Guest post by Professor Mark Tadajewski, Durham University
At various points in my career I have been involved with institutions that have had great books in their collections and good electronic journal packages. This is all well and good, but knowing which texts were the seminal books or articles you need to consult is easy if you are an established scholar. For the new student, scholar or even, thinking about it, established name that wanted to move into a new research domain, this is not necessarily that simple. The Major Works that I was involved with were a means to short-cut the time-consuming nature of information search that achieving fluency and competency in a subject entails (on a personal note, I actually bought a Major Work – the one on Relationship Marketing – a few years before I was involved with SAGE. At that time, I needed to fast-track my knowledge of the area and spending my research allowance on that collection really helped me work through all the relevant articles and chapters as expeditiously as possible).
A Major Work, as I see it, brings together the very best scholarship in a given domain, whether this is marketing theory or the history of marketing thought. But I wanted to go beyond this; in conjunction with advice from scholars with a great deal of research experience and considerable depth of knowledge, I wanted to provide scholars with access to material that was very difficult to source. This might include book chapters that have proven their intellectual standing but have become illusive even if you possess access to inter-library loans, never mind if you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student. Even more than this, I wanted to add value to the Major Work series by stretching the disciplinary boundaries of a topic. What I mean by this is that I set myself the task of including material that should – but did not for whatever reason – receive the attention it deserved. After consulting with colleagues with an interest in the area such material was sourced, read and where appropriate republished.
I’ve found having the Major Works in the library really helpful. If students ask me about a given topic that they’d like to explore further, I can direct them to whichever collection is most useful, and they can explore the topic themselves, directing their own learning. As those familiar with educational theory appreciate, this self-directed learning is important to their intellectual development. Moreover, the Major Works are very valuable for Ph.D. students who are tasked with teaching seminars whilst juggling their own research. They can read the three or four pertinent articles that allow them to develop their knowledge of a topic beyond textbook representations of the literature. They can consequently deepen their own students’ knowledge at the same time as improving their self-confidence as a teacher.
As an academic, having access to Major Works obviously means I no longer have to rely on library subscriptions to very specialist publications. In a time of library funding cuts, this is not a safe move; and my experiences with memory sticks have not been happy, so a hardcopy is reassuring. My own personal collection is frequently used to easily access papers that I need to re-read for teaching purposes or if I need to check a quote for publication and proof-editing. While convenience might sound like a minor selling point, in this “publish or perish” research climate, in which teaching pressures are constantly growing, when students are becoming more demanding, having all the content I need in a given place, even if it means a quick walk to the university library, is extremely useful to me. I hope you find them as helpful as I continue to.