February 17, 2018

Charleston Conference Preview 2017: The Past is Prologue

The 2017 Charleston Library Conference will take place November 6–10 in its home city of Charleston, SC, a historic tourism and foodie destination. This year’s event will address many of the evergreen topics for which this unique gathering is known: ebooks and acquisition models, serials and “big deals,” open access, professional development, new vendor launches and collaborations, and more. However, perusing the program also shows several newly emerging themes.

Data is big

No fewer than six items explicitly tackle the library’s role in data collection, hosting, analysis, visualization, and use, from “When Library Science and Data Science Meet” to “Serving Up Data on a Platter Fit for Research” to “Everything Old Is New Again: Developing Humanities Data Collections.” Other offerings include “Spanning the (Sometimes) Great Divide: Connecting Library Resources to Digital Scholarship,” “Bringing Data Home: Perspectives on Purchasing Locally Hosted Data,” and even “O Brave New Print Collection, That Has Such Data Science Books in It!”

Taking stock

While measuring the success of library services—and arguing for them to outside funders—is almost as old as libraries themselves, assessment and case-making are clearly more top of mind than ever, judging by the Charleston offerings. “Library Space: The Final Frontier or the Next Generation? Assessing Active Learning Space in the Academic Library” and “It’s Getting Hot in Here! Heat Mapping and Data Gathering for Space Analysis and Design” tackle the physical library, while “Text Mining Virtual Reference Through a Collection Management Lens: Extracting Insightful Stories and Operationalizing Data for Strategic Allocation of Resources” goes at the digital side. No fewer than three sessions—“From Numbers to Narratives: Putting the Human Face on Metrics,” “Survey, Statistics, Narrative: Communicating Library Value to Administrators,” and “Communicating Collections to Stakeholders: The Good, the Bad, and the Spreadsheets”—address how to tell the data story to others.

Work smarter

A focus on assessing how effective libraries are goes hand in hand with a focus on making them more effective—and efficient. Among panels proposing to fine-tune process are “Page Not Found: Creating a Troubleshooting Workflow for Your Library,” “A Messy Collection, a PMO, and Best Practices: Incorporating Project Management and Principles of Organizational Decision-Making into an Offsite Collection Move,” “Between Rare and Commonplace: Closing the Venn Diagram of Special and General Collections,” and “Re-imagining Collection Development.”


While American academic libraries have historically considered textbooks not part of their mandate, open educational resources (OER) are changing that, and the Charleston program reflects that shift. “Textbook Collections: Required of Our Students, Unwelcome in Our Academic Library?” goes right at the mission question, and “Views from Across the Pond—Library Textbook Provision in the USA and UK” presents an alternative approach from elsewhere. But the majority of sessions focus on how, not whether, to get into the textbook arena, such as “Free Textbooks! Open Educational Resources at Xavier University of Louisiana,” “Will They Fund It? Pitching an OER Project to Your VP of Finance,” “First Aid for Student Costs: Helping Nursing Faculty Reduce Textbook Purchase Requirements,” “How Libraries Can Serve a Critical Role in Addressing Student Affordability, Equity of Access, and Improved Learning Outcomes,” and, combining the textbooks and case-making trends, “The Past Is Prologue: Telling Our Stories About Textbook Affordability Programs.”

Long live print

Despite the increasingly digital offerings of academic libraries, some sessions turn the focus back on print as more than a legacy. In “The Future of Print in Open Stacks: A Proposal,” Jim O’Donnell, university Librarian, Arizona State, will present the results of a Mellon-funded planning study to explore how to create, curate, and display public-facing print collections to produce high impact. And “(Re)Discovering Print: Activating and Customizing ‘Discovery eBooks’ To Promote Physical Collections” will describe how to use full-text search to promote print holdings.

The real thing

Fake news is big news, and three distinct sessions address this latest spin on media and information literacy. Starting in the preconference “Practical Measures: Combatting ‘Fake News’ Through Scholarly Integrity, Digital Literacy, and Workflow Tools,” the strand carries on into the conference proper with “In Research We Trust” and “Alt-facts, Fake News, and Misinformation: Fact-checking and Media Literacy Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond.”


While tracking trends is informative, as always there are a smattering of sui generis sessions notable in their own right—or as harbingers of trends to come. Among them, we were struck by “Oh, Wonder! How Many Goodly Creatures Are There Here: Skeletons for Loan in the Library.” “Reproducibility and Curation of Scientific Code” may be an early indicator of the next frontier beyond data for libraries to collect, curate, and preserve; “All the Robots Are Coming! The Promise and the Peril of AI” looks at how future technology will impact the library and the communities it serves, and in one specific case of how the future is arriving fast, LJ executive editor Meredith Schwartz will be a panelist on “Handwritten Text Recognition: Artificial Intelligence and the future of Manuscript Search.”

This article was published in Library Journal's October 15, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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