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I had heard many good things about the ER&L Conference for several years, but I wasn’t sure if I should attend. Not long ago, I wasn’t sure what I would find rewarding, if anything, that would tie in with my current position. However, as the number of electronic resources- databases, journals and ebooks- continue to grow and behave more like serials in their design, the relevancy of this conference became clear. Also, I would like to thank Derrik Hiatt for taking the lead on registering for the online conference, which featured several sessions streamed live over the internet so that anyone could watch from their home institution. This allowed me to get a taste of the conference and see if it were a palatable one; the answer was yes.

Several unique qualities emerged from the online aspect of the conference, and it was clear that it was more than just a webinar. First of all, each presenter could be seen as well as heard. After participating in many webinars and online courses, seeing a human being presenting the material made a big difference in terms of accessibility instead of a disembodied voice. Second, presentation slides were seen in the same window as the presenters, giving a synchronous delivery to the “home audience”. The connections were stable and without significant lags, giving more polished look to the proceedings. But most of all, there was a “Twitter Wall” that presented real-time observations using the #erl13 hashtag. I’ve live-tweeted several conferences in the past, so this was a way to be interactive even though I wasn’t in the same room as those in Austin.

The sessions were decided on upon by the viewing group, and they not only represented the nature of an electronic resource but also the methods required to make them accessible to patrons. I attended three that were of particular interest to my area:

  • What Would Google Do? This session addressed the trend of discovery layers moving closer to the elusive model of Google: a single search box. Takeaways from that session included a new interface for Summon (due Summer 2013) that will incorporate topical searches, and the information that 45% of searches use three words or less according to a Summon analysis.
  • E-Resources, E-Reality. Tools used to collect information regarding electronic resources were discussed in this session. It was geared toward institutions that did not have an electronic resource management system, or ERMS, in place as a viable alternative, but it was useful to see how other schools were using existing tools to address their needs. Two interesting details emerged: the first was the use of Trello, a cloud-based service for tracking projects, as a means to track trials and licenses; while the second was the use of Yahoo Pipes as the infrastructure to push content into RSS feeds.
  • Developing TERMS. TERMS is short for Techniques for Electronic Resource Management, and they are a set of guidelines to manage, evaluate, and maintain an electronic resource throughout its life cycle. The cycle is separated into six stages with a natural progression between each one. I found this session extremely helpful for tips that should be considered at each stage, especially cancellation.
  • Moving towards Patron-Driven Journal Packages – A Case Study. This concept goes beyond the DDA and “pay per view” models into the area of journal subscriptions that were purchased at the point of need for a user. This case study addressed one library’s plan to provide service that exceeded the needs of patrons while being sensitive to the reality of a declining budgets. It hasn’t been widely adopted yet, but there was a possibility for expansion if more publishers and vendors offered this service.

In all, I found the 2013 ER&L Conference extremely worthwhile. Thanks to the organizers, a large slate of programming was available for those who were unable to attend in person, yet it was possible to have measure of involvement in the proceedings. I hope that the conference will be available in a similar format next year- I was glad to “attend” this year!