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Connections, collaboration and communication

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After holding a variety of positions in scholarly publishing, Melanie Dolechek is now executive director for the Society for Scholarly Publishing

Tell us about your background?

I’ve been involved in scholarly publishing for the past 10 years. Initially, working for Allen Press, Inc., offering publishing services to more than 350 small to medium-sized society/association publishers and now for SSP. I’ve held a variety of positions including director of publishing, director of marketing, and operations manager. I have a Master of Science in Management from Baker University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Kansas State University.

How and when did you get involved with the SSP?

I attended my first SSP meeting in 2007 as an exhibitor and joined the Annual Meeting Program Committee a year or two later. I felt that SSP’s Annual Meeting set the bar for other industry meetings in both content and networking opportunities and I wanted to be a part of it. There is so much energy at the meeting. Volunteering was a great way to get to know people in the industry and strengthen my own professional network. Last year I had the opportunity to serve as a co-chair of the committee and really got a behind the scenes look at how the organisation thrives. SSP is a largely run by a highly committed, talented and diverse group of volunteers who dedicate countless hours to developing and maintaining programs for our members and the industry at large.

What is the purpose of the SSP?

SSP’s mission is to advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking. But, SSP is more than just an essential professional development resource for anyone working in the field of scholarly publishing. It is a place where stakeholders from diverse backgrounds can come together on neutral ground to discuss, debate, develop solutions, and collaborate. SSP provides information for those seeking careers in scholarly publishing and facilitates mentorship for early career professionals. It offers a variety of educational opportunities and vital resources such as the Scholarly Kitchen to help industry professionals stay on top of the latest trends and current issues. If I had to sum up SSP’s purpose in one word, I’d say it’s about connection – connecting people to ideas, information, peers and resources to further the advancement of scholarly communications.

What is the biggest issue facing scholarly publishers in North America at present?

It is, of course, difficult to pick just one because there is such diversity among publishers – and their business models – involved in scholarly communications. We actually asked our members a similar question not too long ago. Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated their two most important challenges were developing and launching new products and keeping up with technology advances. Adapting and integrating open access publishing models was a close third. Publishers continue to find themselves justifying their role in the supply chain as technology changes user perceptions while more content than ever is being published and researchers and academics have even less time to read it.

What can visitors to the 2016 Annual Meeting in Vancouver expect?

The 2016 Annual Meeting officially opens on the evening of June 1 with an exciting round of speed networking followed by a reception in the SSP exhibitor’s marketplace and adjourns the afternoon of Friday, June 3, 2016. This is the first time the annual meeting will be held outside the USA. The theme of the meeting is Crossing Boundaries: New Horizons in Scholarly Communication. The meeting includes two intriguing keynote speakers in addition to 24 concurrent education sessions. We received more than 100 proposals in response to our call for participation this year! Attendees can expect to expand their knowledge about globalisation, ethics, business strategy, marketing/product development, people in publishing, and technology. There will definitely be an emphasis on addressing issues affecting scholarly communications from a global perspective.

Our very lively exhibit hall hosts 50 to 60 industry suppliers and several networking receptions provide ample opportunity for connecting with colleagues. We are also planning to bring back an interactive element we added last year – the graphic recorder – which adds a fun visual aspect to the meeting. 

If you’ve never attended the meeting, this is certainly the year to check it out. Vancouver is a beautiful city. We’re encouraging our attendees to stay a few extra days to take advantage of the location.  I’m confident you’ll return home with new ideas, new information and new connections! If you can’t attend, you can follow the meeting on Twitter – #ssp2016! 

Interview by Tim Gillett