The Charleston Conference 2007

Long lauded for bringing librarian and publisher partners together to work through common "Issues in Book and Serials Acquisition," as the subtitle goes, the Charleston Conference has grown in its 27 years from an intimate group of 24 colleagues to a sprawling gathering of more than 1000. Librarians, publishers, and vendors crowded the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, making their ways to more than 140 sessions in 5 locations. Session topics ranged from presentations of case studies of approval plans to conceptual discussions of "structured serendipity" in content management and everything in between.

E-books were a hot topic at the 2007 conference. It seems as though the matter of e-books is finally coming to a boil; which sales models work for libraries and publishers, how patrons use e-books, and how expanding e-book collections affect print book acquisition are now all matters that can be discussed from experience. Andrew Albanese, reporting for Library Journal Academic Newswire, wrote an interesting summary of this side of Charleston.

While e-books are now plainly a technology of today, a fascinating look at tomorrow came up in sessions about the problems of authority in online and networked scholarly communications. Michael Jensen's concept of "Authority 3.0" , how the measure of scholarly authority may be computed in the future, was at the base of sessions titled "Authoritative? What's That? And Who Says?" and "Who Shall Review the Reviewer?" In the former, Laura Cohen, Web Support Librarian at the University at Albany, and Leigh Dodds, Chief Technology Officer for Ingenta, took a close look at how traditional processes of peer review and new forms of user-generated content and approval might be adapted to each other. (See http://del.icio.us/ldodds/charleston-2007-11 for background reading to Dodds' talk, and http://www.slideshare.net/lcohen/the-promise-of-authority-in-social-scholarship/ for Cohen's presentation slides.)

Dodds was joined by Geoffrey Bilder, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CrossRef, for the latter session, where they proposed several ideas for laying the foundations of an "Authority 3.0" version of scholarly communications. Bilder labeled one such idea an "author DOI." Like the DOI (digital object identifiers) that can permanently track a chunk of content (be it book, article, chapter, graph, etc.), a similar author ID would trace an individual scholar across all of his or her work—be it as a primary author of a text, a peer reviewer, or an authoritative commenter. Dodds presented the concept of an overlay "kitemark" to track "Versions of Record" in a world where digital pre-print, post-print, revised, copied, and re-published versions abound. The kitemark (named for the UK's British Standards Institution certification schemes for indicating quality and adherence to standards) could contain metadata ranging from what type of peer review an article underwent, to whether any citations in the article have been retracted or revised. (For more information of the Author ID project, see http://www.crossref.org/CrossTech/2007/02/crossref_author_id_meeting.html.)

A striking aspect of the Charleston Conference was the relatively small number of university press representatives attending and presenting. While university presses, particularly those with journals programs, were a noticeable and successful presence at the pre-conference vendors showcase, the majority of presenting (and thus conversation-defining) publishers came from the commercial sector. There is plainly room for more active non-profit and university press participation—issues that the AAUP community deals with on a daily basis are of central interest to the many other librarian and vendor attendees.

While the Charleston Conference may be losing its identity as an intimate gathering of colleagues, it remains one of the best magnets for knowledgeable people who care about working through the problems facing scholarly communications. The 2008 Conference will be held November 5-8, so there is plenty of time for the AAUP community to plan to attend and even get involved. Despite Charleston's growth, the conference directors maintain an open welcome for suggestions for session topics and panelists. Go to http://www.katina.info/conference/ for more information about contacting the conference organizers and complete 2007 program details.

Brenna McLaughlin
Electronic & Strategic Initiatives Director, AAUP