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Why Go to Charleston in November?

 Charleston Conference Logo

Deborah Carman, a librarian at the University of Kansas Medical Center, received a Professional Development Award from the NN/LM MCR to attend the Charleston Conference, Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition, described on the web site as “an informal annual gathering of librarians, publishers, and vendors in Charleston, South Carolina to discuss issues of importance to them all.”  A few days ago, I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience and wanted to share her responses with you.

– Rachel Vukas, Kansas/Technology Coordinator


RV: Why did you choose to attend the Charleston Conference?

DC: Charleston is the only conference devoted entirely to acquisitions and collection management. My goal was to attend sessions which enable me to make intelligent recommendations on the integration of e-books into our broader collection, including dissemination on campus; to learn from other librarians’ institutional practices and experience in creating a lean and relevant collection; and to explore publisher models. This conference is built on the premise that publishers and librarians need to talk to one another about one another’s practices. Finally, Charleston is one of those conferences where you wish you had a clone to attend more concurrent sessions. Real “bang for the buck” for those of us with slim budgets for travel and professional development! My director was supportive and the RML provided funding to help with the costs. I appreciate both sources for their support of professional education.

RV: What concepts or ideas most interested you?

DC: All libraries have (at least) three things in common, acquiring, delivering, and justifying. So, I’ll hang some of my favorites on those themes. Acquiring and delivering share some common frustration points, and that’s without considering patron access. In the resource market now, we have multiple vendors with multiple platforms, multiple standards for metadata, tagging, and delivering, and multiple solutions which involve their particular tools. In acquisitions and delivery/discovery, we attempt to navigate multiple usage, archiving, and licensing agreements, as well. We would love for our resources to be available to anyone, working anywhere, on any device. One speaker called it the trend toward the “user-centric” resources. We are supposed to make acquisition choices and provide and maintain delivery systems in the midst of the maze. Craziness! The good news is the whole environment is evolving. The down side is evolution takes time. We need to be thoughtful about embracing a short-term “solution” to our long-term issues.

When it comes to justifying our existence, one of my favorite sessions was “What Provosts Want Librarians to Know” (and be able to communicate to their provosts at budget time). The relevant issues discussed by the presenter provosts were: Budget – what do you spend it on? Space – do you really need all of that square footage? Mission – Are you aligned with what goes on here? Students – Are they getting what they need? We have all heard those four questions, I’m sure. But, have you ever been called “the GPS to resources” or the “impresarios of inquiry”? Thank Bradley Creed, of Stamford University in Birmingham, Alabama, for those!

RV: How did the programming apply to medical libraries?

DC: We all deal with collections. The sizes, specialties, degrees granted, etc. may all contribute to the snapshot of an individual collection at a point in time. We all have stakeholders, shifting responsibilities, and differing amounts of money. However, the underlying principles of collection development, legal responsibilities, and stewardship of resources apply across library types.

RV: What one thing from the conference would you like to implement in your own library?

DC: The top position on the list, and one that is in process, is producing a thoughtful combination of digital and print resources into a findable, relevant, and usable collection for our students, faculty, and researchers. We have been evaluating every journal title on the shelves, shifting the collection, and attempting to make our e-resources obvious to our users. We will be embarking on an extensive monograph weed and shift, as well. The best guesses from the publication side say we are trending to collections which are 80% digital and 20% print. We are in the middle of determining what our collection will be, as we continue our evaluation.

RV: Would you recommend this conference to other medical librarians? Why?

DC: Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Without any reservation. As I mentioned in the beginning, this conference is uniquely focused on collections and acquisitions. You can be part of vendor feedback sessions, how-to sessions, plenary sessions (I mentioned you need a clone.) and meet fellow professionals from the US, Canada, Scotland, Hong Kong, Sweden, Australia, India, and Germany (that’s just my list). The 2012 Charleston Conference was the 31st meeting. It began in 1980, with 20 participants who met to begin the conversation among librarians, publishers, electronic resource managers, consultants, and vendors of library materials. It has grown to over 1,400 in 2012. Try it. You’ll like it!

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