Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Professional Development Award Report: The 2019 Charleston Conference

The Charleston Conference is an annual conference of librarians, publishers, electronic resource managers, consultants, and vendors of library materials held in Charleston, SC. The conference is the premier event to discuss issues in book and serials acquisitions, but there are many related topics like scholarly communications, copyright, and open educational resources discussed.  This year’s conference was held November 4-8, 2019.  The theme was “The time has come… to talk of many things!” I attended with the support of a WHSLA professional development award.  I attended many interesting sessions, but I’d like to report on just a few of the ones that were most compelling or entertaining for me. 

The opening keynote was “Building Trust when Truth Fractures” by Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive.  Brewster demonstrated how information in Wikipedia is biased toward things you can click on and get to right away.  This means that we really leave out a lot of stuff.  He wanted to help and fixed over 10 million broken links in Wikipedia.  Additionally, relatively speaking, there is not much book content from the 20th century available online.  He approached Better World Books for help.  He announced that he set up a nonprofit called Better World Libraries, an affiliate of the Internet Archive with a vision to set up controlled digital lending of digitized books to improve access to information for all.  Read more about this at

Watch Brewster Kahle’s plenary session online at

“Anticipating the Future of Biomedical Communications” was presented by Patricia Flatley Brennan, Director of the National Library of Medicine. Patti spoke about what NLM is doing to promote 21st century biomedical communications.  She elaborated on issues including improving usability of and access to the research literature, promoting open science and data sharing, and guiding 21st century communication.  She also announced a pilot NLM plans to undertake to index the preprints of NIH-funded studies posted to bioRxiv.

Watch Patti Brennan’s plenary session online at

I also attended a session called the “Hyde Park Debate.”  The proposition to be debated was “Resolved: Preprint servers have improved the scholarly communication system.”  Oya Rieger of Ithaka S+R, formerly of arXiv, argued in favor of the proposition, and Kent Anderson (Caldera Publishing Solutions) argued against it.  Arguments in favor of preprint servers are that preprints enable rapid communication and provide a defense against scooping, level the playing field, and allow dissemination of work not normally reported in journals such as negative results.  Arguments against preprint servers are that preprints push out preliminary and untested results, confuse the public, and fool journalists into reporting on unvetted findings.  Kent offered ways to make preprints function better including keeping the servers closed to the general public and keeping the preprints from getting DOIs.  The debate was lively and ultimately Kent Anderson was declared the winner of the debate.

Another fascinating session titled “A New Sense of Campus Privacy? Are Libraries Out of Step?” discussed how librarians need to rethink what privacy means in our current society.  In a world where trace DNA collected from discarded cigarette butts can be used to recreate the faces of strangers, technology is outpacing our ability to keep information private. In respecting user privacy, we regularly give up advancements in user experience. Libraries can improve services and demonstrate our impact by collecting data on our users that we previously would not.

Lastly, I attended a session called “The Long Arm of the Law.”  Michelle Wu, Associate Dean for Library Services and Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center spoke about Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) as a strategy to increase accessibility and preservation of library collections.  She outlined the legal basis for CDL and demonstrated how libraries may digitize print copies of a book as long as there is only the same number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, usually through purchase or donation, in print plus digitized. William Hannay, Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP is a regular speaker at the Long Arm of the Law session.  He reported on various legal cases regarding copyright infringement or intellectual property rights. He finished his presentation with a humorous parody of Lil Nas X’s song “Old Town Road” to show his contempt for the results of a court case against Katy Perry.  His humorous approach to the usually dry topic of copyright was a surprising delight.

Watch the Long Arm of the Law session online at

Plenary sessions are available on YouTube, but more Charleston Conference sessions were recorded and will be made available on the Charleston Conference web site in December or January. Previous conference sessions are available at
I want to thank WHSLA for the support to attend this conference.  It was a great experience!

Karen Hanus, MLIS, AHIP
Assistant Director, Collection Management
Medical College of Wisconsin Libraries

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