I’ve been an active NASIG member since 2002, and our conference participation (as well as over-all membership) has been declining every year. I think a big part of it has to do with our identity and the shift of serials librarians to eresource librarians. I believe NASIG still has relevance, particularly as a forum for conversations between librarians and the commercial side of the continuing resources industry. However, I think our conference and membership can sometimes get mired down in 25+ years of traditions and personalities.
ER&L seems to be avoiding that so far, so I spent a good bit of time thinking about why their model is working so well for drawing new and repeat attendees. There certainly was no lack of commercial side participation, both as presenters and in session attendance. Some of that may be due to an early adoption of sponsorships and a lack of a negative knee-jerk reaction to branding by the sponsors. There is also a more prominent placement of the vendor exhibits, situated in the middle of the conference schedule, and including free food and drinks to draw in participants.
The other big thing that stood out to me is the length of the sessions. Each concurrent session was no longer than 50 min, and the last 10 min was reserved for questions. We’re experimenting with shorter sessions at NASIG this year, in part due to Program Planning Committee member suggestions based on experiences with other conferences. I am hopeful that this will result in fewer instances of time-fillers such as lengthy introductions with info about home institutions that are rarely relevant and literature reviews that would be better presented as handouts than from a podium. Sad to say, but my generation and younger are not going to want to attend your dry, academic presentation. Give me some content and context that I can’t get from reading your paper in the proceedings, or else I have no reason to listen to you.
I’m not saying that I want NASIG to become a mirror image of ER&L, but rather we need to be more brash about our relevance to the community. Let us be an “and also,” not an “either or.” I derive tremendous benefits from attending both conferences and participating in both communities, and I’m very thankful that my home institution supports this. I wish everyone else had that benefit, too.