Greetings from the last day of the Charleston (S.C.) Conference: “Issues in Book & Serial Acquisition”. It’s really a conference on publishing and collection management. Publisher and vendor VPs, product developers, and sales reps are here in large number. Since exhibiting is limited to one afternoon on the first day, those folks are able to participate fully as panelists and attendees for the next three days. This seems to be the best U.S. conference for heads of collections and acquisitions. For a hardcore public service librarian there is less appeal, although a number of programs each year do focus on user experiences. Plus Charleston is a beautiful old peninsular city noted for its restaurants and their wine lists. Fine restaurants + a high ratio of publishers and vendors to librarians equals some very pleasant and long dinners.
Since public service is my focus as a subject specialist, I’ve only attended the Charleston Conference every other year lately. (My wife is Head of Collections at another library and is expected to come annually. It’s nice to be able to room with one’s spouse at a conference.) This year I co-presented with my always impressive colleague Amy Harris. The topic was our liaison responsibilities task force, which I’ve blogged about plenty already. Our little conference room filled up with audience members, with folks standing in the back and out the door into the hallway to listen to our discussion of emerging organization models for overworked liaisons. Most of the questions concerned who would take care of title-by-title firm ordering of books if not the subject specialists, and who would staff the reference desk. We could have used more time; the discussion seemed to be just getting started, but we needed to make way for the next program in that room.
I chatted with John Quealy from S&P, who reported that his office building on Water Street in Manhattan got flooded in the big storm and was still closed for business. John also gave me some updates on NetAdvantage features. (Reps from Business Expert Press, also based in NYC, were planning on attending but didn’t make it apparently. I couldn’t find them at the exhibitors’ afternoon. I hope they are ok.) Meanwhile Neel Gandhi from Mergent told me that they have improved the Duns Key Business Ratios Online product by adding NAICS classification and are working on adding the long-absent industry norms. The Mergent Intellect interface for the Hoovers corporate product just became available to NC LIVE and I look forward to trying it out next week.
Two librarians from a flagship public university presented their findings from a service perceptions survey of both students and librarians and library staff. The librarians learned that there were significant differences in what the students wanted in library service versus what the library workers thought students wanted. One attendee of the panel commented that this library seems surprisingly out of touch, given all the studies and white papers regarding the information seeking behavior of college students. The presenters noted that their library has a “very old organizational structure” resulting in significant legacy practices. When we asked for details, the presenters told us this library has 50 subject specialists whose primarily role is still selection, and that the reference desk is in an isolated location but the reference librarians are very attached to the status quo. Meanwhile, the teaching faculty are not very connected to the library.
The same day I heard a young acquisitions head at a large regional state university discuss the change management she led to modernize and refocus her department. Her department shifted from one centered on long-established workflows for traditional print materials acquisitions to one with an emphasis on flexible workflows for primarily e-resources. The librarian emphasized what she learned in the process:
- The need to clearly convey the necessity for the change
- Providing plenty of ongoing training
- Being patient, fair, and respectful
- Acknowledging the limits of change
- Accepting that some imperfection is ok
- And understanding that performance reviews are not a mere formality (only one staff member couldn’t handle the change in direction and ended up taking an early retirement)
I thought those were good points for any impending organizational change.
The conference this year included a number of programs on the usability and student perceptions of ebooks. My most significant take-aways is that students often define an ebook as one you read using an ebook device, not something viewed with a web browser, and that students don’t often recognize the different types of formats (articles, ebooks, reference ebooks, reports, etc.) they encounter online. Think of all those citation questions we get about “how do I cite this thing.”
The conference wraps up this morning with publisher and vendor “fast tech talks,” the legal updates plenary session (the latest regarding Google Books, Georgia State, Hathi Trust, and Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, plus an analysis of global copyright) followed by one last round of breakout panel discussions. I’m going to one on collaboration projects for e-resources and information literary.