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Linda Beebe

Senior Director of PsycINFO, American Psychological Association (APA)

NB: Linda Beebe has passed away since this profile was posted.

Linda BeebeFirst, tell us a bit about yourself (hometown, current locale, family, hobbies, community involvement?)

I was born in Omaha, then spent a few months in California while my father was stationed at Camp Pendleton before deploying to Europe during World War II. We lived in Albion, a small town in the rolling hills of Northeast Nebraska during most of my childhood. When I was 14, we moved to Omaha, where I later met my husband Hank. He was in the Air Force so we lived several different places before we came to the Washington area in 1977. For those who know Washington, we live in Woodley Park, sort of midway between the Cathedral and the National Zoo, both easy walks. We have been happily married for more than 50 years, and we have 2 sons and 3 grandsons—a wonderful family! I have 4 sisters (no, no brothers) with whom I am very close.

Describe some of your responsibilities, and how you or your organization fit into the scholarly communications web.

Until my retirement on December 1, 2012, I am Senior Director of PsycINFO at the American Psychological Association (APA). My staff and I produce large databases—currently we produce 6 including the PsycINFO bibliographic database, PsycARTICLES for journals, PsycBOOKS, PsycEXTRA for gray literature, PsycCRITIQUES, and PsycTESTS for psychological tests and measures. In addition, we are responsible for our delivery platform, APA PsycNET, and for liaison with our vendor partners. Our staff also handle all the permissions and trademarks for APA publications. APA publishes 75 journals (more are added regularly) and has a large book and reference work program. APA Books also publishes a children’s book imprint—Magination Press—and several video series. The Executive Director of Publications and Databases has led APA programs to early adoption of many new initiatives—CD-ROMs in the 1980s, CrossRef in 1999, and ORCID in 2012 are just a few. APA is the largest publisher of scholarly psychological Literature.

What career path led to your current position?

For many years I was a freelance editor and sometime consultant. For example, I managed several National Endowment for the Humanities grants for programs on the women’s movement and issues relating to children. I really didn’t have a full-time job until our children were teenagers when I became the Editorial Manager for the Coalition for Children and Youth. From there I moved to the National Association of Social Workers where I started as Marketing manager and ended with several years as the Associate Executive Director for Communications. That was really excellent preparation for my job at APA because we produced scholarly journals (albeit only 4), nurtured a growing book program, produced reference works that included an encyclopedia, a dictionary, and an almanac, and delivered a small electronic database, as well as a monthly newspaper.  In 1995 we interlinked new editions of our references works on a CD-ROM product. Association PR and marketing were also my responsibility. It wasn’t just the scholarly publishing experience, it was learning about governance, legal issues, finance, and the whole system of content delivery. I was also able to get involved with industry organizations like SSP.

Where do you see scholarly communications heading, and what new directions interest you most?

This is a fascinating time, particularly for discipline-centered societies, as we are seeing more and more interdisciplinary work. Scholars, therefore, need to acquire excellent underpinnings in their own specialty while they interact with and contribute to multidisciplinary research and programs. At the same time we have seen ever-increasing specialization. These scholars need sophisticated tools to help them scan the literature, acquire exactly what they need without getting bogged down in extraneous information or getting distracted by following paths that are not useful, and organize it. I am very interested in the challenges of preserving high quality scholarship while we build those tools. How do we, for example, build interactive journals that enhance comprehension and learning as opposed to just sending the reader on a chase?  I hope that scholars will continue to build on history rather than reinventing it.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

I think we have all faced similar obstacles—learning what we need to know rapidly enough to meet evolving needs, choosing the right innovations to try, finding the resources to do what we need to do. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me is how entrenched print protocols have been. I thought print indexes would disappear in the 1980s, for example, and 30 years later some still exist. I don’t want the HTML version of a journal article to work like a PDF, as I use them for different reasons, yet there seems to be a reluctance to look at the same content in different ways. We are still seeing citation lists in 8-point type, presumably in an attempt to save pages—a futile effort that is a disservice to the reader and the A&I that is covering the journal.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications? What new roles or opportunities do you see emerging in the field?

Get a good, solid grounding in the basics with a mix of liberal arts, science, and technology. Seek out an understanding of true scholarship. Learn to understand technology—and don’t confuse that understanding with getting around in social media or working with the latest electronic gadget. We don’t all have to be able to write code—in fact, for most of us that could be detrimental, but we do need to understand what XML, semantics, HTML5, and future building blocks can do for us. Seek out companies that promote continuing professional learning and involvement in industry organizations. Look for bosses and mentors who will push you to perform better and will hold you accountable. One of the hallmarks of scholarly communications is teamwork and a willingness to share knowledge. Be sure you share as well as receive.  And enjoy your work!