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There’s Nothing Quite Like @CHSCONF

The short answer, obviously, is: Katina. 

I’m standing at the refreshments table with a colleague who’s just told me this is the first time she’s come to the Charleston Conference.  I say, “There really isn’t any other event quite like it” and she asks, “What makes it so different?”

She hasn’t seen the differences yet.  When you’re standing in the middle of that ballroom, surrounded by exhibit tables staffed by eager, smiling sales reps making their pitches, the Vendor Showcase looks much like any other exhibit hall at any other library conference.  But that’s just the first day. 

On Vendor Showcase day, the buyers and sellers may be on opposite sides of the tables, but after that wraps they’re equals.  Librarians,  publishers and the other vendors of products aimed at librarians are all full program participants.  They’re all speakers and listeners and questioners, in the conference rooms, the bars, the hotel lobbies, the receptions, the restaurants.  (Oh yes, the restaurants! It’s Charleston.)

Back in 1980, unable to afford to go to ALA, Katina Strauch, then at the College of Charleston, invited a couple dozen people to join her for a day of discussions about “Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition.” They had a good time, so they did it again the next year and a few more people came.  By the time I first went, in 2002, there were hundreds of people packed uncomfortably into the anachronistic Southern elegance of the Francis Marion hotel and the adjoining conference center.  A couple of years later, the conference center closed, so Katina and crew expanded into two other nearby hotels, sending attendees scurrying across Marion Square or up along Calhoun.  Now, with the Gaillard Center nearby, the physical crowding has been greatly relieved, even though attendance is bumping up against 2,000.  The intellectual crowding dizzies more than ever.

There’s no association or membership organization behind it.  It’s just Katina and the brilliant crew of Conference Directors and staff she’s assembled over the decades.  They’re nimble, creative, highly professional.  Beholden only to their vision of the conference they can innovate in session design, be flexible in handling themes and content.  It’s extremely well run (much of the credit for that going to Exec Director, Leah Hinds), and the range of topics covered is staggering.  The tagline is still there – Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition – but it is so much more than that.

I went that first time because Ramune suggested I propose something – she was trying to get more medical librarians to go.  I’d just written a JMLA editorial about the retraction debacle surrounding the deletion of an article from Human Immunology and the letter that had been sent to subscribers asking them to remove the article from the print copies.  I put together a presentation outlining the issues.  I was particularly critical of the policy that Elsevier had drafted after the fact to address possible similar situations in the future.  During the Q&A, Michael Mabe, then working for Elsevier, stood up and said, “I drafted that policy.”  We had a lively exchange – lively exchanges being very much a hallmark of the Charleston Conference.  We became friends and when Michael moved on to head the STM Association he opened many doors for me in the publishing world, for which I will always be grateful.  It was also at that first meeting that I met Anthony Watkinson (aka the Connector – he seems determined to make sure that every interesting person he knows meets every other interesting person he knows).  More gratitude.

The web of connections grew.  I think now of the people who’ve been so influential in my life and in my understanding of the complexity of  the world of scholarly communication; so many of them people I met at Charleston or through someone that I met at Charleston.  It’s the opportunity for making those sorts of relationships that’s a big part of what makes the Charleston Conference so different, too.

I don’t go back every year, but most years.  I’ve done some concurrent sessions, a plenary or two, hosted some panels, been interviewed for the Penthouse series.  These last couple of years, though, I haven’t wanted to be on the program.  My neurologically challenged body doesn’t handle the stress as well as it used to.  The ratio of work to fun in putting together and delivering something that I’m proud of is no longer in my favor.  So now I go to mingle with people I’ve come to know, meet new people, have my brain tickled by ideas.  It never gets old (although we do).

It comes back to Katina.  Certainly there are many people who deserve a lot of credit for making it what it’s become.  But it’s her curiosity about the field, where it’s going, how it works, and the people who comprise it, that infuses the spirit of the conference and makes it the uniquely challenging, stimulating, and energizing event that it is.  For anyone interested in the future of scholarly communication, the business of scholarly communication, and the myriad ways people are trying to shape that future, it shouldn't be missed.  There isn’t anything else quite like it.


Such Convenient Accusations

I feel kinda sorry for Joe Barton.  Time was, a guy with a sleazy personal life and multiple affairs could become Speaker of the House.  It’s not like Barton was accused of actually assaulting or even harassing anybody.  (Although I did feel somewhat assaulted after seeing the photo that did him in).

In the current climate you just can’t get away with things. It’s not just assault or harassment that’ll bring you down.  Now the catchall term “sexual misconduct” is in vogue.  The fact is, Barton just wasn’t useful anymore.  He didn’t retire politely when he lost his committee leadership post. He kept hanging around.  And he wasn’t doing a very good job managing the GOP baseball team.  A pissed off former girlfriend and a grotesque nude selfie was exactly what the Republican leadership needed.  So long, Joe.

They haven’t been as lucky with Roy Moore.  Barton was apparently capable of being embarrassed.  Not our Roy.  (Remember, I live in Alabama.)  The tortoise from Kentucky was quick to believe the women this time.  But Mitch hadn’t ever wanted him in the Senate.  Big Luther was reliable, he could be counted on.  But who knew what the Judge might do? 

Coming from Alabama himself, Mitch can’t really be expected to be that offended by a 30 year old dating teenage girls.  But the 14 year old – that’s a story you can use.  It’s not Weinstein worthy, of course, and there haven’t been any tales of salacious behavior after Moore’s marriage (to a woman 14 years younger), but Mitch is an expert at spin.  Riding the current wave of cultural disgust was easy as pie.  Does anyone imagine that he actually gives a damn about the women?

I am a little puzzled, though, by Moore’s tactics.  Why come out so strong and claim that he doesn’t even know them?  Certainly he’d have to deny the story about the 14 year old and the one from the woman who accused him of physical assault, but those’d be easy to brush off.  Why bother to deny his dating history when it’s so easy to check?  That wouldn’t have bothered his voters.  Debbie Wesson Gibson was one of the women in the original story.  She said she’d dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34.  She never accused him of anything inappropriate.  It was a happy memory.  She’d invited him to her graduation, they exchanged Christmas cards after she got married.  So she was shocked and hurt and angry when Moore started claiming that he’d never dated any of the women, didn’t even know any of them.  I guess he figures that in the current fact-free political environment a vehement blanket denial is a more effective tactic even when it’s easily shown to be false.  He’s probably right.

What is truly outrageous about the whole Moore thing is that the Republican establishment didn’t oppose him for twice defying the Supreme Court when he was Alabama's Chief Justice. They didn’t find it problematic that he thinks Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress and that there are whole communities in the Midwest currently under Sharia law.  His venomous hatred of same sex couples, his insistence that the first amendment only protects Christians, and his belief that his Bible supersedes all laws wasn’t sufficient to raise an eyebrow among the leaders in Congress.  Apparently these are all acceptable views for a Republican Senator.  Or at least acceptable enough.  But “sexual impropriety” – now there’s something they can work with.

It still hasn’t been enough, though.  And they need that vote.  So Trump’s endorsed him and the RNC is back to pumping him with cash.  The most important thing is to make sure the Democrat doesn’t win.

But McConnell’s still not quite giving up.  Even though he’s leaving the matter “up to the voters of Alabama” he’ll start an ethics investigation if Moore gets elected.  That might give him what he needs to push Moore out.  Then he’ll have Governor Ivey appoint a safe replacement.  Probably Big Luther.  The tortoise will have what he wants.

And then Moore will run for governor of Alabama.  He’ll probably win.

 


What Does His Daughter Think?

"I want my daughter to grow up in a country, she's 15 years old, where she is empowered and respected wherever she goes and wherever she works in whatever she does."  That's Paul Ryan, in an interview with Steve Inskeep of Morning Edition that was aired last Friday morning.  I had just dropped my 12 year old granddaughter off at school.

Inskeep has just asked Ryan about the charges of sexual harassment that are being made against members of Congress and Ryan's coming out strong on the absolute necessity of holding people accountable.  "[N]owhere should that be more obvious and apparent than working here in Capitol Hill," he says.  "[W]e should set ourselves to standards that we expect of other people and we should set high standards for ourselves so that we can be role models and set examples..."  That's the kind of thing you want to hear from the Speaker of the House, isn't it?

Inskeep mentions that Ryan called on Roy Moore to withdraw from the Senate race.  Ryan is quick and firm in his response, "That's because I believe those allegations are credible."  And then, of course Inskeep says (and didn't you see this coming, Paul?), "What is the difference between his case and the case of President Trump, who was also accused by a number of women and also denied it?"

Ryan stutters, slightly, but recovers quickly.  He's focused on Congress, he says.  He hasn't spent time "reviewing the difference" in the two cases, he says.

Inskeep presses, referring to a speech Ryan gave in 2012, supporting Mitt Romney and talking about his high character being above reproach.  Inskeep wants to know if Ryan believes the President is meeting that high standard.  But Ryan's back on firm ground now.  He says it's no secret that he's had his differences with the President,

"But what I see is a president who is fighting for the things that I'm fighting for. I see a president who's fighting for an agenda that will make a positive difference in people's lives. Is this president unconventional? No two ways about it. He's very unconventional. But if we make good by the American people by actually improving their lives and fixing problems and finding solutions that are bothering them, that's a good thing."

The strong comments about setting high standards and being role models and being held accountable have wisped away as if they'd never been said.  Trump is merely "unconventional."  And since he's helping Ryan get what Ryan wants, a little "unconventionality" is just fine.

He's certainly setting an example.  So is his President.

I wonder what the 15 year old thinks of her Dad when she listens to him dodge and dissemble like that.

I wonder if he worries about it.