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As you’ve now realized, there was quite a ZSR contingent at the ACRL 2011 National Conference in Philadelphia last week. I was happily among them, enjoying my third ACRL conference and first real trip to Philly (airport connections don’t count). I arrived last Tuesday afternoon, and without a doubt, my overarching personal theme for this conference was “at the table”…and this is beyond all the great food I enjoyed!

My ACRL started Wednesday with a day-long curriculum planning retreat for the ARL-ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication faculty. Although I am not an ISC faculty presenter, I was invited to attend the planning retreat as one of the ACRL SC 101 Road Show presenters. Being at the table with 13 others who are doing work similar to mine at various-sized institutions across North America was enlightening and energizing, and I’m still somewhat awed that I was asked to be at that table. After the retreat, I headed to the opening keynote address by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain. Although I cringed when she said that she now only looks online for archival footage for her documentaries, as I know there’s wonderful clips hidden away in archives worldwide, her perspective on accessibility and sharing were interesting. I also liked how she incorporated both video and still images into her slides. I completed my first day by meeting up with ZSR colleagues around three different tables in three different locations to share good food and great laughs.

Thursday found me at the table with several different vendors. My day started early with a SerialsSolutions vendor breakfast where I was introduced to Summon, a very cool search product that Roz discussed in her vendor post. I remember the early days of federated searching while in grad school, and while I could see the promise, the system I tried was clunky, ultimately proving frustrating for its inability to deliver the promise that was so clear. I was encouraged to see that Summon seems to solve those early problems. Feeling positive about vendors post-breakfast, I headed to the exhibit hall for a meeting with a BioMed Central representative to learn more about BMC institutional memberships and Springer’s open access initiatives – promising, but I’ll believe some of it only when I see it. After a disappointing morning session on virtues of “next gen” librarians – all of which I think should be virtues of any professional, regardless of age – and Roz’s fun Cyber Zed Shed session on QR codes, Mary Beth and I headed to an ebrary vendor luncheon to discuss ebooks. Conversation was honest, and driven primarily by suggestions from the librarians in attendance, although if ebrary plans to act on the desires expressed, they have a somewhat tall order ahead! My afternoon found me surveying tables in the Reading Market Terminal as I strolled through after lunch, catching up with a fellow Emerging Leader at a table at the back of the exhibit hall, and sitting on the floor behind a table at a maxed-out session on the Google Books Settlement. I did not hear anything new at the GBS discussion, but was encouraged by how many folks are actively engaged with digital access issues for in-copyright and orphaned books and picked up the Library Copyright Alliance’s updated GBS March Madness chart. My last official conference activity of the day was Raj Patel‘s awesome keynote, where I was thrilled to hear him acknowledging and championing the under-documented and uncompensated roles that women and girls play in our food economy. The evening’s events once again found me in the fun company of our ZSR colleagues, enjoying great food, Da Vinci’s brilliance, and fun music, sometimes on steps and sometimes around tables.

My Friday at ACRL was scholarly communication-intensive, with multiple sessions and conversations that touched upon the varied issues that fall under the broad SC umbrella. I was quite encouraged by the size of the crowd at an 8:30 session on why SC issues are important to non-ARL libraries. I had a very productive meeting around a tiny table at Old City Coffee with my co-presenter and one of our hosts for an upcoming Road Show in Minneapolis, after which Sarah (my co-presenter) and I headed to a three paper presentation on copyright lies retractions in biomedical publications, and the results of an SC survey. I nodded in agreement with many of the points raised by the authors of the paper on biomedical retractions, as they are a small but concerning problem. (Incidentally, this issue, especially how news media doesn’t always cover the retractions with nearly as much fanfare, is a great conversation starter for LIB 100 classes!) I also want to learn more about the copyright survey distributed to faculty and library staff at the University of Minnesota, as I’d be curious to see if a similar survey at WFU highlighted the same lies. My lunch was delayed in order to join a roundtable discussion on “Fostering a Culture of Sharing on Campus” that pulled together SC, copyright and institutional repository librarians for a fascinating conversation about engaging our faculty and students on SC issues. This roundtable led to an instructive spill-over conversation on the merits of copyright registration for ETDs, and the role of fair use and uncopyrightability of works reproduced within ETDs. Recharged after a late lunch and reflection break, I ended my SC-themed day at an invited paper, “Animating Archives: New Modes of Humanities Scholarship,” that had been commended by one of the ISC faculty at our retreat on Wednesday. Tara McPherson’s work is pushing the boundaries of what journals and books are and can be in digital forms, and I would love to see some of our WFU humanists involved in similar projects in the future. Following an ULS social, which was conveniently in a sports bar so I could easily keep tabs on the Opening Day baseball games (my beloved Red Sox have not started well, sigh), I ended Friday at the All Conference Reception at the National Constitution Center, where I eschewed both the museum exhibit and the table conversation in favor of twirling around the dance floor for a couple of hours!

Saturday’s tables all involved meals with ZSR colleagues as we wrapped up our ACRL experience and trekked home down I-95. Before leaving Philly, I managed one final trip to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast, a session on archiving considerations of born-digital materials, an intense monitoring of conference tweets (whereby I frustratingly realized that despite the interesting content of my session, I wish I’d been at the opposite end of the convention center in a different session…), and the closing keynote by Clinton Kelly, who was quite engaging…perhaps I should watch his show so I’ll be less out of the pop-culture loop?!

All in all, my ACRL experience was energizing, sending me home with new perspectives and ideas. Interestingly, there were fewer blatantly overarching SC sessions, which leads me to speculate – and hope! – that SC issues, which range from publishing to archiving to digital exploration to copyright law to innovation, are assimilating as fundamental issues around which enough interest has been built to require more targeted, specific sessions on the myriad aspects. If so, that would certainly echo and reinforce much of the conversation at the table where my ACRL began.