In the past month, I’ve been to two conferences, one close to home and one farther afield: NCLA in October, and the Charleston Conference last week. Here are highlights from each conference.

NCLA, October 17-20

I kicked off my NCLA by co-facilitating a two part, day-long pre-conference, “Cultivating Copyright Knowledge: Developing Support Strategies for Library Communities” (slides here). Adapted from the Library Copyright Institute, Kate Dickson (Duke), Anne Gilliland (UNC), Dave Hansen (Authors Alliance), and I spent the morning covering copyright history, rights, exemptions, and fair use. The afternoon was spent discussing risk assessment, practical applications on the job, and examining case studies. We had engaged attendees, including ZSR’s own Meghan Webb (thanks for attending, Meghan!), and felt that the day was a success.

I wasn’t able to get back to NCLA until Friday, where I attended two excellent sessions to round out my conference. The “Libraries and Intellectual Freedom” paired session was interesting, if sobering. There were 695 attempted bans so far in 2023 (through 8/31), but it’s estimated that as many as 90% of challenges are not being reported. School libraries have historically received the most challenges, but recently there’s been a huge increase in public libraries (and far less in academic libraries, but we aren’t immune). 92% of attempts are to ban entire lists of books, not just single titles. Oof. On a more encouraging note, the “Support for Open Education: Building Community Across North Carolina” session featured speakers from ECU, NCSU, UNCC, and UNCSA talking about their involvement with OER (open educational resources). It was no surprise that the larger institutions have had more engagement than UNCSA, whose experience is closer to ours. There was a rich Q&A discussion with librarians from other types and sizes of institutions sharing their perspectives. We haven’t had the OER traction at Wake that we hoped we might, so hearing that the same is true at other smaller institutions in the state, both public and private, offered reassurance that we’re not an outlier.

While my pre-conference was a success and the sessions I attended were interesting, the highlight of the conference was seeing a former advisee who now works for NC Live. Sophie is a recent graduate of UNC SILS and just started with NC Live earlier this fall. It was fun to reconnect with her (thanks to Kathy Shields!) and to know that she’s a librarian!

Charleston Conference, November 7-10

The Charleston Conference is consistently a great opportunity for me to learn about advances in scholarly communication and publishing–particularly open access–and to connect with colleagues, publishers, and vendors. I was one of five ZSR librarians to attend this year and took advantage of that overlap for joint meetings with Kate Silton and Kathy S. with de Gruyter and Clarivate. Kate and I learned about the just-launched University Press Library Open collection, which is de Gruyter/Ubiquity’s new Subscribe to Open offering (S2O). The three of us had lunch with Clarivate reps for a more casual meeting, although we did discuss possibilities for University subscriptions to products that help faculty find grant opportunities and assess research impact (as well as Mayberry and The Andy Griffith Show…no connection between the two topics, alas). Kathy also tagged along to a Taylor & Francis event where I had a short meeting with a rep about T&F’s retroactive open access initiative.

Individually, I met with reps from Reveal Digital about the open access primary source collections that they collate. They are really interesting, and integrated in JSTOR, so I think they’d be great to add to our A-Z resource list and start promoting with faculty (psst, several ZSR folks will be hearing from me soon about this!). I also met with reps from JSTOR about Constellate, a text & data mining platform that is a less intimidating entry point for faculty and students wishing to learn how to use R and Python to analyze large datasets. And in follow up to a meeting at last year’s Charleston Conference, I met with reps from Helper Systems for an update on kOS (pronounced chaos), a tool that allows users to organize, search, and annotate PDF files on your computer.

I rounded out my vendor and publisher engagement by presenting on a panel organized by Cambridge University Press, “Active or Passive? Supporting Experimental Models on the Drive Towards an OA Future.” I was joined on the panel by another librarian, Janice Adlington (McMaster University), and three Cambridge reps, Stephanie Kaelin, Jack Macdonald, and Kerr Alexander. Stephanie moderated a conversation among us, which was really fun and relaxed, and I am grateful I was invited by Cambridge to participate.

S2O was a big theme this year, both in vendor and publisher meetings and in multiple conference sessions. Open access models for journals have had more success than those for monographs, although book models are finding their footing. Most S2O models are pledge driven, whereby once x-number is reached, either dollar amount or number of subscribing libraries (or both), presses’ new books are published openly. Different presses have different models, and different incentives for supporters, but interest and success seems to be coalescing around S2O. One of the more instructive S2O sessions I attended, “Subscribe to Open: The Challenges & Successes of an Innovative Model for Open Access,” featured publishers and a librarian discussing how S2O compliments other open access initiatives, but also calling attention to hidden impacts; e.g., shifting to OA may make usage stats go down because authentication is no longer required. S2O is definitely something for us to keep an eye on, and maybe to support with one or two publishers on a trial basis.

AI was also a hot topic. The final session I attended, “The Long Arm of the Law” (always my favorite), focused on copyright and AI, examining whether AI training infringes on materials used to train AI. There are several lawsuits working their way through the courts, so we should see some AI-specific case law before too long, but early senses are that AI training with large language models (LLM) likely isn’t an infringement of copyright, although there may be issues around terms of service violations that are a bigger liability. Several good points were made about AI more generally:

  • Libraries have a role to be a natural partner in AI training with our corpus.
  • AI requires quality metadata; e.g., AI doesn’t “see” a picture but reads metadata and builds knowledge of connections.
  • If you believe that AI is learning, then any existing AI cannot unlearn what it has already processed. So, if AI training is found to be infringing or in violation of contract terms, it would necessarily have to start over. This means that future AI built on restricted data will be less reliable than the AI we have now.

It was a good few weeks of conferencing both at home and away, and I have lots to think about and follow up on in the weeks ahead!