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On March 14, I attended the twenty-third annual North Carolina Serials Conference. As in previous years, it was an excellent conference that brought together representatives from both libraries and library vendors to talk about current ideas and emerging technologies. In recent years, however, the broadening of the definition of what is a serial has grown dramatically, and in coming years the conference may have to be renamed to address these new types of resources. In any case, that is a topic for another time and place.

This was also one of the more heavily-attended gatherings for the Serials Conference, and it touched on a variety of topics in areas such as assessment, streaming video, ebooks, and altmetrics (where one speaker pointed out the notion of “one metric to rule them all” is archaic and ineffective in the contemporary environment). There were three points that I found particularly interesting from this conference, and all had a great deal of promise for future events.

It’s always important for libraries to tell their stories. Libraries have no difficulty explaining their individual mission and vision to the communities they serve, but libraries can find it difficult to explain to those outside of the library world how they accomplish those objectives. Assessment tools are some of the best measures for these goals, but the means to explain to those not versed in library jargon can be challenging. The University of Virginia Library, for instance, has devoted a section of its website to collect information from past and present surveys, but they used some of that information to communicate with student patrons in their “I Wish” campaign. Turning those data elements into actual engagement was one way that libraries can continuously reinvigorate and renew themselves and their missions.

As streaming media matures for libraries, the users are gaining more control. When new formats emerge in libraries, it takes time for libraries to “hammer out” the rough places they may have before the users can begin using them. Rarely are these resolved quickly; it may take either months or years before a product become bug-free, but it can vary widely. Streaming media is the latest technology introduced to libraries, and factors such as licensing, pricing, copyright and sharing have delayed their advent in many libraries. Collaboration between libraries and vendors has managed to address most of those larger issues, and now the ability to use streaming music and video is in the hands of users. Granted, there are still concerns around copyright, public performance rights and linking, but the technology is now in the hands of the end user who must determine how to make it work for their own needs.

Gems from a panel discussion regarding open access. There are moments during a panel discussion when profound truths can be brought to light, and this one was no exception. With three panelists representing the viewpoints of publishers, libraries and faculty, there were points made that were worth considering. In brief:

  • From publishers: like traditional journals, what constitutes results for data in open access titles is field-dependent, leading to false equivalencies.
  • From libraries: creating an open access library with all areas represented in its development and stewardship.
  • From faculty: open access is not the end of the academic world but a nascent one that requires education and attention if it is to be used to its highest potential.

The conference ended on a poignant note because it was announced during the closing remarks that it would be the last conference for Nancy Gibbs following her retirement from Duke University Libraries. Nancy has been one of the major players in the serials community for several decades, and the depth and breadth of her knowledge cannot be replicated so easily. Even though she said that she would still be around for the near future, it was impossible not to notice that a changing of the guard was taking place. Best wishes to Nancy on the next phase of her life, and may the conference continue to grow and prosper in the years ahead.