This was my first time at the Charleston Conference. My overall impressions: (1) This conference has a lot of content (I was afraid I would run out of paper for notes); (2) The content was mostly very practical and detailed; (3) Those practical details were more “cutting edge” than in other conferences I’ve attended, i.e. dealing with new initiatives or developments in the business of library resources.

I think I just put myself on the spot to describe some of those new initiatives or developments, huh?

Library/Vendor relations

I attended a couple of lunch discussions dealing with library/vendor relations. In one, panelists & the audience discussed the evolving role of book vendors in managing libraries’ e-book collections. Among other challenges, a vendor rep pointed out that vendors are now being asked to help libraries manage collections of materials they have not bought from the vendor (for example, e-book collections bought directly from a publisher or aggregator).

Privacy

Online privacy was a hot topic at the conference, especially after day 2’s plenary session in which a panel of three legal experts scared everyone by showing—in real time—what everyone connected to the room’s Wi-Fi was doing online. One panelist discussed a European law that protects the “right to be forgotten” (for example, ordering Google to remove certain web pages from its search results). I also learned more about a NISO initiative to develop a “Consensus Framework to Support Patron Privacy”. The goal of the initiative is to find common ground for publishers/vendors and libraries, who have different needs and interests. The resulting document will address 12 areas, including transparency, data collection & use, anonymization, access to one’s own user data, and accountability.

E-books

There are some new developments and experimentation with e-books. I learned about a Mellon Foundation-funded project at the University of Minnesota Press, in partnership with CUNY Digital Scholarship Lab, to develop a software platform for what they call “iterative editions,” a sort of grey-literature monograph. The platform, called Manifold, is designed for interaction, including contributing and discussing. The platform software will be open source, and the UMN Press speaker said that books published by UMN Press will be open access, though that is not an inherent feature of the software.

In another presentation, which Lauren already mentioned, I learned that the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is starting to expand their work with e-books. See more about DPLA and e-books at http://dp.la/info/get-involved/dpla-ebooks/ . One of the panelists in the DPLA presentation was Jill Morris, who used to work with NC LIVE, and told about the NC LIVE Home Grown E-books project. Basically, the point of the presentation was that DPLA is examining some of the innovative things going on with e-books and exploring ways to use those ideas.

I also attended (alongside Lauren) a presentation about EPUB format vs. PDF, discussing the many advantages of the former and users’ ongoing love of the latter, despite its clunkiness. It is apparent that users don’t know much about EPUB, and where there is a choice between EPUB and PDF, they gravitate toward the familiar (and branded) icon. An e-book aggregator rep talked about the difficulty of supporting both formats. And the librarian presenting told about their work with instructors to teach them about the advantages of EPUB format, and to find and promote EPUB versions for course use.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the conference, by Roën Janyk of Okanagan College, British Columbia:

“The difference between things that might go wrong and things that can’t possibly go wrong is that when things that can’t possibly go wrong go wrong, they’re usually impossible to repair.”

[UPDATE] I wrote it down wrong (but close). Apparently this quote is taken from the book Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams: “The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.”