Last week I attended the spring meeting of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. Always my favorite meeting, this was one of the best I have attended for reasons I will outline below. We met in Reston, VA, which if you have not been there, you do not need to add it to your must visit list. Reston is planned community with all of the personality of a corporate park. Sterile and soulless would also apply. The location did not present a distraction to the meeting!

The agenda for the meeting was full and included a mini-workshop on Cultural Competence and the Role of Library Leaders.  The amazing DeEtta Jones was our instructor.  We spent a lot of time on the hiring process and how to de-bias our systems. We also had group discussion on several case studies drawn from real life library DEI challenges. She gave us a “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Status and Planning Assessment” which I will be sharing with our D&I Committee and plan to have the Admin Team work through it at our August retreat. This was great preparation for the ASERL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s Committee’s report on recommended activities (linked to the agenda). We see this as an area where ASERL can be a leader and we want to offer more training and educational opportunities.

To support the additional work, the ASERL Board has proposed adding a new full time program coordinator position. The proposal was discussed at the meeting and the deans and directors will vote on it this month. We are finally able to do electronic voting thanks to the approval of the revision of our Bylaws (which I helped rewrite).  I also gave the annual financial report as ASERL’s secretary/treasurer.

The other highlight of the meeting was a panel on breaking big deals with speakers from five schools (Louisville, UNC, Vanderbilt, Florida State, and LSU) and one consortium (VIVA). I will do a quick summary here, but I am happy to share my more detailed notes with anyone interested. Some of the trends discussed included:

  • Getting nondisclosure clauses removed from contracts
  • Being careful about restrictive APIs that limit access and ILL
  • Better tracking of APCs and OA fees from our faculty (essentially paying the publishers twice)
  • Elsevier big deals — two schools broke their big deal, two are considering it, and one successfully negotiated a better deal
  • All are doing detailed analysis of their big deals and seeing what titles are actually used
  • All noted how vital it was to keep your campus informed

One comment from the audience raised an interesting counterpoint. While we consider the inflation rate for our big deals to be usurious, it pales in comparison to other university expenses (such as the raise to a basketball coach or a science lab start-up). Stanford is currently doing a white paper on big deal contracts and SPARC is also doing research on contracts. Big deals continue to be an evolving situation and ASERL wants to support its members and their work in this area.

Finally we signed on to several larger library initiatives, including:

BTAA Vision Statement on Next Generation Discovery Systems

BTAA Guidelines for Loaning Special Collections Materials

Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending

I always come away from ASERL meetings feeling better informed about trends in academic libraries and thankful to have some great colleagues in the region.