The presentation that I ended up delivering to kick off the ASA annual conference last Monday focused on four themes: most important was the need to develop flexibility in licensing terms so that it becomes easier to provide consistent support to people in interinstitutional collaborative research teams -- something that is become far more prevalent. I also talked about usability, findability and branding, and part of the point that I was trying to make is that these issues are critical for all of us within the broader scholarly communication community -- librarians, publishers, intermediaries, researchers, faculty -- and that they cannot be solved by any one group in isolation from the others. The need to work much more closely with each other has never been greater. Or so I claim, at least -- a theme that I've been trumpeting in one form or another for a couple of years now. With a bit of luck and hard work, the Joint AAHSL/publisher liaison task force that is just getting underway will provide a mechanism for doing some of that. Getting to conferences together is useful, but we need to do more than just give presentations to each other a few times a year.
I was glad to be the first speaker, since that meant I could quickly get over my jitters and enjoy the rest of the meeting. Lots of good stuff (I did skip out on part of the afternoon session so I could walk over to the Tate Modern). I found the sessions on consumer magazines to be particularly interesting since that's the sector that I have the least experience with -- a whole different set of challenges in that market from what we face on the academic side of things. The ebooks discussion was quite good as well (and Mark Carden turned out to be one of the best presenters of the entire conference), although I'm still not persuaded that "ebooks" are really anything other than a brief transitional stage to more fluid forms of online content.
This was my fifth trip to London so much of it felt familiar. In addition to the Tate Modern, we stopped into the British Museum, but we really didn't do very much touristy stuff. Had a great time wandering on Denmark Street, where there are eight guitar stores along a single block, and we had some fine meals in pubs and some excellent meals in restaurants -- from Italian to Persian to Indian to Chinese. And we did a lot of walking, just soaking in the atmosphere, watching the people, looking at the architecture, and loving being in a city where you can turn a corner and come across a little shop like The Silver Mousetrap, where the sign proudly proclaims, "Established 1690".
BtheA had arranged things so that we could play at the reception on Tuesday night in honor of his installation as CILIP President. Half the band was able to be there and we did a half hour set, proving to those of his friends who've heard rumors for years about the Bearded Pigs that he actually is a fine guitar player! It was great fun. I invited everybody to join us in Chicago in May.
And, as always, when I leave the confines of the United States I am reminded that despite the incredible size and marvelous diversity of my native country, we are still in some ways a very insular and parochial people. It would be better for the world at large if more of us did more traveling and spent more time listening, with humility, to what people in the rest of the world have to say. We still have so very much that we need to learn.