March 2014 Editorial

Choice: The Next 50 Years

Photograph of Mark Cummings

Readers who opened their newspapers during the first week in March, 1964, were greeted by headlines that still resonate in our national memory.  Lyndon Johnson had completed his first 100 days in office and was preparing for a presidential campaign, the secretary of state was “optimistic” about prospects for victory in Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic were calling for independence and self-determination for Yemen.  Timely stories, the echoes of which continue to be heard to this day.

That same week, a smaller group of readers was opening the first issue of a new journal devoted to reviews of scholarly books.That journal, whose fiftieth anniversary edition you are reading today, was a product of those same times, and the fact that it continues to flourish is a tribute to the ways in which it maintains links with its own past while adapting to changes in both publishing and librarianship, along the way garnering the respect and loyalty of its dedicated readers.

It is worth recalling that the success of Choice was no foregone conclusion.  Funded by a modest grant from the Council on Library Resources, and working out of a small office at Wesleyan University, the fledgling journal had only a brief period in which to prove that it could sustain itself.  And yet, under the capable leadership of its founding editor, Richard K. Gardner, Choice was so gratefully received by the library community that within a year it was looking for a larger office space and had secured a reliable base of both subscribers and advertisers.  Success begot success, and before long the journal found itself issuing Choice Reviews on Cards (1968), the second edition of Books for College Libraries (1975), and its first reviews of nonprint resources (1980).  Another nineteen years would pass before publication of Choice (1999), but only two years after that, Choice reviews made their initial appearance in library OPACs, followed by a succession of licensing arrangements that made our content available in aggregated information databases and library ordering and fulfillment systems. Clearly, a new era was in the offing.

Now Choice is beginning its fifty-first year, and with it comes the inevitable questions as to what the future holds for our publication.  What role will reviews serve in the evolving world of collection development? What other services can we provide that will be of use to the library community?  While we are no better at predictions than anyone else, this much, at least, seems clear: regardless of how scholarly texts are produced, published, accessed, and “consumed” in the years to come, the need for discovery services will only become stronger.  We see reviews—in their current form or otherwise—as integral to discovery, so it seems plausible to suggest that the future of Choice is tied to the future of these methodologies.  It may be that the content we produce will come to serve multiple audiences, both librarians and library patrons, for instance, or that we will begin creating information metadata at new levels of granularity or in new formats.  Who knows what lies ahead, or what the editor of Choice will have to say about these times fifty years from now?—MC