Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The Charleston Conferences started in 1980 with a small gathering of 20 people. In recent years the Conferences have attracted over 600 delegates, giving proof of their professional worth and the popularity of the venue. The Conferences are an informal annual gathering of librarians, publishers, and vendors of library materials who come together to discuss matters of mutual interest (rather like the UK Serials Group).
The 2002 Conference had the theme “Two faces have I: one for books and one for bytes.” Many of the papers have been put together into a single package for our consumption. There are six major themes to the papers, and those familiar with trends in electronic libraries will realise that these are highly significant yet seldom debated topics. First, there are five papers on aggregators, the companies that help to make life easy for librarians but still receive a criticism for the instability of title lists, and the variety of pricing models. Here the aggregators have a say, and it is always good to hear views from the “other side” because it makes it much easier to work with people when you know what they have to deal with.
The second theme is the vexed issue of usage statistics. The four papers here are a mix of conjecture and the established, with a highlight being the paper by Shepherd on Project COUNTER. This is a much more important topic than many librarians seem willing to accept, because (to turn an old saying on its head) if you cannot measure it, it is hard to manage it. There are two papers on digital archiving that discuss open archives (including JSTOR).
Probably one matter on which librarians and publishers will never agree is prices. There are five papers here on this topic, where there is always the danger of positions becoming entrenched. It is good that at least some of the papers offer a middle ground, and Okerson has made an attempt at mediation by offering two pricing models that she has called the “sliding scale” model and the apparently easy to understand “pay‐for‐what‐you‐use” model. The problem with the latter is that it is hard to determine what is meant by “usage” and that takes us back to the topic of usage statistics.
By far the longest section, with 13 papers, is the one called “Acquisitions and collection development”, which, as the title implies, ranges over many topics, with the paper on acquisitions on the Web by Janosko being a useful one. There are two papers on consortia, dealing with OhioLINK and CONSORT. In the final section there are five miscellaneous papers, though perhaps Kisch's paper on print of demand could have being given a higher profile.
All in all it is a useful collection, albeit becoming dated already, in a neatly presented book. The cumulated index is a notable achievement that significantly enhances the value of the collection.