I’m at the JCDL conference this week — or more accurately, I’m working at the conference. Somehow I let myself get talked into being the Student Volunteers Chair. But enough about me.

I actually managed to make the time in all of this chaos to sit in on most of the Augmenting Interoperability Across Scholarly Repositories panel session. About which Paul wrote some extensive and coherent comments, so I direct you to him.

During the session, Herbert Van de Sompel mentioned the idea of the overlay journal. According to this definition, it’s a low-investment form of a journal because it’s minimalist. Well, an even more minimalist form of overlay journal occurred to me: one that does not even perform peer review on the works in a repository, but simply links to them. The idea is that each issue would be a “virtual special issue.” The only value-add that the overlay journal would provide is (1) linking to a set of related materials all in one place, and (2) an introduction & overview written by the guest editor of the journal issue, providing some justification for why these materials are all presented together, some narrative arc, so to speak, etc. One of the faculty members I used to work with at Syracuse used to say that if you’re lucky enough to find a lit review article on your topic, that’s half your research done for you right there. I really like the phrase “virtual special issue,” so I’ll use it again: “virtual special issue.” The idea of the even more minimalist overlay journal would be that it would be similar to the many fine bibliographies on various topics that exist out there on the web, but more selective and deliberate, and with actual links to the articles.

Also, an amusing side note; something that Ellen, one of the student volunteers, pointed out to me. When Clifford Lynch was talking during this session, he was talking into the book light on the podium instead of the microphone. Somehow he managed to project to the whole auditorium anyway.