a new open source, peer-reviewed scholarly journal that is dedicated to research in library marketing and its components. We talked to Mark about how the MLJ came into being, what it takes to put an issue together, and which topics in LIS could use more scholarly examination.

Congratulations on the first issue! Describe the genesis of the MLJ. What were your initial ideas of what it could be?

Thank you for the well wishes! We are all excited that the first issue is finally out! It has been a long year! I have been interested in library marketing ever since I was a Children’s Librarian in 2001. Marketing is about connecting the right products and services with your target audience(s). I could not find an academic journal devoted to the marketing of libraries. There are many academic journals that contain articles about marketing, but there is no single journal devoted to it. I also wanted it to be open access and online. I did some research about how to start up an academic journal and in late 2016, I decided to go for it. I recruited about 40 volunteers who make up the editorial board of peer reviewers, advisory board members, a communications director, communication officers, column editors, layout editors, and copy editors. I oversee the entire cycle of soliciting submissions, receiving submissions, reading them, forwarding along to peer reviewers for double blind peer review, accepting submissions for our columns, coordinate the flow of activities and liaise between the authors, peer reviewers, column editors, layout, and copy editors. I have little experience “driving the ship” but it has been an exciting year for me.

What is your background in libraries and library marketing?
I obtained my MLIS degree nearly 20 years ago from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. I’ve had a keen interest in marketing for a long time. I read the literature on library marketing but I do not have any formal education in the field. I started an MBA in marketing in Fall 2014 but I never completed it. I am known as an “accidental library marketer” because in all my previous roles as a librarian (in public, medical, and academic libraries), marketing duties fell into my lap. I began to read more about marketing and its components (communications, advertising, promotion, publicity, and public relations) and I really enjoyed this skill set.


How did you go about assembling the editorial and production team? What about the advisory board and peer reviewers?
I sent out a call for volunteers who would like to be part of a brand new academic journal. I targeted specific library listservs and I also targeted specific library people who were well known in the field of library marketing. I wanted to recruit a diverse group of volunteers from all libraries and from other countries besides the United States. I looked over many CVs and carefully selected our slate of peer reviewers, and column editors. When all manuscripts were ready, I had to find a dedicated (and patient) production team of layout and copy editors who would work with the column editors and authors in ensuring that the articles were in top shape for publication.

Did you always envision MLJ as open source and independently published or did you consider other publishing models?
I always envisioned that MLJ would be open access (green and gold). I always wanted authors to retain their rights and to post their articles on their personal web sites and/or academic digital repository.

What goes into putting together one issue of a peer-reviewed scholarly journal like MLJ?
It is all about setting deadlines and having a flexible schedule. The peer review process takes time. I’ve had to become more patient this past year. The process of reviewing manuscripts, offering feedback, and asking authors to review and make edits takes a lot of time. Documenting everything is important. We use Google drive to share documents and take informal notes from our Zoom meetings. The web site is very useful as it contains a wealth of information on the types of submissions, the deadlines, and additional resources on how to submit a manuscript to a scholarly journal. The editorial board comprises many busy people and we try to schedule Zoom video meetings every 6-8 weeks. I schedule meetings with different members of the board so I can focus the discussion on specific timely issues. Email communication has been very important. I’ve also been fortunate to meet some editorial board members at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL and at the 2017 Library Marketing and Communications Conference in Dallas, TX last November.

What would you say to potential authors who don’t have a background in academic writing but are interested in writing about library marketing?
Maybe start with submitting to one of our columns. Our columns are formal in tone but they are editorial reviewed, not double blind peer reviewed. I would consult some of the resources listed on our web site under author guidelines. These resources are helpful because they offer advice and tips on how to get published in a scholarly journal.

Do you have other ambitions for Marketing Libraries domain, or is the journal the sole focus at this point?
At present, the sole focus for the domain name is to host the Journal. For 2018, I am trying to get us listed in DOAJ, and indexed across many different EBSCO databases. I’m working with the Communications director and her team of officers so we can promote the Journal, solicit more submissions, and increase readership and awareness.

What other niche topics do you see in library & information science that could benefit from more scholarly examination?
I think other niche topics in LIS that might benefit from more scholarly research may be: teaching practices, curriculum design (for librarians teaching credit courses), user experience, scholarly communications, open education resources, and patron driven acquisitions.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Consider submitting to MLJ! We accept both scholarly studies and practical case studies of your marketing initiatives. Whether you devoted a year of study in a specific marketing endeavour at your library or you tried to implement a marketing campaign, we want to hear about it! Visit MLJ at to submit your work!

Articles News

Are Reference Books Worth It?

It seems like most libraries are downsizing their reference collections in favor or more electronic resources and a heavier reliance on free websites, but most are still purchasing reference books to some degree. The Scholarly Kitchen blog recently posted a recap of a debate that happened at the Profession and Scholarly Publishing Annual Conference.

Here’s an excerpt:

Prior to the debate, a text-message polling system was used to take the temperature of the room. At the start, 56% felt that reference books and journals would endure, 35% felt they would perish, and 9% were unsure.

Crawford and Fisher defended the role of expertise, stressed the relative immutability of the functions of the reference book and journal in both academic life and intellectual output, spoke to the power of the tenure and promotion system in a publish-or-perish culture, and underscored the importance of trusted brands in an information realm that is exploding with choice.

O’Leary and I observed that while research reporting and reference works are still important, their containers are changing, evolving from time-limited and space-limited entities into updated, boundless, and interactive forms we’re still exploring. These changes will change editorial and authorship functions, and are already changing how readers access and evaluate content.

Many familiar themes were sounded during the debate, including:

  • Expertise vs. elitism
  • Trust networks vs. brand power
  • Linking vs. referencing
  • Crowd-sourcing vs. editorial control
  • Motivations vs. inducements
  • Timeliness vs. thoroughness
  • Relevance vs. trust

So, what do you think? Will reference books and journals survive? How is your library handling this question?


Reference librarians in the age of Google

Has anyone else out there read this recent article from Duke magazine, “Brave New World: Reference Librarians in the Age of Google“? There’s nothing really new in it from what I could tell. It mostly talks about the challenge librarians are facing adapting to a world in which most people start searching for information on Google instead of a library. Virtual reference options are mentioned, as is Facebook.

Does this sound like a possible program that the committee should take on? Steven Bell would be a good guest speaker. Maybe we can have a conversation between Bell and someone else who has a different take on what the future holds for reference librarians. What do you all think?

Here’s an excerpt:

UNC’s Pomerantz acknowledges that there is some tension as libraries are pulled in two different directions, the physical and the virtual. On the one hand, he says, public and university libraries are increasingly playing to “hyper-local” niches, often serving as community centers. “At the same time, there is a lessening of importance of geography,” as libraries reach out via the Web to patrons around the world.