In 2015, the University of Utah produced 4,639 journal articles and books. The institution’s authors have averaged that amount every year for the last decade. If you search any index—such as Google Scholar—you can easily find something written by a University of Utah author, be it a life sciences research article or a book of poetry or early American history. As a librarian who specializes in the scholarly publishing system—how scholars communicate their research, who owns the research, how students and the general public get access to it, and the role new technology plays—I wanted to understand how much scholarly output the institution produced and when research and publishing became a central focus within the University of Utah and American higher education in general.
It is a somewhat uncharted research area. We have a good idea about how much printed and digital material U.S. research libraries have collected and provided access to since the Association of Research Libraries started keeping statistics in 1907, but almost no idea how much of that information was created by American academic authors. As far as I can tell, no university has studied across time, discipline, and type of scholarly work (book and/or article) what the institution’s authors wrote and published. I presented on my research at the international meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (July 2016) to introduce the idea of what I’m calling university (or institutional) bibliography.
I looked at the disciplinary landscape and terminology by consulting Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), National Library of France Subject Headings (RAMEAU), National Library of Italy Subject Headings (BNCF), and the National Library of Germany Subject Headings (DNB). While headings ‘bibliography,’ ‘authorship,’ ‘universities and colleges,’ and ‘higher education’ help describe the components of the new discipline, no terms exist for ‘university bibliography.’ Neither do any books on the topic according to my search in WorldCat. I located a single article titled Changing trends in publishing behaviour among university faculty, 1980-2000 published in the journal Scientometrics in 2003 about faculty publishing behavior at the University of Norway. The general topic represents the concept of a university bibliography, but the time frame for the study was limited to 1980-2000.
In order for the discipline of university bibliography to emerge and become relevant, comprehensive studies would become necessary. Many institutions track patents and technology transfers, which is important since those elements are so tangible, but no institution has comprehensively listed or tracked books and journal articles. The federal government employs this kind of focus. The National Science Foundation began recording the country’s scientific output in the form of journal articles (and later patents) as part of the Science and Engineering Indicators program in 1993.
So, what’s the point? Why would it matter what an academic institution produces other than well-educated students and a plethora of thriving businesses? Why have a bibliography of research? Financial value and intellectual property ownership could be one possible answer. During the course of my research, I discovered that a significant amount of the books and articles written by University authors are still for sale, even those that are in the public domain and freely available for reading online. Related to financial value is, of course, reputation. The competition between research institutions regarding their strengths and specialties and ability to attract funding, fellows, and students is ever-present and has been since the university reform movement ramped up in the 1880s and 1890s. What makes it interesting to me is seeing how an institution has evolved, the rise and fall of disciplinary strengths, the way authors utilize the copyright and publishing system, and how subject areas were treated, discussed, and analyzed. This type of research shows what was important to professors, students, librarians, and readers at a certain time and how ideas, in the form of books and articles, impacted a broader discipline or even society at large. Through this analytical study, readers can get a sense of the University of Utah as a historical institution and as a case study in the history of American thought and education.
I used several sources to produce the university bibliography. I first had to consult records about who served as the faculty of the University of Utah and when. These sources consisted of board of regents meeting minutes, annual catalogs, and historic faculty files. The former two listed the faculty from 1850 to 1920 and the latter helped me cover 1920-1970. With the list of names, I searched several bibliographic resources starting with the library catalog and WorldCat and digital archives such as JSTOR, Internet Archive, and HathiTrust. As with most research, the process was iterative. I would search with a name in one of the bibliographic sources, receive results from various years, and ensure the author name matched the faculty name as well as his or her years of service. Once I verified the author’s faculty status, I determined the work’s impact by searching worldwide library holdings in WorldCat, copyright registration and renewal records in Stanford’s Copyright Determinator, purchasing options in Amazon, and citation statistics in Google Scholar. The side menu above shows the results of my research. Browse the sections—separated into Articles in Journals and Books—to learn more about the University of Utah, its authors, and their works.