NASIG 2010 reflections

When I was booking my flights and sending in my registration during the snow storms earlier this year, Palm Springs sounded like a dream. Sunny, warm, dry — all the things that Richmond was not. This would also be my first visit to Southern California, so I may be excused for my ignorance of the reality, and more specifically, the reality in early June. Palm Springs was indeed sunny, but not as dry and far hotter than I expected.

Despite the weather, or perhaps because of the weather, NASIGers came together for one of the best conferences we’ve had in recent years. All of the sessions were held in rooms that emptied out into the same common area, which also held the coffee and snacks during breaks. The place was constantly buzzing with conversations between sessions, and many folks hung back in the rooms, chatting with their neighbors about the session topics. Not many were eager to skip the sessions and the conversations in favor of drinks/books by the pools, particularly when temperatures peaked over 100°F by noon and stayed up there until well after dark.

As always, it was wonderful to spend time with colleagues from all over the country (and elsewhere) that I see once a year, at best. I’ve been attending NASIG since I was a wee serials librarian in 2002, and this conference/organization has been hugely instrumental in my growth as a librarian. Being there again this year felt like a combination of family reunion and summer camp. At one point, I choked up a little over how much I love being with all of them, and how much I was going to miss them until we come together again next year.

I’ve already blogged about the sessions I attended, so I won’t go into those details so much here. However, there were a few things that stood out to me and came up several times in conversations over the weekend.

One of the big things is a general trend towards publishers handling subscriptions directly, and in some cases, refusing to work with subscription agents. This is more prevalent in the electronic journal subscription world than in print, but that distinction is less significant now that so many libraries are moving to online-only subscriptions. I heard several librarians express concern over the potential increase in their workload if we go back to the era of ordering directly from hundreds of publishers rather than from one (or a handful) of subscription agents.

And then there’s the issue of invoicing. Electronic invoices that dump directly into a library acquisition system have been the industry standard with subscription agents for a long time, but few (and I can’t think of any) publishers are set up to deliver invoices to libraries using this method. In fact, my assistant who processes invoices must manually enter each line item of a large invoice of one of our collections of electronic subscriptions every year, since this publisher refuses to invoice through our agent (or will do so in a way that increases our fees to the point that my assistant would rather just do it himself). I’m not talking about mom & pop society publisher — this is one of the major players. If they aren’t doing EDI, then it’s understandable that librarians are concerned about other publishers following suit.

Related to this, JSTOR and UC Press, along with several other society and small press publishers have announced a new partnership that will allow those publishers to distribute their electronic journals on the JSTOR platform, from issue one to the current. JSTOR will handle all the hosting, payments, and library technical support, leaving the publishers to focus on generating the content. Here’s the kicker: JSTOR will also be handling billing for print subscriptions of these titles.

That’s right – JSTOR is taking on the role of subscription agent for a certain subset of publishers. They say, of course, that they will continue to accept orders through existing agents, but if libraries and consortia are offered discounts for going directly to JSTOR, with whom they are already used to working directly for the archive collections, then eventually there will be little incentive to use a traditional subscription agent for titles from these publishers. On the one hand, I’m pleased to see some competition emerging in this aspect of the serials industry, particularly as the number of players has been shrinking in recent years, but on the other hand I worry about the future of traditional agents.

In addition to the big picture topics addressed above, I picked up a few ideas to add to my future projects list:

  • Evaluate the “one-click” rankings for our link resolver and bump publisher sites up on the list. These sources “count” more when I’m doing statistical reports, and right now I’m seeing that our aggregator databases garner more article downloads than from the sources we pay for specifically. If this doesn’t improve the stats, then maybe we need to consider whether or not access via the aggregator is sufficient. Sometimes the publisher site interface is a deterrent for users.
  • Assess the information I currently provide to liaisons regarding our subscriptions and discuss with them what additional data I could incorporate to make the reports more helpful in making collection development decisions. Related to this is my ongoing project of simplifying the export/import process of getting acquisitions data from our ILS and into our ERMS for cost per use reports. Once I’m not having to do that manually, I can use that time/energy to add more value to the reports.
  • Do an inventory of our holdings in our ERMS to make sure that we have turned on everything that should be turned on and nothing that shouldn’t. I plan to start with the publishers that are KBART participants and move on from there (and yes, Jason Price, I will be sure to push for KBART compliance from those who are not already in the program).
  • Begin documenting and sharing workflow, SQL, and anything else that might help other electronic resource librarians who use our ILS or our ERMS, and make myself available as a resource. This stood out to me during the user group meeting for our ERMS, where I and a handful of others were the experts of the group, and by no means do I feel like an expert, but clearly there are quite a few people who could learn from my experience the way I learned from others before me.

I’m probably forgetting something, but I think those are big enough to keep me busy for quite a while.

If you managed to make it this far, thanks for letting me yammer on. To everyone who attended this year and everyone who couldn’t, I hope to see you next year in St. Louis!

An Interview with Susan Werner

“I believe that we can be a diverse society of extraordinary creativity and innovation and vitality and freedom, and those things are the best things that we can be.”

Susan Werner, PatriotMy introduction to the music of Susan Werner was in the fall of 1999 when a friend who produced a local acoustic music radio show lent me copies of Time Between Trains and Last of the Good Straight Girls. I was instantly enchanted with the sincerity and wit that Werner brings to her music. Her last album was a thematic collection of songs that sound like they are from the 20s and 30s, but are all orginal and new. Recently, Werner made available for download a song she describes as an alternative national anthem. “This is a song that takes the National Anthem and turns it on his head,” says Werner. “It’s Francis Scott Key meets Arlo Guthrie.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Werner about the song a few weeks ago.

Continue reading “An Interview with Susan Werner”

KY to WA – day one

I’m uploading the following entries several days after having written them, and they will be “published” on the dates they were written. Hope no one minds. It took me a couple of days to find a wi-fi hotspot in town and to get the pictures ready.

I’m uploading the following entries several days after having written them, and they will be “published” on the dates they were written. Hope no one minds. It took me a couple of days to find a wi-fi hotspot in town and to get the pictures ready.

We started off about a half and hour later than planned, which was indicative of our timing for the rest of the day. Shortly after we got on the interstate, Dad realized he’d forgotten his cell phone in Mom’s car, and she realized the same thing and called me to let me know. We pulled off at the next exit and she met us there. After another goodbye, we were on our way west.

Earlier, Alex had his first experience with being given a pill since he was too young to remember, and by then he was pretty well drugged out, although still conscious enough to complain when we had some sudden braking around high traffic metro areas. The poor thing was also so distraught that he had peed in his carrier. Thankfully, I had an old towel in there which absorbed it, and the smell was restricted to his corner of the back seat. I tried coaxing him out a couple of times when we’d stop, but he wasn’t having anything to do with budging from where he was.

Around noon (local time), we stopped for lunch in St. Louis at an Indian restaurant with a NASIG friend of mine who works at a library nearby. The food was yummy and it was a nice oasis in the middle of a long stretch of driving. On the way in and out of the city, Dad and I reminisced about our many family vacation trips to St. Louis. It’s been twelve years since the last one, I think. I wondered what it would be like to explore the city as an adult without my parents.

We had taken much longer for lunch than we planned, and it was nearly two in the afternoon (local) before we got on the road again. Many pit stops later, we arrived weary and road-worn in Newton, Kansas, around nine-thirty in the evening. Old family friends live there, and it was our only night of the trip not spent at a Motel 6. We stayed up for another hour or so catching up with each other, by which point I was about to collapse with exhaustion.

Alex had recovered from the car trip, and after exploring the house and making use of the litter box, he relaxed into his adorable self and made friends with everyone. I was surprised by how little he ate and drank, considering he hadn’t had anything all day, but it’s probably a good thing. He can survive for several days with a small diet, and not having food in his stomach will help with the motion sickness.

I took him upstairs with me so he’d know where I was sleeping and went to bed. I slept quite soundly and got up sometime in the middle of the night in a haze and stumbled to the bathroom. There is a down side to drinking over a gallon of water in one day.