Sorry, I’m so late in writing about a conference that happened on March 6th, but the month of March and the first half of April pretty much ate my life. Anyway, Chris, Derrik and I drove to the conference, which started late due to a weather delay caused by a slight ice event (remember how crazy this winter was)? I was going to the conference to attend, but also to present and to staff an exhibits table on behalf of NASIG, so I was wearing three hats.
The most memorable session was the opening keynote given by Katherine Skinner of Educopia. If you’ve never heard Katherine speak, you really should if you get the chance, she’s always fascinating. She’ll be speaking at the E-Books Freakout on Friday, April 24th, so you should come. Her talk at the NC Serials Conference was called “Taking Action in a Critical Moment: From Innovation to Impact.” Skinner argued that innovation (as in an invention) would not solve the problems of scholarly communication. She said that we need a change to the system, not to look for left-field innovation to provide a magic bullet to solve our problems. She argued that innovations don’t typically come from the center, they come from unexpected locations, while system-wide changes require system-wide involvement. The problems associated with scholarly communication are system-wide, not merely incidental to a specific location. She pointed out that we in higher education (and really everywhere) are good at focusing on the problems in our own institution, rather than the system as a whole. She also made the very salient point that the problems of scholarly communications has essentially become the sole burden of librarians, even though they shouldn’t be. But, she argued that situation may be changing, as the problems in scholarly communications have started hitting scholars themselves, particularly in states that have seen massive cuts to higher education like Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. She argued forcefully that librarians need to work together with scholars and other parties involved in the scholarly communication process to to try to find systemic solutions to the problems we face in scholarly communication.
I also gave a presentation at the NC Serials Conference, although I’m not nearly as good a public speaker as Katherine Skinner. I was invited to speak about the changes going on in NASIG over the last year or so (basically the time since I became NASIG president). In late 2013, the NASIG Executive Board decided to appoint a task force to revise the vision and mission statements of the organization. The old ones were too focused on phrases like “the serials information chain” and didn’t reflect the fact that NASIG is also quite involved with electronic resource management and scholarly communications. I campaigned on the idea of revising these statements, so I was totally on board with this process. I recruited a task force, including our own Lauren Corbett, to update our vision and mission statements. The membership approved them in November, 2014. Related to that, the Board also discussed changing our official name from the North American Serial Interest Group to just NASIG. The old name made folks think we’re only interested in print serials, and “interest group” made us sound like we’re a smaller part of a larger group. We proposed the name change and the membership approved the change to simply NASIG on Feb. 2nd, 2015. Also, in the spring of 2014, the list moderators of the SERIALST listserv came to the NASIG Executive Board to ask us to consider NASIG taking on the management of the listserv. The founder and lead moderator of the listserv, Birdie McLennon, tragically passed away early in 2014 and her institution wasn’t interested in keeping the listserv. So NASIG took on the management of the listserv and its archives, using a commercial service. We also started a task force to develop a set of core competencies for scholarly communications librarians (to go along with NASIG’s sets of core competencies for electronic resource librarians and print serials librarians). We developed a formal code of conduct for our conference and other NASIG events. We became a strategic affiliate of the Library Publishing Coalition. We also looked at the possibility of hiring office staff for the first time in our history. And we’re doing all this while planning for our 30th anniversary conference in Washington, DC in May, which will not only include a 30th anniversary celebration, but also a joint program with the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Plus, we’re proud sponsors of the Wake the E-Books Festival coming up on April 23rd and 24th. We’ve been kinda busy.