5 May 2016

UKSG 39th Annual Conference and Exhibition: Bournemouth, 11th-13th April 2016

Guest post by Shona Thoma, IReL Officer at Irish Research eLibrary. Read more of her blog posts at Information Sauce.

This is a brief reflection of the themes and key lessons I took away from the UKSG Annual Conference and Exhibition. I was the recipient of the John Merriman Award, for which I am very grateful to UKSG, and the sponsors of the prize, Taylor and Francis. As a first time attendee, the conference seemed overwhelming in size and number of attendees in comparison to other conferences I have attended. To navigate the busy schedule, and the exhibition hall, the dedicated conference app was incredibly useful. Before getting to Bournemouth I selected the talks I most wanted to attend and exported the schedule to my phone’s calendar. I also had my schedule of meetings with providers saved there, so even in battery saving or airplane mode I was able to quickly check where I was supposed to be and who I was meeting, without digging in my bag or leafing through pages.


The gaps between publishers and librarians are not necessarily shrinking or growing, but they are evolving, and possibly even multiplying. This was highlighted by Ann Rossiter of SCONUL speaking early in the conference on Open Access and competitiveness in her thought provoking presentation ‘Managing relationships between libraries and publishers for greater impact’. Through analysis by SCONUL, and others, it is clear that libraries are faced with increasing responsibilities, but this is not reflected in the levelled out, or even shrinking budgets. The perceived or real gaps that exist between all of us in the scholarly communications field were taken on throughout the conference, culminating in one of the closing plenaries, where Cameron Neylon proposed that it is all down to culture.

Figure 1 Slide: Ann Rossiter, UKSG 2016
Rossiter also questioned which metrics are most useful, and whether they are measuring what we really need to know. This probing of metrics and evidence was continued by Terry Bucknell (Altmetric) and Yvonne Nobis (Cambridge), Hugh Murphy (Maynooth), and Jo Alcock (Evidence Base at BCU), amongst others, in later plenary sessions.

Tools of the trade

From the volume of presentations on the purposes, aims, and practicalities of the tools available to the eResources librarian, it is evident that being aware of how and when to use them is an important ability. This demonstrates that attending regular conferences, seminars and other CPD meetings is crucial. It is the best way to keep abreast of new developments, and also affords an opportunity to meet those who are already putting the tools to good use. I attended talks that focused on or featured these tools and initiatives:

· Altmetric
· KB+
· Safe Net
· CrossRef
· DataCite

Many of these tools demonstrate how collaboration on such projects brings benefits to all parties involved, be that in relation to discoverability, usage, tracking and anything in between.

New Professionals, New Opportunities

The Meet the New Professionals session offered a unique insight into the range of skills the speakers have developed since graduating, how they are fitting in where needed, and are making an impact in changing roles. The discussion following the presentations revealed contradictory views on competition for roles versus availability and suitability of candidates. Those in the room discussed that if support and training are available to the successful applicant, this should be highlighted in the job description to encourage applications from those who might not meet all the criteria. Dom Fripp pointed out that his role, working on Research Data Management for Jisc, did not exist when he did his library qualification. On the job training and development were critical to him obtaining and carrying out the required duties.

The Alternative

I was inspired by the work of Stockholm University Press, presented by Sofie Wennström. The costs associated with publishing in the University Press are considerably lower than commercial publishing, and yet the spread or impact remains healthy. Collaboration within the University, and with international peers is essential for ensuring the quality of work published. The Stockholm University Press model was presented alongside a case study from Simon Bains, Manchester University, where the press is utilized for teaching students about the scholarly publishing process. The model at Huddersfield was also referenced, where a student publication teaches about publishing and peer review, and includes alternative formats such as video and music (http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/25990/ ). While the latter two teach students about the publishing process and encourage them to critically engage with how they will disseminate research, Stokholm University Press offers support to their researchers, but also takes care of elements of publishing they can’t, or don’t want to, worry about.


It was interesting to hear from the Myanmar eLibrary, and the challenges they have faced in providing academic resources after years of isolation from the global research community. Whilst we can be grateful that our access to resources is not restricted politically, it struck me that there are more similarities in our needs than differences. Gulfs may exist in relationships between providers and libraries, but libraries are universally bound by the need to provide access to quality information. Anne Powell then presented INASP’s ‘Principles for doing business responsibly in developing countries’ (see slide below), which honestly, seem like good principles for doing business with anyone. Why shouldn’t we all be treated to these basic principles? As understanding each other’s culture was the focus of Neylon’s stirring plenary, these principles might be a good place for providers to start in understanding and appreciating library culture, universally.

Figure 2 Anne Powell: ‘Principles for doing business responsibly in developing countries’ UKSG 2016

As the Merriman Awardee I had the opportunity to meet some of the fantastic UKSG committee members and learn a little bit about the efforts involved in coordinating such a massive event. I was also delighted to meet fellow librarians working for library consortia in Russia, Holland, Norway, and Scotland. I met colleagues who up until now I have only known through Twitter, including the founders of the Manchester New Professionals Network.

Working with eResources and dealing with a variety of different publishers, intermediaries, and suppliers can sometimes feel like trying to put together a particularly challenging jigsaw puzzle. The UKSG conference helps to align the pieces, shed light on the various perspectives and bring the whole picture a bit closer together.

My tweets, curated: https://storify.com/shinyshona/uksg-2016


Post a Comment