NASIG brought its annual conference to Indianapolis June 8–11, 2017. Capitalizing on the city’s racing heritage and its “crossroads of America” motto, NASIG chose a conference theme of Racing to the Crossroads. Touching on both concepts, presenters positioned their talks around either what librarians are racing toward or which crossroads concern them.
NASIG was originally the North American Serials Interest Group, modeled after UKSG (United Kingdom Serials Group), and remains an independent association. It has expanded its interests beyond serials, however, to encompass e-resources of all types, scholarly communication, and academic publishing. NASIG’s goal of “Transforming the Information Community” reinforces the notion that NASIG members are not only librarians, but also publishers and vendors.
As NASIG’s mission expanded beyond just serials, the need to identify core competencies for e-resource librarians became apparent. Sarah W. Sutton (Emporia State University), and her research assistant Rachel Collinge, reviewed existing competencies by analyzing and categorizing job advertisements they gathered from American Library Association (ALA) and state library association job lists. Most were for academic positions, although a few were for jobs in public and other types of libraries. Only 67% of the positions required an M.L.S., and most ads were interested in personal skills over the ability to perform tasks. Sutton concluded that the existing NASIG core competencies do not need to be revised.
The three Vision talks at the conference asked for very different actions on the part of NASIG attendees. Michel Dumontier, a data science professor at Maastricht University, explained the FAIR principles of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable, and he believes that librarians play a key role in the reuse of information. Although it’s encouraged, FAIR doesn’t require that data be open, since some—his example was patient data—shouldn’t be open.
On the downside, he decried the fact that most published research findings can’t be reproduced. HyQue is a platform for knowledge discovery that integrates experimental data with scientific hypotheses using semantic publishing techniques. With data sharing and data management plans now being required, more attention to metadata creation and data storage is imperative. Librarians should encourage researchers to use FAIR and reach out to researchers at the start of their projects, as well as take an active role in research data management.
The second day Vision speaker, April Hathcock, a New York University librarian, asked who we are leaving behind as we race to the crossroads of scholarly communication. Basing much of her talk on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s definition of intersectionality, Hathcock worried that scholarship is skewed toward Western culture. She pointed to some hopeful signs, such as the University of Arizona’s grant to digitize indigenous historical materials; open pedagogy that includes technologies such as Raspberry Pi for internet access in rural areas and countries such as India; and the partnership of DeGruyter and several university presses to provide OA journals and books. Hathcock challenged the NASIG audience to become more diverse, both as an organization and a profession.
Carol Tilley, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign’s School of Information Sciences, titled her closing Vision talk “The Secret Life of Comics: Socializing & Seriality.” Comic books and comic strips in newspapers have a fascinating history—they were frequently maligned and not thought worthy of library collections. As a child, Tilley read comics at the corner store because they were not available at the library.
Newspaper digitization projects too often exclude the comics pages. Microfilms are black and white, losing the impact of the color in comic strips. Comics matter, said Tilley, because they tell stories and communicate ideas. They are a valuable part of our cultural heritage. Although libraries are beginning to see the value of collecting comics, the cataloging and descriptive practices are still “awkward.” Tilley asked that more libraries take comics collection and preservation seriously and work to create digital surrogates that people can use.
Assessing Library Collections
NASIG attendees focused their attention on the nuts and bolts of collection assessment during the breakout sessions. With shrinking budgets and increasing materials prices, what’s a librarian to do? In their session on serials pricing, Stephen Bosch (University of Arizona) and Kittie Henderson (EBSCO Information Services), who write the annual serials pricing review in Library Journal, opined that price does not necessarily reflect value. Sarah Bull, UKSG’s executive director, updated her audience on changes to the COUNTER Code of Practice, which is now in Release 5.
Other librarians told of their experiments with ascertaining what was used and valued in their electronic resource collections, presenting data to management, and using data when negotiating with vendors. Impact factors play a role, as do actual usage statistics. Lea Currie explained that at the University of Kansas Libraries, an evaluation of usage statistics convinced her team to cancel a journal package. Stephanie Spratt (Missouri Western State University) showed a variety of visualizations she uses, most of which can be created from Excel as line graphs, bar charts, and pie charts. She uses Timetoast to create a library timeline and Tableau Public when the data is too big for Excel.
Marija Markovic, currently an independent consultant previously employed by a pharmaceutical company, and Steve Oberg, assistant professor of library science at Wheaton College, compared collection assessment techniques for corporate libraries and academic libraries, noting that the metrics are changing rapidly. They considered altmetrics, interlibrary loan and other document delivery mechanisms, statistics from discovery systems, and internal statistics. Corporate libraries look for ROI, cost avoidance, and cost savings. Markovic echoed Spratt when she said that data visualization was becoming much more important to justify budgets. Academic libraries focus on COUNTER-compliant statistics, and Oberg wishes he had enough time to adequately analyze them. Libraries need visualization tools, more granularity, and new platform statistics.
The serials world faces numerous challenges—electronic formats, new platforms, the impact of discovery systems, shrinking budgets, and collection assessment responsibilities. The ability to communicate outside the librarian bubble was mentioned frequently, in various contexts. It’s not enough to know how to perform library tasks: What’s important is the bigger picture of e-resource management and explaining the importance of libraries and their collections to their communities.