ATG Hot Topic of the Week: Highlights from the Charleston Conference 2011

by | Dec 2, 2011 | 1 comment

by Jonathan H. Harwell

Following the preconference I mentioned last week, the Charleston Conference was packed with information as usual.  While I would’ve liked to have heard more about usability studies of various discovery services, the technology is still so new that I’m sure we can look forward to this at future conferences.  Here are a few of the highlights from my experience at Charleston 2011–  from the sessions and from the sidelines.

On Thursday, we had a panel speaking about plans for the Digital Public Library of America, which is sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The goal of DPLA is to improve public access to comprehensive online resources, perhaps with a 5-10 year embargo for the content.  Open meetings will begin in March 2012, with an expected launch in April 2013.

EBSCO presented their new Usage Consolidation tool, which allows libraries to upload their COUNTER usage reports into EBSCONET, so that one can click on an icon for each title to view the usage and the cost per use.

Heather Getsay and Catherine Rudowsky from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania shared their experience with merging the responsibilities of databases, serials, and acquisitions into a single librarian position.  They have also split the responsibilities for managing e-resources.  Before a resource is acquired and access is set up, the technical services department is responsible for arranging the licensing, invoicing, and setup.  After that, public services takes care of troubleshooting access, managing usage statistics, etc.

We had a series of “shotgun sessions,” similar to pecha kucha, in which 5 presenters spoke for only 6 minutes & 40 seconds each, with 10 minutes for questions at the very end.  Cathy Goodwin of Coastal Carolina University talked about their decision in Fall 2010 to stop allocating funds for library purchases in support of specific academic departments, just like our library did a few years ago.  With general funding, as opposed to fixed allocations, books are ordered on a first come, first purchased basis.  For the past three years, CCU has only spent 2/3 of their book funds.

Afterward, JSTOR presented their “local discovery integration pilot” project, in which they’re providing links to various discovery services from the JSTOR interface.  They’re piloting it with Summon at Arizona State, NC State, & the University of Sydney; with Primo Central at Vanderbilt, Northwestern, & Oxford; with EBSCO Discovery Service at the University of Georgia, Millersville, University of Chicago, and University of Liverpool; and with WorldCat Local at the University of Arizona and the University of Alberta.  They’re interested in more partner libraries, and they’re trying several approaches.  For example, on the third page of JSTOR results, the page might go dark, with a “lightbox” pop-up saying, “Not finding what you’re looking for?  Try your search at [Discovery Service],” with a search box below.  They’ve found that 47% of links from JSTOR to discovery services come from a “zero results” page; 27% from a page of results; and 22% from the lightbox.  One of the presenters also expressed concern about publishers paying discovery vendors to boost their content to the top of the results list.  He said that at least one publisher has already tried to cut such a deal.

At the reception that evening, I had a great visit with colleagues from Duke, Mercer, and Lewis & Clark College.  Paul Lightcap of Duke, who’s always on top of things and a sharp-minded visionary, shared his experience with Summon, which has problems with known item searching.  Try searching for The Grapes of Wrath in Duke’s Summon, he suggests.  He added that he is hopeful for the potential of Summon and other discovery services.  We also talked about demand-driven acquisition (DDA), and how it is designed to replace the “book” and “slip” designations in the approval plan for e-books.  We discussed the possibility of expanding DDA to allow for purchasing of articles with perpetual access, which would be a win-win for libraries and publishers; as the alternative is that we obtain the ones we don’t have via ILL (or faculty will use underground peer-sharing to obtain them), and the publishers don’t get the revenue; and libraries can no longer sustain the model of subscribing to long lists of entire journal runs, just in case we might need some of the articles in those particular titles.  We should be paying publishers only for what our patrons are using, and providing those resources instantly.

On Friday, Scott Plutchak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham led a roundtable discussion with a couple of colleagues about open access, archiving, defining the version of record (which is disappearing as a concept in the digital humanities), the social nature of data, and funding the DPLA, among other topics.

Later, Ebrary shared the results of the Global Student E-book Survey in 2011, in comparison with the one they did in 2008.  Many students still say that their libraries don’t provide e-books, which many attendees agreed is due to not realizing that they’re using e-books, because usage is rapidly increasing.  There was also discussion on Ebrary’s interface.  As I said to the group, I wish it were as easy to use as Google Books (which only requires use of the page up & page down keys when reading multiple pages, rather than viewing and re-sizing each individual page, often while reading in mid-sentence).

Camila Gabaldon of Western Oregon University presented a poster called “Serials Gone Wild,” about an articles-on-demand service that her library provides to patrons in lieu of many previous journal subscriptions.  These are pay-per-view transactions costing $20-60 per use.  Even so, as their enrollment has increased, their expenditures have decreased slightly, and their title coverage more than doubled in the first year.

A panel of librarians reported on the LibValue Project, which “seeks to measure some of the many ways in which the library creates value for academia.”  The website includes a free database of ROI (return on investment) and value studies related to libraries.  Surprisingly, some faculty surveyed had said that their libraries didn’t save them any money; this highlights the need for academic libraries to use PR to get the word out about their value.  I began wondering about comparing the total number of resources accessed, and how much they would cost for patrons to purchase themselves, versus how much the library pays per item (including interlibrary loan and universal borrowing).  Of course, this would only measure the ROI for materials budgeting, not for other library services.

Bruce Pencek and Craig Brians from Virginia Tech, a librarian and a political science professor respectively, explained their experience with providing intensive instruction on the use of Summon to find a known citation and to identify similar articles.  Afterward, they were surprised to find that the students had difficulties with every aspect of the assignment, from logging in off-campus to finding relevant articles.  They concluded that discovery services often require more, not less, instruction in order to “teach searchers how to become researchers.”

Tim Cherubini from LYRASIS gave a synopsis of the results from a series of informal interviews between publishers and librarians (including myself).  The general highlights showed that both groups appreciated this rare opportunity to talk with people from “the other side,” each of whom are dealing with budget challenges and questions of relevancy in the digital age, and to talk outside of the buyer/seller context.  We look forward to building on this experiment.

A colleague and I met with two Thomson representatives on Friday evening, one of whom has been developing Web of Science for 30 years.  He has now provided us with an answer to a faculty member’s question about identifying the most-cited articles in a particular subdiscipline.  This enhancement is coming in January to Web of Science, and he’s going to go ahead and run a query for us and send us the results for the subject in question.  They also talked with us about free API’s that Web of Science offers for use with institutional repositories, to bring in data from our own institution’s faculty publications.

Each year at the Charleston Conference, there’s a real barn-burner, a rousing speech that serves as a call to arms for the librarian profession, and often for the publishers and vendors in attendance as well.  Brad Eden, Dean of Library Services at Valparaiso University, brought it on Saturday morning.  There’s so much information packed into his presentation that you really should read it yourself.  As he promised, it’s sure to both inspire you and make you squirm.  Regardless of how many of his recommendations you agree with, there’s lots of information here that we all need to be aware of.  The full presentation is available on the Charleston Conference SlideShare page.  Here’s a rundown courtesy of Information Today:


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