November 4, 2009
Someone’s Trying to Find You!
In my work I’ve spent a good number of hours looking at academic institutional websites. Why? I’m trying to track down faculty members. From the standpoint of publishers at least—and who knows who else (the media, maybe students too!)—your academic institution’s prime asset is not your campus or your facilities or your sports program or even your library. It’s your faculty. This seems so patently true that it needs no defense. So why do some educational institutions bury their faculty on their websites?
Well, let me just speak for publishers. Editors often go looking for talent. Someone to write a book on this or that. Or, for reference book editors, someone to write an article on this or that. We’ve heard that there might be someone at school X, Y or Z who could fill the bill. And these days, the first thing we do is visit their institutional website. Once on the home page, we are looking for an intuitively simple way of reaching the faculty. We expect to find them listed by their disciplines/departments, with links to a page for each faculty member. And each of those pages should have a reasonable amount of information, including their academic degrees, their teaching and research interests, their publications and perhaps a c.v. or other information in a downloadable pdf format. We even enjoy seeing a brief biographical piece. And this should all be up to date—new faculty added, departing faculty subtracted, promotions duly recorded.
Please don’t bury the faculty deep in the architecture of your website or under some generic title like “resources.” And distinguish the listing of faculty etc from the portion of the website reserved for faculty use. My advice would be not to make us hunt and click down a branched tree that eventually leads to a department with a faculty listing. While Google or another search engine can often pull these up, why be so evasive?
Faculty members, I encourage you to be proactive in getting current professional information posted. If your institution isn’t doing an adequate job, then build your own academic web page and link to it from whatever space you get on the institutional website. I recall a rabbinic saying that goes like this: “That which is not in Torah is not in the world.” I propose revising it to this: “That scholar who is not on the web is not in the world.”
This is important not just for the sake of publishers and others finding your faculty. Good academic websites also contribute to a faculty member’s platform. And it is a good thing for academic institutions to have faculty with a platform that extends beyond the classroom. This doesn’t really need to be argued, does it?
Oh, and here’s another suggestion: Join professional organizations and make sure you are properly listed in their membership rolls. We look for you there too!