The greatest value in attending this online conference for me was feeling connected again to what is going on “out there” in libraryland, particularly in working on e-resources. Even though it was mostly at a detailed and practical level, there were some sessions that helped me see a broader picture.

The Content

A lot of the pre-pandemic complaining¬† in libraryland about the quality of the metadata coming from the publishers through OCLC to us and complaints about the Community Zone (CZ) with Alma has not changed. I heard wide agreement that the quality of the metadata affects the discovery. It was good to see an Ohiolink group working with SpringerNature and OCLC in an effort to improve metadata for everyone as an action to address the complaints. This was one positive action I saw, initiated by librarians! A lot of the rest of what I saw was a variety of librarians and vendors describing the problems, so we’re still in a state of not knowing how to get to solutions at scale. I see how far we’ve come in terms of reducing duplication of work with sharing metadata and yet the quality issues which are arguably more important in an electronic world, seem to be worse. It was heartening to hear ProQuest (which now has “a Clarivate company” added to their slides), and EBSCO presenters both discussing some work on natural language searching. (Maybe the day will come when we’re not teaching Boolean.)

Most presentations I saw really got into the weeds, which I thought was great, but you might not enjoy details about metadata for HathiTrust ETAS and how SpringerNature, OhioLink, and OCLC pulled together to improve metadata. (Spoiler alert: a new collection set management option in WorldShare is due to appear between July and September 2022 — you can wait until the records are fixed or you can get the imperfect records fast still and replace them, the way it is now.)

Back to Alma, I got an intro to the CZ updates task list thanks to Jenn Brown, from the University of Denver. From Matt Gallagher, University of Pennsylvania, I heard about CZ deletes eliminating access to e-resources completely until someone in the library fixed the problem by working through the updates. One attendee commented through chat that, “Staying on top of CZ updates alone can be a full time job!” and Jenn Brown (the chat software doesn’t identify who, so I had to ask) responded that they were getting help from public services folks to keep up.

A few major publishers (e.g. Elsevier, SpringerNature, and Wiley too in April 2022) have implemented automated (KBART) holdings feeds with Alma (some are for ejournals, some ebooks, some both), but there are caveats, not only with quality of the metadata in the records, but also in the accuracy of the holdings because libraries are depending on the publishers having correct holdings. With weekly updates, you can’t make corrections to the data in your catalog because it will get overwritten. The publishers hope to keep refining this because they can reduce the holdings problem tickets at their end by getting correct data and updates to libraries more quickly. My takeaway was that this is something we would want, but need to proceed with good oversight to make sure titles that we should be offering don’t disappear from the catalog. (Because that could lead to lack of use cancellations that aren’t based on accurate data.)

The Logistics

There was intent for conceptual stuff built into the conference, but the opening keynote as a panel with rapid changes in presenters just didn’t work for me. The whole camper/campsite thing didn’t appeal to me either, but that’s just veneer. The software, Pheedloop, used has good bells and whistles, but it was a bit overwhelming at first for a newbie. It couldn’t conquer the perennial problem of presenters putting small text on their slides. They had Slack channels for inter-attendee communication, which made me grateful for the ZSR intro to Slack earlier in the pandemic, but I didn’t end up using it much. I think if I attended another conference with Pheedloop, the familiarity I developed this time would let me take better advantage of all it has to offer.

The best help to me was a pre-published schedule on a web page with the capability of getting those things onto my calendar with a few clicks even though I had to drag them to adjust from Central time to Eastern. It took a bit to get the hang of bouncing between a main livestream of presentations (one after another basically non-stop) that ran concurrent with live Q&A with presenters whose on-demand videos you needed to have watched beforehand. It seemed a bit disjointed to me to have a big Q&A after a batch of livestream presentations on different topics instead of completing one topic and moving to the next. It also meant missing the Q&A for a particular presentation if you bounced to something else. The conference had great content, I just found it harder to absorb with this organization of it. Also even though permitted by our culture here at ZSR to focus on the conference, I personally found it difficult to do so without the travel to divorce me more completely from doctor’s appointments, administrative meetings, and needs of colleagues. But I won’t let that difficulty stop me from benefitting from online conferences; it is basically just a trade off for not having as much cost and time invested plus the hassles that go with travel.