And They Were There: ALA Annual 2015 – San Francisco


by Lynda Kellam

This year’s ALA Annual Conference was quite a treat. In addition to the excitement of being in San Francisco at such an historic moment, the conference had many useful programs and networking opportunities. Below are highlights from a few of the programs I attended.

The conference kicked off on Friday with the NISO/BISG 9th Annual Forum entitled “The Changing Standards Landscape: Access or Ownership: Evolving Business Models and Your Institution”.  You can see slide decks and more information at the NISO website: 

Todd Carpenter, the Executive Director of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), set the stage with a brief discussion of new access-based models and implications of these patron-driven approaches for libraries. Julie Morris, Project Manager for Standards & Best Practices at the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) then discussed BISG’s role in representing actors in the “publishing supply chain”. BISG has two reports out on the topic: Digital Content in Public Libraries and Digital Books and the New Subscription Economy 

This second report was the subject of a presentation by Nadine Vassallo, Project Manager for Research & Information at BISG. She discussed the results of a survey examining the evolving environment for e-book models within the “subscription economy”. Her breakdown of the available models, and then her analysis of them based on “breadth versus depth” and “access versus ownership” was useful for thinking through which models would work best for libraries. According to the survey results, publishers could see drawbacks for booksellers and potentially libraries. Overall, however, they held positive perceptions of the movement to these models, especially in encouraging readership.

Vassallo’s presentation was followed by Stacey Marien, Acquisitions Librarian at American University Library, who questioned the eternal debate over access versus ownership. She argued that as long as we can manage the complexity of ordering, libraries can benefit from the various e-book models available. Her presentation detailed the formats to which the American University Library subscribes and the benefits and challenges with each model.

The annual forum was a rich and informative session that featured several more presentations. Take a look at the website for additional information.

Saturday’s highlight was Data Sharing as Publication sponsored by MAGIRT. Andy Rutkowski from UCLA opened the session with the observation that data management and access has become part of our daily conversations with researchers. The presentations at this session were from the archaeology researcher’s perspective, but the problems presented had implications beyond one field.

Anne Austin, a researcher at Stanford University, discussed the data collection issues for bioarchaeologists. A major issue, similar to data challenges in all fields, is the ability to integrate datasets from different researchers and studies. In addition, data collection methods at archaeological sites have unique challenges. Her answer was to create a digitized data collection method with OsteoSurvey, which allows researchers to record information on Android tablets and provides methods for data validation. Another useful site is Open Context, a data sharing and publishing platform for archaeological researchers. Libraries can play a role by referring researchers to resources for data creation and helping researchers identify compatible data sets.

On Sunday, ALCTS asked the provocative question, Is Technical Services Dead?  Amy Weiss, Head of Description and Cataloging at Florida State University Libraries, argued that we are seeing a shift away from traditional functions in each area of Technical Services. For example, with serials the concern is the separation of individual articles from the bounds of journals. For catalogers, the big questions are metadata and institutional repositories. Acquisitions librarians ponder if DDA may lead to the obsolescence of their work. She also mentioned the “Trojan Horses” or those librarians who are Technical Services even if they don’t know it, including Electronic Resources Librarians and Metadata Catalogers. Ultimately she maintained that Technical Services’ values are still key even if the methods have changed. Elyssa Gould, Electronic Acquisitions & Serials Librarian at University of Michigan Law Library, had similar observations. She also stressed that these changes require Tech Services staff to hone their creativity, collaboration, initiative, time management, and continual learning. To learn which skills are most significant she suggested browsing Technical Services job postings. Erin Boyd, Technical Services Supervisor at the Irving Public Library, provided a pep talk. She argued that Technical Services staff needed to become their own advocates because of the specialized nature of the work and indirect interaction with patrons. As ways to advocate, she suggested developing an elevator speech, serving on public services committees or on public services desks, participating in cross-training activities, involvement in professional organizations, and communication to LIS programs.

Finally, the ALCTS Collection Management and Development Section explored What Drives Collection Assessment.  Each presenter discussed their processes for assessing and weeding collections. Michael Leach, Head of Collection Development at Harvard University’s Cabot Science Library, developed three print collection scenarios for their science-focused collection. Through faculty meetings and user needs assessments such as focus groups, observations, and surveys, they decided on a scenario that reduced the collection by 80%. Stephanie Schmitt, Assistant Technical Services and Systems Librarian, described the loss of an entire floor at her library, the UC Hastings Law Library. For this assignment they tried to balance project management needs, collection management issues, and patron and staff morale with only six months and no budget. They used Scrum principles to help manage the project.

Again, this was a fantastic and informative conference. Looking forward to the next one in Orlando, Florida (and maybe some theme park fun?).

Lynda M. Kellam is the Data Services & Government Information Librarian at the Jackson Library, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Lynda is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Political Science Department and contributor to Against the Grain.


Pin It

Leave a Reply