NCLA Biennial Conference, October 17-20

While I have attended the NCLA Biennial Conference many times, this year was my first as a ZSR employee. It was great to run into my ZSR colleagues in a different setting, connect with former colleagues and friends at other libraries, and learn about the great work that’s happening across our state. Oh, and I got to walk on the famous Benton Convention Center carpet, which is always a delight (if you know, you know).

The opening keynote by David Campt was an energizing and thought-provoking way to kick off the conference. Campt is the founder and principal of The Dialogue Company, and has some local fame due to his show on WFDD called “Let’s Talk About It.” Campt teaches people how to have difficult conversations using reflection, connection, and empathy. He is developing a framework for library workers to use when engaging in conversations about book challenges and other divisive topics. His talk was interactive and entertaining, and I wish that it had been longer.

As an advocate for accessibility in libraries, I was really excited to see multiple sessions on this topic at NCLA. Librarians from UNC Charlotte discussed their ongoing project of creating a long-term accessibility plan in a presentation called “Growing Accessibility in Your Library Through a Three Year Plan.” Their library formed an accessibility committee to determine needs on their campus, create a plan, and track their progress. Two important areas that they addressed included building accessibility into event planning and creating an accessibility guide for interview candidates. Claire Leverett and Devon Waugh from NC LIVE also presented about their accessibility efforts, which include an audit of all platforms that they license, as well as a series of webinars about accessibility topics. I’m really impressed with their commitment to meeting the accessibility needs of North Carolinians.

On Friday, I attended Amanda Kaufman, Meghan Webb, and Hu Womack’s presentation about information literacy workshops for faculty. I already knew that my ZSR colleagues were doing amazing things, but I really appreciated getting the chance to gain in-depth knowledge about the work that they do supporting WFU faculty and students. My last session of the conference was a session about open access initiatives at UNCG, presented by Anna Craft and Christine Fischer. I have worked with both of them extensively on the NCLA Resource and Technical Services Board over the years, and really enjoyed hearing about the work that they’re currently doing to create a culture of open access at their institution.

In addition to attending various sessions, I also presented one of my own. I collaborated with my former North Carolina A&T colleague Carlos Grooms (now the Student Success Librarian at Elon University) on a talk about career changes called “When You’re the New Kid: Managing Career Transitions with Intention.” Carlos and I worked together at A&T for over a decade, and gave our perspectives on changing jobs. In addition to sharing insight into our own job searches, we discussed challenges around making career transitions and emphasized the need for planning and self-care. We had really great engagement from the audience, both through discussion and online polling, and I hope to participate in future programming on this topic.

Charleston Conference, November 7-10

The Charleston Conference has been on my professional bucket list for a long time. My experience more than met my high expectations! I had an incredibly productive, informative, and fun time in the Holy City.

The opening keynote was a panel composed of executives from Springer Nature, Elsevier, and Clarivate. While I work with these companies on a frequent basis, usually with folks from sales and customer support, it was interesting to get a high-level perspective on their role in the industry. One theme that emerged was the importance of research integrity and the responsibility of these companies in upholding the quality of the scholarly record. Another topic that came up was the fact that Europe and China are outpacing the US in terms of scholarly output. And of course, AI was mentioned quite a few times. All of these companies are doing work in this space (with Clarivate announcing their Web of Science AI Research Assistant at the conference), but aren’t necessarily aligned on what its role will be in the industry.

While most of my time in Charleston was spent attending vendor meetings, I did make it to a few in-person sessions. Since I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to learn about accessibility, I was thrilled to attend “From Metadata to User Interfaces: Collaborative Initiatives to Make Content and Systems Accessible.” Topics covered included accessibility in purchasing and fulfillment, accessibility remediation metadata standards, and a vendor perspective from EBSCO on their company’s accessibility efforts. At another session, I heard my former coworker Tina Buck (of the University of Central Florida) and her colleagues discuss the benefits and drawbacks to using automated processes in Alma to manage e-resources.

I also had the opportunity to co-present with Kathy Shields during a stopwatch session. Our talk was called “On a Roll: Collaborating Across Departments to Support Resource Selection and Discovery.” In only six minutes, we outlined some of the work that we have been doing together to support the selection process and to streamline discovery. As first-timers, it was a nice introduction to presenting at the Charleston Conference, and also gave us the chance to hear several other presentations on topics such as citizen science, collection assessment, leveraging OA tools for cost savings, and helping faculty purchase library materials while traveling.

Vendor relations is an important part of my job, so it was really beneficial to meet with them all in one place. I spent most of my time in Charleston meeting with reps from several different vendors, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom were new to me. Charleston is different from other conferences in that vendors only exhibit for one day, which frees them up to have meetings and attend sessions for the rest of the conference. I think that this setup provides a lot more opportunity to have meaningful conversations. From all of my conversations, it became clear that they’re all trying to figure out how to incorporate AI into their products, and want to know what librarians think about how AI might help our users with their research. I’ll be very curious to see what conversations about AI will look like next year, since this is an area of such rapid growth. The changing open access landscape was another frequent topic of conversation, especially Subscribe to Open. And while OA publishing has traditionally skewed toward journals, we’re seeing advancements in monographs and even primary source collections.

Overall, my first two conferences as a ZSR librarian were a great success! I look forward to reflecting on all I’ve learned as the year winds down, and to applying my newfound knowledge in 2024.