By now you’ve already read about this year’s Charleston Conference from the four other ZSRians who attended earlier this month. I won’t rehash any of the sessions they discussed that I too attended. Rather, I’ll share highlights from the scholarly communication focus of my Charleston experience.

When I first attended Charleston in 2008, it was as a panelist on a lively lunch panel and we were one of the only, if not the only, scholcomm sessions. Now scholcomm is a specified track at the conference, so there were lots of sessions for me to choose from. (And, per the law of conferences, often several of interest were offered concurrently…why?!) Lots of talk about transformative agreements, the current and future state of open access, digital sustainability, open education, and copyright. My key takeaways are divided by days; let me know if you want additional details or to know which sessions I attended.


  • Open access might lead libraries to transition from curating acquired collections to facilitated collections
  • We need wide, diverse array of perspectives to move to an open future
  • Big 5 are preparing for transition to OA future – but who will pay?
    • Cannot be only intensive research institutions
    • Pay-to-publish models pose threats to read-only institutions
  • Development of transformative agreements requires both libraries and publishers to focus on alignment, but provide room for flexibility for differences
  • Direct messaging from publisher to author during transformative agreement period is key to a successful implementation
  • Measure of success in transformative agreements shifts from title uptake to author engagement
  • Institutional repositories are creating parallel infrastructure that is increasingly irrelevant
    • Money better spent elsewhere
    • Subject repositories have more relevance for faculty
  • Not looking for the one open thing to rule the world – need bibliodiversity
  • Open infrastructure, open data necessary for open book publishing to succeed
  • Everyone wants to talk about OA infrastructure without enough theorizing about what it can be
    • Open to read, scrape, download is actually a rather poor definition – limitation – of OA
  • Already have graveyards of digital humanities projects [yep!]


  • Publishing is a process, not a product
    • Open is great but is not enough!
  • Terms blend together when rethinking digital community engagement (e.g., journal to book to journal)
  • Make labor visible!
    • Know who is involved
  • Faculty often thinking “website” with digital projects so we have to help them determine what pathways do they want
  • Be OK with what it needs to be NOW – even if creating something less sustainable and preservable
  • DH/DS often over-focused on creation of new projects than use of existing projects – and teaching how to use
  • Too often DH/DS success is defined by large grants – Mellon, NEH – and project originality when really we should look at learning outcomes
  • Must have room to fail in DH/DS work
    • Sometimes research output is better shared in traditional textual form
  • In past 20 years, OA uptake has risen to 35% of scholarly publishing (gold, green, hybrid, bronze)
    • In academe, when have we ever seen a 35% change in two decades?! Good point to remember when we feel OA change is slow.
  • Claim that dollars to fully fund OA system are already in existing system may be true, but there’s a big issue with where it is and how it’s distributed
    • Concern that small institutions won’t pay into full OA world because budget constraints can’t justify doing so when all is available “for free”
    • Do we want to only fund existing publishers if we only shift funding?
      • What about partners in spirit/goal who started as fully OA and already aren’t getting our dollars? Where will their support come from?
    • Library budget is not enough
  • Need to think about what our subscriptions support beyond journals: society work, etc.
    • Libraries not seeing all the benefits of our funding because it’s outside our purview


  • Controlled digital lending has strong potential although case law doesn’t yet support 
    • Transformativeness could be argued, as could first sale doctrine
  • “Own to loan ration” can include mix of digital and physical so long as it is still 1:1 for the number owned
    • CDL is replacing library’s owned copy so not substituting market sale, i.e. no damage
  • Copyright not meant to protect against every market effect
  • Damage is due to technological advancement not copyright
  • Even if there is a statutory change around copyright law, technology advancing so quickly there will always be litigation on application and intersection
  • Portico and CLOCKSS are piloting ways to preserve new forms of scholarship, e.g. DH/DS projects
  • Must distinguish between the project of research and the project of publication

The above are all good points I’ll be pondering in the coming weeks, but overall this Charleston was a bit of a bust. Only one session stands out as provocative and intensely engaging (and it was not the plenary keynote by Elsevier’s CEO – that was a bust too). I had wonderful connections with colleagues and two productive vendor meetings, and of course I enjoyed the salty air, Spanish moss, palm trees, and food. But Charleston is a conference I now know I can attend every few years and still feel that I’m up-to-date on the latest scholcomm perspectives from the collections/publishing angle.