Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Ariadne is not the only fruit.

John Kirriemuir, editor of the first ten issues of Ariadne, reminisces about library and information science e-­journals back in the day, looks across the current landscape of online “free to read, free to write for” publications, considers a few questions for budding authors to ask, and highlights some publications to house their words.

In the beginning was the Jisc­-funded buffet
Ariadne was conceived between Lorcan Dempsey and John MacColl [n0], gestated in UKOLN and the University of Abertay in Dundee through the autumn of 1995, and was born, on a dark and stormy night [n1], in January 1996. Richard Dawes [n2], the IT manager for the University of North London Learning Centre where the launch party and online demonstration were held, recalls the technical hiccups and the joy of launching under Windows 3.1, as well as:
…someone produced a better­ than­ average buffet.
The primary purpose of Ariadne, both the print and web versions, was to publicise other Jisc­-funded Electronic Library Programme projects. Ariadne was also a vehicle for raising awareness of digital library projects, services and issues across the education sector. The parallel glossy print version was posted to academic libraries for the several years of its run; the web version [n3] remains open and free to access.
Ariadne, as an online, free-­to-­read vehicle for LIS news and articles, was not alone. Other such publications emerged; sadly, many did not endure. For example, the Katharine Sharp Review, mirrored by UKOLN [5], was:
…a journal to present articles by student authors who are concerned with topics relevant to library and information science and can consist of work that has been both prepared for coursework and through independent study.
Unlike some other online LIS publications of the time, an archive of KSR content is maintained [6]. Similarly, and also originally mirrored by UKOLN, MCJournal (the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship) was produced between 1993 and 2002 with the archive also still available [7].
But others carry on. Some, such as Chinese Librarianship [8] and JEP, the Journal of Electronic Publishing [9], came into being in the heady mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was exciting and dangerous, and cutting edge online innovations included tables, style sheets (cascading ones!) and the blink tag.
Some still­-functioning LIS online publications are even older. It’s worth remembering that online is not the same as the web, and there were technologies before Tim thought it would be interesting to hyperlink together some CERN documents one day. The old librarian in the back at conferences, mumbling about Archie, Veronica, WAIS, Gopher and ‘you youngsters don’t know the hell of boolean­-searching a remote database of publications before the Telnet connection dies’, has seen it all [n4].
So, here we are. From a time when Bill Clinton was still in his first term as President of the USA, John Major was still Prime Minister of the UK, and most people in the western world still had not used the web, to now. Mid-January 2016, and the 75th issue and 20th birthday of Ariadne.
But today, in the prevailing climate of contracting funding for library services, sustainability is not easy. Publications such as the Journal of Library Innovation [10] have recently ceased to produce new issues, while others such as the Journal of Creative Library Practice seek incomes [11] to remain viable. And sustainability is even more difficult when, to get as wide a content acquisition and readership as possible, a publication chooses not to charge either the authors or the readers.
The EWOCs of Planet Librarian
In this article we focus on what could be called EWOC publications in the wider library, information science and information professional sector. An EWOC has four characteristics:
Some, but not all, Open Access journals can be considered EWOCs, while many EWOCs share several attributes:
The positives and negatives of not charging [n6] authors to publish, or readers to read, have been thrashed around in a thousand blog posts concerning ever­-evolving online publishing and writing practice. But if you’re happy to write in an EWOC, what then?
Some questions to ask
Have you not (yet) written for an online LIS publication? But you have an idea, and perhaps you’ve also found an appealing online publication for your writing to appear in? Here are ten questions to ask yourself…
  1. Have you read the publication guidelines? A decent online publication should have, on its website, details of the target audience, types of articles, their length, some other background material and a clear contact point. Reading the guidelines, plus as a few recent articles, should give a notion of whether it’s an ideal place for your writing.
  2. Why are you writing this? Seriously, why are you? Is it to amplify results, inform the community (and which community?), add to the sum of human knowledge, or let others know the outcome of some research or project or service? Or to add an extra publication to your resume, or to increase your rankings or metrics on some list, or some other reason? Or, like Rey returning Luke’s lightsaber, because it seems the right thing to do? What are your real motivations for writing this piece?
  3. Are you happy with the editorial process? Some EWOCs, such as the Journal for Radical Librarianship, have detailed information on this process [13] on their website.
  4. Can you write a good piece on this topic? Perhaps you don’t know. Perhaps have a frank email discussion with the editor, or see what they think of an extended abstract. Or perhaps you think you can’t write a good piece but you actually can [n7]. Again, contact the editor to get an independent opinion. Remember: the editor both needs and wants content. Maybe you can provide it?
  5. Is this publication safe? Search around to see if there have been any unsavoury or controversial incidents of late. Ask recent authors if the process was fine and dandy, and they are happy with how their content has been handled, edited and appears online.
  6. Is the publication indexed, scored, ranked and so forth? If this matters to you, then where does the publication get indexed? Does the content within also count towards academic publishing metrics such as h­-indexes and i10­-indexes, or appear in services such as Google Scholar [14]?
  7. Is the publication diverse enough? Run through the list of authors for the past few issues; are you happy with the range of diversity? Will you writing for this publication help, or hinder, this diversity?
  8. Are the publication and yourself politically on the same page? Before spending substantial time writing that piece extolling the virtues of neoliberal library funding, you may want to consider whether submission to The Journal of Socialist ­Marxist Librarianship is likely to result in a positive response from comrade editor, or not.
  9. Who owns your content? There’s own and there’s own. Can the publication, or the owners of the publication, sell or reuse your content? If so, do you get a cut of the profits, or the right of veto? And can you yourself sell or reuse your content?
  10. Seriously, have you read the guidelines? Yes, we’ve already mentioned it, and yes, there will always be people who will ask a question answered on the publication website, or (worse) spend a lot of time writing ultimately rejected content, because they didn’t read the guidelines.
Some EWOCs to consider
Fourteen EWOCs, with their content or scope remit, are listed below. Other EWOCs are available, as is the wider range of traditional flammable stack-filling publications, social media options such as blogging, and publications where either the content author, or the reader, has to pay.


Writing can be fun, satisfying, is useful from a career perspective, and adds to personal fortitude. As a bonus, academic writing altruistically adds to the sum of human knowledge. EWOCs, those online publications with editorial procedures, provide a platform where you can place your writing without having to raid your bank account or project budget (if you have actually have one). The absence of paywalls and charges for the reader - no credit card or university subscription required - should provide a numerically healthy audience for your work. On this happy birthday [n8] we wish you happy writing!


[n0] Ariadne was a consortium project between the Dundee team (print version) and the UKOLN team (web version). By team, this was to start with one person and their line manager in each place, though more staff became involved later on. Therefore, in the early days, Ariadne was effectively a “Gang of Four”, three of whom wrote a retrospective about Ariadne in the tenth anniversary issue [35]. Alison Kilgour was the print editor and a lot of credit should always go to her for providing high quality content that went into both versions, plus dealing with the additional and considerable issues involved in print production, being a skilled roving reporter and photographer, and for being the cool head when deadlines approached.
[n1] Possibly the high point of the launch event was an email from Tim Berners­-Lee wishing Ariadne well. Unfortunately, and to my lasting shame, like other UKOLN alumni [1in possession of historical TBL materials, I did not keep a copy.
[n2] In an example of the small­ world syndrome that pervades the UK digital library sector, another UKOLN alumni would work in that same building and with Richard [2].
[n3] The print version was constrained by the costs of physical printing and distribution. The web version, with the lesser constraints of just cut and pasting content as it was acquired, contained all of the content of the print version, plus additional material. There was a slight tension in that the print version was arguably broadsheet in nature, containing e.g. fine poetry [3], wheras the web version was arguably more of a tabloid, containing e.g. caption competitions [4].
[n4] One of my favourite LIS conference presentation titles from back in the day was:

“The truth? You can’t handle the truth! (about microfiche)”
[n5] The continual mode of publishing in Ariadne is for there to be no delays between when the editorial board has checked a piece as being okay for inclusion, and when it goes live (bar from the time to mark­up the piece). Some other EWOCs, such as the Journal of Radical Librarianship, have a similar ‘publish without delay’ process. 
[n6] Even if everyone volunteers their time, an EWOC still carries costs such as equipment, and content hosting. If you recently won the Powerball or the UK National Lottery, or are a philanthropist reading this (Hi Bill and Melissa!), or just had a great financial month, then throwing a few pounds, dollars, euros or similar in the direction of an EWOC or two could help sustain these specific wells of human knowledge.
[n7] Imposter Phenomenon or Syndrome is a much­-discussed [15] attribute in the library sector, the feeling that somehow you are not a ‘worthy’ or ‘proper’ librarian while your peers are. Publishing a few articles in topics that interest you, especially if you aren’t contractually mandated to publish, may be one way of fighting any ‘demon of inadequacy’ in your head that holds you back. Once you have published, you have published, whatever the demon tries to convince you afterwards. Have a go. Write something. Publish and be read. Slay the demon…
[n8] It is said that UKOLN staff [32] never missed out on the opportunity for a good party (birthday or otherwise), a good get-together, or a good buffet [33].

Thanks to Jon Knight and Becky Yoose for suggestions of candidate e-journals, e-magazines, webzines and similar, Simon Barron for his note-and-reference style which I have blatantly copied, Jeanette Winterson, George Lucas and Clare Grogan for cultural references, and above all the team at Loughborough University library and the associated editorial board for keeping Ariadne, and all of its legacy content, alive and free to read and write for. 

Proposal: let’s hold the Ariadne 30th anniversary party on Moonbase Jisc [34].

[1] See ‘Andy Powell, Eduserv: Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web’ within
[2] Tweet by Paul Walk.
[3] Poem and cartoon from Ariadne issue 1 (print and web).
[4] Caption Competiton from Ariadne issue 10 (web only). 
[5] UKOLN mirror of Library and Information Science Journals.
[6] Archive of The Katharine Sharp Review.
[7] Archive of MCJournal, the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship.
[8] Chinese Librarianship.
[9] Reflecting on 20 Years of Electronic Publishing. JEP: the journal of electronic publishing. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jep/3336451.0018.401?view=text;rgn=main
[10] Journal of Library Innovation.
[11] Journal of Creative Library Practice request for donations.
[12] code4lib call for submissions.
[13] Journal of Radical Librarianship: About this Publishing System.
[14] Google Scholar example of an academic researcher who has published several times in Ariadne and other LIS publications.
[15] Perceived Inadequacy: A Study of the Imposter Phenomenon among College and Research Librarians, by Clark, Vardeman and Barba.
[16] Ariadne: Web Magazine for Information Professionals.
[17] code{4}lib Journal.
[18] Communications in Information Literacy.
[19] D­-Lib Magazine: The Magazine of Digital Library Research.
[20] CNRI: Corporation for National Research Initiatives.
[21] Nobody looks at the references; here’s a bonus if you do.
[22] In the Library with the Lead Pipe.
[23] The Journal of Creative Library Practice.
[24] The Journal of Electronic Publishing.
[25] The Journal of eScience Librarianship.
[26] The Journal of Information Literacy.
[27] The Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.
[28] The Journal of Radical Librarianship.
[29] Radical Librarians Collective.
[30] Libres: Library and Information Science Research e­-journal.
[31] The Political Librarian.
[32] UKOLN photos on Flickr.

[33] Jisc buffets have gradually grown more elaborate over the years. A 2015 one, photographed by James Clay.

[34] Back to the moon - eLib and the future of the library.

[35] Editorial Introduction to Issue 46: Ten Years of Pathfinding.

UKOLN Staff Photo 1995
[UKOLN staff photo from the mid-1990s, Bath Spa, England]