19 November 2012

Charleston Conference 2012: part 4

I'm back in Sheffield now, but still catching up on my posts from the Charleston Conference (7-10 November), which might take me a while. In the meantime, there is a more complete official blog about the conference on the Against the Grain website.

Friday 9 November began with Kristin Eschenfelder's presentation about research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to explore what e-resource licences say about perpetual access, interlibrary loan provision and scholarly sharing. Kristin reported on two content analysis studies of a single dataset of 224 licence contracts from 2000-2009, obtained in 2009 by a team led by Ted Bergstrom at the University of California Santa Barbara, using state freedom of information legislation to request the documents from state universities. There's a summary of some of the controversy and legal action which accompanied this initial data gathering process on Ted Bergstrom's website. The first study examined all 224 the licences for content regarding interlibrary loan, document supply and scholarly sharing and the second study, conducted by Mei Zhang (PhD student), examined 72 licences for content relating to the provision of perpetual access to e-resources. In the perpetual access study, it appears that most licences do mention perpetual access, with an increasing emphasis on library perpetual access and a slightly declining role for publisher perpetual access - surprisingly, Portico was seldom mentioned. Key findings from the study on ILL and scholarly sharing included:
  • 55% of licences acknowledge scholarly sharing (this actually seemed like quite a high proportion to me);
  • 60% allow secure e-delivery of their material for document supply services;
  • 79% require libraries to have print copies in order to provide copies of their materials through document delivery services;
The presenter acknowledged the limitations of dealing with data which is at least three years old and in some cases 12 years old - future work will aim to gather more recent copies of licences.

The second morning plenary session was a lively discussion on the relationships between provosts (I think this is a post broadly equivalent to UK university vice chancellors) and librarians. J. Bradley Creed from Sandford university described librarians as indispensible in navigating information and central to the university mission. Jose-Marie Griffiths from Bryant University outlined some of the broad challenges facing universities - from the economy, technology, competition (including international competition for students), geopolitical changes. She talked about specific library roles in providing open access, open data and managing institutional repositories. I also thought it was interesting that she mentioned the role of the library in serving non-academic readers. The core message here was one of interdependence and the importance of innovation. Jim O'Donnell (formerly Provost of Georgetown University (2002-2012)) echoed some of these points - particularly about the importance of Big Data, and how library data can be used to tell university administrators new things about faculties and departments (not just about the library).

This was followed by presentations discussing the role of the academic press in the 21st century. Douglas Armato of the University of Minnesota Press gave a very engaging presentation about the history of the university press. I also liked his characterization of an academic press as a place where "money and mission [are] equally on our minds". To me, this seems like a quintessential description of a social enterprise, an idea echoed by Armato's use of the analogy of Bailey Building and Loan (from It's a Wonderful Life), a comparison which is also popular with many writers on social enterprise. One big question posed by this presentation was whether libraries and university presses are on a shared path of "co-evolution or co-extinction" and Douglas emphasized the importance of moving away from closed silo structures towards more open database structures. Alison Mudditt of University of California Press picked up on some of these ideas in her presentation - one thing which stood out for me was a quotation from the UCal Press editorial committee statement from 1938 outlining the obligation of the press to provide academic publications for "the whole world of educated men" - not just people in academic institutions (and presumably meaning educated women, too...).

The final morning session was a brief update by Emily Gore on the progress of the Digital Public Library of America project. One of the things which I found really interesting was the emphasis on the DPLA community, demonstrated by the use of a platform geared towards promoting participation ("WE are the DPLA"). It's obviously a massive project with global implications, but at the same time, resources are being committed to support locally hosted community outreach initiatives. The DPLA will also be collaborating with Europeana to create an online exhibition about migration from Europe to America.

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