The Variegated Views of a Publishing & Parliamentary Pundit

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, March 1996 | Go to article overview

The Variegated Views of a Publishing & Parliamentary Pundit

Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


"Norman Horrocks, councilor-at-large," he would unfailingly aspirate into the microphone in his dulcet British accent--just before reminding ALA's governing body that it was about to commit a policy breach.

During his 30-some years of volunteer service to the Association he became the Council's parliamentary conscience, a voice of reason and order. His globetrotting career in library education and concurrent two-decade affiliation with Scarecrow Press have given Horrocks a vantage point that extends from the United Kingdom, where he was born in 1927, to Cyprus, Australia, Hawaii, the West Indies, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Canada.

After 21 years, Horrocks left Council last year and returned to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, where he is an adjunct professor. He served as vice-president/editorial for Scarecrow from 1986 to 1995 and is still a consultant for the pioneering library-publishing house founded 46 years ago by Ralph Shaw. American Libraries Editor Leonard Kniffel caught up with Horrocks for this interview in San Antonio at ALA's Midwinter Meeting in January.

AL: How is book publishing for our profession doing?

NH: Publishing in the library and information science field seems to be doing quite well. All the players in the game--the American Library Association, Scarecrow, Neal-Schuman, Oryx, McFarland, and so on--they all seem to be doing well. What they are looking at is the possibility of moving into CD-ROM and other forms of electronic publication.

AL: What is the future of print?

NH: Print is still the medium for many types of publication, and it is likely to remain so. You don't want recreational reading on a screen. You want to read that in your hand. I think it will survive for children's and young adult books in many ways. For reference publishing, for people looking for a specific piece of information, then yes, I think eventually the online services will be the ones that people will use. But I'm not persuaded yet that print is dead or even dying.

AL: What are some of the subjects that are hot right now?

NH: The how-to-do-it manual, the quick-fix type of book, seem to be very popular. The paperback--and I just bought one--on PR. The good solid hardbound library textbook that we grew up on seems to have dwindled in favor of titles (like President Lincoln's Doctor's Dog) that touch the most bases, anything that has internet in it or the future or technology. Also there seems to be a lot of concern about some of the ethical issues that we're facing in access to information, censorship, those areas.

AL: How and why did you get involved with library professional publishing?

NH: Before I joined Scarecrow Press, I'd edited a magazine for the Library Association in Britain, and then I edited the Journal of Education for Librarianship for what is now ALISE the Association for Library and Information Science Education], and I had already been a series editor for Scarecrow, so I had some background in publishing. The reason I was hired in 1986 was to continue the line of librarians they'd always had on the editorial side. While I brought an international dimension to the company, it was having as a librarian, having taught librarians, being aware of what was happening in libraries, and the contacts I had that made me attractive to Scarecrow Press.

AL: Recently you received top awards for career achievements from the Canadian Library Association and ALISE. Last year you received ALA's Lippincott Award. But how did your interest in associations and parliamentary procedure begin?

NH: I have to start back in Britain. When I was at library school we had a little local election. We were all fresh out of the army, and we decided the people on the slate were old people, they were 35 or 40 years old, so we nominated six or eight of ourselves and got out the vote and we took over the administration of the Library Association in our area. …

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