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Seeing Lauren Pressley’s picture and book cover on the screen as an example of gave me a moment of great pride during a plenary session at this Charleston Conference. We heard that there were 1500-1600 attendees, the most ever! E-book topics were definitely a theme and “big data” was mentioned in several sessions. A session on weeding, librarywide, was useful since the day will come when our storage facility is filled to capacity. And finally, a session on the Library Journal Patron Profiles gave Sue Polanka an opportunity to share some of her own observations relative to the results.

Regarding big data, I heard the success story of Duke University post-doc Heather Piwowar, who arranged with Elsevier to do text-mining of their whole corpus. (Heather had signed the boycott, but “believes that it is useful to work together.”) The big problems with big data are getting permission (Heather was “lucky” according to other speakers) and getting delivery — large loads of data are literally being shipped around the world. The fact that Heather is a post-doc means that in two years when she moves on, she won’t have the set she worked with at Duke and that is another problem.

Still on big data, I also went to a presentation by Hilary Davis (Associate Head, Collection Management, North Carolina State University Libraries) and Barrie Hayes (Bioinformatics and Translational Science Librarian, UNC Health Sciences Library). They said that storage and discovery, followed by access, are the biggest needs with big data. (Sound familiar?) They also said that being involved outweighs the risk for the libraries. They are working with research administrators, campus IT, and many library departments to tackle those needs. While UNC Chapel Hill uses Fedora with iRods,NSCU uses DSpace, like us. Easy i.d. and ORCA are used for identities (and I hope this means something useful to Thomas). Info sessions on campus have been successful (face-to-face and broadcast, and available for replay online). A data management committee at UNC is training subject librarians in how to talk about this topic with faculty. The last presentation slide has references and they have made good use of California’s DMPTool (data management plan tool) at both institutions. They first want the library to be a “collaborative campus connector” in 5 years and would like to work across the two institutions after that.

Carol and I take a divide-and-conquer tactic at this conference for the most part, but with standing room only in the hallway for one desirable session, we both ended up at the session on the state of the e-book industry. John McDonald (Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Claremont University Consortium) and Jason Price (Interim Library Director, Claremont Colleges Library) presented a lot of data, which should eventually appear on the Charleston Conference website. They also mentioned how hard it is if you have subscription e-books to exclude them from DDA offerings. That is why in our liaison meeting yesterday I was quite interested to hear the satisfaction of having one e-book supplier and one platform mainly. I was thinking we needed to explore subscription databases of e-books again, but as I mentioned, we would have to find out if the technology obstacles we saw in the past are still a problem or not. I’m glad Carol and I both were at the session because we can discuss future directions with common understanding of the current marketplace and the growth of HathiTrust and Google Scholar.

I mentioned that I also went to a session on librarywide weeding. One speaker, Pamela Grudzien (Head, Technical Services, Central Michigan University), was in Michigan and the other, Cheri Duncan (Director of Acquisitions & Cataloging at James Madison University) was in Virginia. Both used Sustainable Collection Services, but the situation in Michigan was a consortium-level project. (You’ve heard me mention SCS and we saw a webinar. You may recall that the idea is to use computer-driven matching to identify weeding candidates — titles of a certain age that are also held by many other libraries or in a trusted repository like HathiTrust.) The consortium added a dimension to this process, because they could agree to keep 3 copies of a title among the 7 members, allowing the others to weed their copies. A little “horsetrading” took place in determining retention commitments. One of the seven members in the Michigan consortium (CMU) was in the unique position of participating without space problems yet because they had 30 miles of compact shelving installed in a major renovation 10 years ago. CMU committed to keeping 204,000 volumes and Wayne State, 86,633. Remember this is just the commitments for unique titles or one of the agreed upon 3 copies, not the numbers of the entire library collection. The Michigan speaker noted that there is as much labor with the retention commitments as with the actual weeding. They used the 583 in the MARC record to document the retention, like we are doing with the ASERL commitments we’re making. The Virginia speaker explained the entire process at JMU, which included working over a period of years, a few subjects at a time. Business was first, followed by Education and Psychology. An aggregate 87% of titles identified by SCS were weeded (with wide variation of percentage at the subject level, naturally). They felt that this method was less disruptive to patrons and avoided an overload in Technical Services.

I’m just going to mention one more session that might appeal to many of you — Sue Polanka (Head, Reference & Instruction, Wright State University Libraries) and Lisa Carlucci Thomas (Director, Design Think Do) spoke about the new Library Journal Patron Profiles. The data from Academic Patron Profiles 2012 showed some of the same types of things that we learned from LibQual, but it seemed to me that there were more granular questions that targeted things we would like to know. And it seemed that it covered more than LibQual. Lisa said that “LJ is listening” and to let them know through her if we want to make the survey instrument available to individual libraries. I noted her email address, so ask me if you want it. Some observations that Sue has made in her own library that caught my ear: the personal librarian arrangement does not work as well as the subject librarian arrangement; make sure your link resolver is built into Google Scholar; put an IM widget not only in databases, but also the 404 error page and other webpages; focus as much on second year students as first year students.

This conference is always good, but this year seemed particularly on-target for our own planning here.