Bridging scholarly communications

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Fast-expanding Charleston Conference goes from strength to strength, writes Tim Gillett

The Charleston Conference is an informal annual gathering of librarians, publishers, electronic resource managers, consultants, and vendors of library materials in Charleston, South Carolina, in November, to discuss issues of importance to them all. It is designed to be a collegial gathering of individuals from different areas who discuss issues in a friendly, highly-informal environment.
Presidents of companies discuss and debate with library directors, acquisitions librarians, reference librarians, serials librarians, collection development librarians, and many, many others. The Charleston Conference has grown from 20 participants in 1980 to almost 2,000 last year. It was held in two hotels for the first time in 2005: the Francis Marion and the Embassy Suites, both in downtown Charleston. It has since expanded to three hotels (the Francis Marion, the Embassy Suites Historic, and the Courtyard Marriott Historic) plus the new Gaillard Center in downtown Charleston.

Reflecting industry concerns

Themes for this year’s event include:

  • Can librarians and vendors create a mutually satisfying environment where libraries can afford to buy the materials they need and vendors can still maintain a healthy profit?
  • Can publishers keep prices down while costs escalate?
  • How is the market being impacted by the internet and electronic publishing?
  • What are the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties involved?
  • Who is maintaining the electronic archive?

Under the tagline ‘What’s Past is Prologue’, speakers include: Ruth Pickering, Yewno co-founder and chief strategy officer; Ian Mulvany, SAGE’s head of product innovation;  Ruth Okediji, a professor of law at Harvard Law School;  Rick Anderson, University of Utah’s associate dean for collections and scholarly communication; and Ivy Anderson, California Digital Library’s director of collection development and management.

Pitching fast

In 2015, the Charleston Conference presented several well-received panels about start-ups, innovations and entrepreneurship.  In 2016, organisers sought to expand on those themes by actively encouraging creative solutions in academic libraries by hosting the first Charleston Fast Pitch Competition. Following a successful first year, conference registrants have been asked to submit proposals to present at this year’s Charleston Conference.

This call is open to all who are in the process of developing new, innovative, and implementable ideas to improve their academic libraries or related organisations. The aim is to showcase innovation in library information management and to award the most deserving examples of innovation.

Modelled on venture capital funding competitions, the Fast Pitch competition will provide two monetary awards ($2,500 apiece) to support the development and implementation of compelling library innovations, as well as to provide a strong ‘vote of confidence’ from a panel of experts and from Charleston Conference attendees. Participation in this process will help library entrepreneurs further develop their innovations and contribute to meaningful impact.

Charleston Premiers

These sessions are designed to offer publishers and vendors the chance to showcase their newest and most innovative products, platforms, and/or content. The focus will be on new companies, content, or technologies that are not widely known by the general library population and that will be of interest to the Charleston Conference audience. Speakers will be organised in a ‘lightning round’ format with 15 companies, each allotted five-minute presentations.

The event’s pre-conferences and seminars are on Monday, November 6 and Tuesday, 7 November, the Charleston Vendor Showcase is on Tuesday, 7 November, and the main conference runs from Wednesday, 8 November to Friday, 10 November.