miércoles, 14 de mayo de 2014

Grey Literature

Let’s start with the question I listen the most about this theme: What’s Grey Literature?

This innocent question hides more than it looks: not only ink’s rivers were poured trying to answer it, if not, once we know the answer, the new technologies becomes and broke the whole picture.

We can see it defined as “those how wasn’t by normal channels of edition”, but this definition missed shades about what are they about, and about scale we need for define what is or what is not. I mean: supermarket pamphlets aren't in the normal channels of distribution and could interest both consumers that need to know about offers as sociologists or artists. Why not? Nevertheless, I really doubt about any scholar does not cry out for this impudence.

Also there are definitions that mix Grey Literature with Ephemeral Literature, even if the life span of a “Capital of the Culture” diptych is lesser than the information in a preprint about archaeology. Here we can use the “colour” as a temporary mark, I mean: a state of the articles between the drawer (or PC, but is more romantic thinking that we still use a typewriter and we keep in our drawers) and the published magazine.

Taking colour as a timing state could be a really good solution if we hadn’t articles in this limbo forever, because of the digital magazines without ISSN (oh terrible Creative Commons!) and documents that don’t have any aspiration of being published, as the theses, but they are valid and accessible.

About this entire subject, I want to quote the division made by Sardelli in 1993, who divided all that is not “fiction” or “no-fiction” in five groups named “non conventional literature”

1. Ephemeral publication: Those who appear and disappear like the sunrise: in a sigh. They use to be related with a specific event, so they usually to be printed and delivered few before the event and, when finish, they lose their importance. Good examples are flyers or promotional posters.

2. Minor publication: Those who are “not-so-ephemeral”, due to the information they hold. For example, a temporary exposition brochure in the Prado Museum: in one hand its lifespan is longer because is not related to an event, and in the other, the information held could be relevant, besides the event.

3. Grey Literature: “Documentation of scholar, institutional or productive activities”. For some reason, is out the time space.

4. Official publication: As its name shows, those produced by governments during its activity, in the relationship between itself and with its citizens.

5. Minority literature: The direct definition is “document with a literary nature, destined to a specific public target that could be also consider special”. In a stroke, he put in the same notion: piano scores, Braille novels and stapled punk fanzines. I didn't see this proper enough, because is the same "sac" of “all I don’t know where to put it, I just let here and... and we will do it another day”.

A first sight, we see start definitions are generated around the lifespan; while the others, their links are the producers. All the five definitions only have a single common feature: all are not published by commercial editors. They don’t have any profit spirit.

Nevertheless, we can see that the grey literature stay well set: he doesn’t speak about producers, neither distribution channels, only sets that information has to come from “scholar, institutional or productive activity”. I mean: a preprint, a thesis, an annual rapport...  Maybe we have to distinguish well what means “institutional”: Is the tracing paper of an official document a proper Official Publication or Grey Literature? Or "institutional" is a reference related to institutions no-dependents from the Government with an investigation inclination as the CSIC?

I’m going to the point - the grey literature has to:

1) Come from the investigation

2) Not be published

Wait, what? If it wouldn't be publishing, why worry about? I mean, if a prestigious publication doesn’t show any interest at publish it: Doesn’t mean that the document is worthless?

What an interesting question! Let’s solve it in the next post.


FUENTES ROMERO, J. J. (2003). Materiales efímeros y publicaciones menores en la sección de temas locales. Boletín de la Asociación Andaluza de Bibliotecarios (72), 17-37.

MARTÍN VEGA, A. ([1995]). La literatura gris. En A. Martín Vega, Fuentes de información general (págs. 163-220). Gijon: Trea.

SARDELLI, Alessandro. Le publicazioni menori e non convenzionali. Guida alla gestione. Milano:Editrice Bibliografica, 1993. Cfr. Fuentes Romero, 2003, págs. 22-23. 

[Translation of my post at Biblogtecarios]