Getting Published

F. Wilfrid Lancaster

    My "biggest moment" in the field of information science occurred in 1968 when I discovered that my first book had been accepted for publication by John Wiley. Following work on the Aslib Cranfield Project, and various evaluation studies for Herner & Co., I had recently completed a large-scale evaluation of MEDLARS (published in 1968). The book was based primarily on my experience in these various evaluation studies.
    It is never easy for a relatively unknown author to find a publisher, and my experience was no exception. I first submitted the manuscript to Columbia University Press and later to McGraw-Hill, Both sat on the submission for several months before they eventually declined.
    At that point I was ready to give up on the whole thing and was beginning to feel that the book was perhaps not worth publishing after all. Quite by chance, I mentioned the situation to a professional colleague, Jesse Ostroff. He said that he was quite friendly with Joe Becker who, at that time, was very influential in Wiley's publishing in information science. Jesse gave a copy of my text to Joe, who liked it. John Wiley made a rapid decision to publish.

    Since this made a significant contribution to furthering my career, I will be eternally grateful to Wiley, Becker and, especially, Jesse. Jesse was an information specialist with some government agency, but I no longer remember which. Very fortunately for me, he had attended a workshop or short course I had given in the area of evaluation.
    There are other people, of course, who profoundly influenced my career, and I owe all of them a debt of gratitude: Cyril Cleverdon, who led me to the field of information retrieval; Saul Herner, who brought me back from England; and Herbert Goldhor, who offered me a full time faculty position at Illinois and rewarded me by rapid promotion.
    There have been many notable events in my career (which, incidentally, I do not regard as completely over), including many important awards from ASIS, but getting my first book published was definitely the highlight.


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