The Charleston Library Conference is a favorite of mine for taking the pulse of academic libraries, collections, and scholarly publishing. For the past few years, I’ve presented at one or more preconference workshops and so haven’t had a chance to attend the Vendor Showcase. It was a delight, therefore, to spend the full-day at the Charleston Gaillard Center this year, immersed in conversation and checking out the current offerings. There is of course much more one could say about the conference programs themselves but today I want to share a few impressions on the vendor scene. Specifically, three observations about what I did see and one about what I did not.
AI Everywhere – Or, Is It?
Unsurprisingly, AI was the predominant theme. If something wasn’t “our new AI product,” it was AI-powered, AI-enhanced, AI-enabled, AI-driven, AI-supported, etc., etc., etc.! We are high on the hype cycle curve right now, particularly with respect to taglines, marketing, and positioning. What’s unclear though, is what all this AI actually is. Attempts to engage sales staff about what the AI does, how it operates, and why the particular approach was chosen over others got me answers like “it’s an algorithm” and “I’m not really sure but I can have someone follow up with you later.” Now, I appreciate the honesty. But, I also think this was a failure to take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate that there is real added value from AI and educate customers about how the different approaches to AI will impact research and library collections and services.
Fully OA Publishers Turn to Pure Publish Agreements
Though Pure Publish Agreements have been available for a while now, the fully open access (OA) publishers are increasingly pitching institutional agreements to libraries. Framed as mechanisms for decreasing institutional costs (e.g., discounting list APC prices), increasing equity (e.g., all of an institution’s authors are covered not just those who can pay APCs), aligning spending with values (e.g., investing in full open access), and ensuring compliance (e.g., with OSTP and Plan S), the offerings are attempting to capture library spend and even the playing field with subscription publishers who have been able to use transformative agreements to maintain their market share in the transition from paywalled to open access publishing.
Subscribe to Open Transcendency
Subscribe to Open is on the rise. Learned societies and university presses in particular are leaning in to Subscribe to Open with the recently announced support for the model by Project MUSE, which already has 50 titles committed. There seems to be a sense that this is a no-fail model, which at some level it is, in the sense of preserving the paywall-publishing pathway. But, more than one person was surprised when I observed that this was also the year we saw S2O offerings fail to meet the sustainability thresholds. I think we are going to learn a lot about the application and sustainability of the S2O model in the coming two years, particularly as libraries face continued financial pressures of paying for open access publishing through transformative and pure publish agreements in times of declining budgets.
What Role for the Library with Research Integrity?
After attending the SSP conference earlier this year, where the topic of research integrity dominated the program, I was a bit surprised to see very little in the vendor showcase on research integrity. Are libraries not seen as campus players in ensuring research integrity infrastructure or are there just not many offerings in the market yet?
The danger of this sort of essay is that my experience of the Vendor Showcase is, of course, shaped by my own interests and may be idiosyncratic. I’d love to hear what others took away and the trends they are watching. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.