19 November 2012

Charleston Conference 2012: part 3

In the afternoon, I attended a lively lunch session by Billy Kane of Wake Forest University about providing textbooks to undergraduate students. The session gave an overview of some of the problems associated with these types of materials, including their unpopularity with students, the fact that they are expensive for students to buy, and the limited success of a range of alternative methods of delivering relevant content, such as course reserves or electronic versions. The proposal at the core of this presentation was that students should be offered an 'All you can eat' textbook purchase plan - like a meal plan - potentially priced at around $500 per semester. The most surprising thing for me was the extent to which textbook purchases are separated from core library materials budgets in US academic libraries. It was interesting to hear that the campus book shop seems to have a much greater significance as part of the university information landscape than might be the case in the UK. I also wonder whether UK academics are as likely to teach from one specific textbook (although of course this varies depending on the subject area) - certainly, my impression generally is that UK academics are more likely to want to mix and match content from different texts and to provide details of a range of alternative texts. Finally, although I think the challenges of needing multiple copies of any core course materials apply equally in the UK and the US, I think that students in the UK might be more likely to expect these texts to be provided by their library.

The first afternoon concurrent session which I attended included presentations by Hazel Woodward and Frances Pinter discussing Knowledge Unlatched. This is a UK based Community Interest Company (it's a social enterprise!) which aims to leverage collaborative purchasing by libraries to open up access to academic publications. This is based on an experiment by Bloomsbury Academic to deliver open access content. The new funding model outlined involves publishers offering scholarly titles via Knowledge Unlatched in advance of publication; libraries interested in acquiring the title commit to paying their share of a fixed title fee and once the title fee is reached, a basic HTML version of the text becomes accessible to anyone under an open content licence, and libraries can purchase copies of the titles as books (print or electronic) for a reduced price. The key potential advantages of this system include:
  • For publishers - reducing the risks associated with publication;
  • For libraries - purchasing costs less than on a unit-based model, contributes to connecting scholars globally and assists in furthering the development of open access;
  • For readers - potentially anyone can access the content of these scholarly texts.
A pilot is planned for 2013 focusing on humanities and social science titles. It sounds very ambitious, but I think it's an interesting innovation and represents a promising departure from more conventional purchasing models.

The second afternoon concurrent session which I attended described the three-year LibValue project undertaken at the University of Tennessee and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. The project examined the changes in people's use of library resources over 3 years, including how academic staff used collections to support their teaching and showing the imporvements experienced following a series of workshops delivered by library staff.

Returning to the main conference room, the Charleston Players delivered a series of entertaining skits with characters as varied as the 21st century reference librarian and a 3,000 year old bookseller! This was followed by a panel discussion on innovation moderated by Greg Tananbaum of ScholarNext and including Peter Binfield of PeerJ and Timo Hannay of Digital Science. For me, the main messages here were about the role of libraries in fostering innovation; the importance of planning today for our future information infrastructure; and the impact of the dramatic rise in open access journal publications (and the variety of publishing models which might deliver them).

The final Thursday session which I attended discussed the value chain of scholarly communication, including the roles of publishers, abstracting and indexing databases, resource discovery systems and libraries. I think that the core messages for libraries were about the need for new types of skills needed for new types of work, the opportunities to use new indicators to match content to users more effectively and to facilitate user customization of content, and the importance of working together with other partners in the scholarly communication chain to establish industry standards for interoperability and metadata.

1 comment:

  1. What's a career?

    And where's the fountain?