On Wednesday, November 18th, members of the Library of Rhode Island (LORI) Resource Sharing Working Group (RSWG), in collaboration with the state library agencies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, presented "Sharing Visions: 2020 New England Resource Sharing Conference." The day-long virtual event was hosted on Warwick Public Library’s Zoom platform. Portions of the Conference were funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library (CSL).
Just over 200 unique logins were recorded, with peak attendance during the event reaching 155 simultaneous viewers. Registrations came in from 29 states, from as far west as California and Washington, as far south as Louisiana and Alabama, and from many places in between. One international attendee represented Mount Royal University Library in the Canadian city of Calgary. Almost half of the audience was composed of academic library staff, though all library types, consortium and state library agency staff, trustees, and vendors were also represented.
After a brief welcome by Conference host Zach Berger, Chair of the LORI RSWG, opening remarks were made by Karen Mellor, Chief of Library Services for the State of Rhode Island, and James Lonergan, Director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC).
Keynote Speaker Trevor A. Dawes, Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and the May Morris University Librarian at the University of Delaware, began his presentation with a moving reminder that the University was established on land recognized “as the traditional home of the Lenni-Lenape and Nanticoke tribal nations.” Dawes “express[ed] gratitude to the original caretakers of this land,” and encouraged Conference viewers to learn more about and build relationships with the Indigenous people in their own communities.
Dawes extended this powerful tribute by acknowledging the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and requested a moment of silence to recognize the many Black and Brown lives lost to structural and systemic racism.
From this social and historical context, Dawes’ ensuing talk about the need for libraries to adapt to change, especially in the midst of a pandemic, was especially timely and touched upon many factors—including technology, workflow, organizational structure, anti-racism outreach, and leadership—that can contribute to the development of more effective and inclusive resource sharing models. Immediately following the keynote presentation, Berger interviewed Dawes, who also took questions from the audience.
Session 1 presenter Nettie Lagace, Associate Executive Director of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), gave a talk on “Standards as Frameworks for Connection and Collaboration,” in which she presented an overview of what NISO is, the scope of its work, its organizational partners, and how its staff develops and adopts standards. Lagace included information about the many NISO Working Groups, including current projects to recommend practices for improving delivery of and access to digital content.
The second session featured Brad Bullis and Gail Hurley of CSL co-presenting with Amy Terlaga of Bibliomation on the use of FulfILLment open source software for interlibrary loan requests. The presenters explained the need for a transition to the new software, recent and future enhancements to interlibrary loan processes, and the impact of the pandemic on lending and borrowing in Connecticut.
Multiple panelists joined the Conference for Session 3, entitled “Project ReShare: A Community-Owned Resource Sharing System.” Sebastian Hammer and Kristen Wilson of Index Data co-presented with Jill Morris of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium (PALCI) to talk about the “community of libraries, consortia, and companies that came together in 2018 to create a new resource sharing platform” called Project ReShare that is “co-owned and managed by its community of users and based on open standards and open technologies.” With a focus on the need for innovative development of resource sharing systems that meet patron expectations while factoring in issues of pricing, market consolidation, and library transformations, the panel discussed the Project ReShare model in depth and provided an inside look at the software interface. Hammer provided a first peek at ReShare's plans for a Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) module that would serve as a bridge between libraries' physical and electronic collections by managing digitized copies of print materials.
Session 4, entitled “Expanding Patron Identity: Issues, Options, and Opportunities,” was presented by Daniel “Dazza” Greenwood, a researcher at MIT Media Lab and Lecturer at Connection Science in the MIT School of Engineering. Greenwood, who is also the founder of CIVICS.com, spoke about the role of libraries as trusted civic institutions and the need to lower barriers to patron access through the creation of a civic identity that would simultaneously provide privacy protection.
The final session of the day was a multi-part look at the challenges of delivery sustainability by staff members of three New England state library agencies: Chaichin Chen from the Rhode Island Office of Library and information Services (OLIS); Dawn La Valle from CSL; and Janet McKenney from the Maine State Library (MSL). Each state’s funding and governance model, interlibrary loan volume, delivery logistics, and other factors were reviewed, and innovative approaches such as cost sharing, cooperative solutions, floating collections, and alternatives to delivery were discussed.
The day’s closing remarks were made by Maureen Sullivan, Interim State Librarian at CSL, and Berger.
The Sharing Visions Planning Committee, comprising Berger, Chen, La Valle, Scott Kehoe (Massachusetts Library System), Paul Kissman (MBLC), and Jana Stevenson (Director of Warwick Public Library), expressed great satisfaction with Conference turnout, speaker presentations, and overall logistics. “When we had to pivot because of the pandemic from an on-site venue [originally scheduled to occur at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts] to a virtual one, we were initially overwhelmed by the prospect of managing such a large event across an entire day of sessions,” Berger said. “But things came together beautifully, and everyone involved seemed to get a lot of value from participating.”
Chen added, “The biggest takeaway for me is that we are better and stronger together. Conference attendance is a testament to librarians’ hunger for a high-level resource sharing program.”
Previous coverage of the Sharing Visions Conference was published in the October 2020 issue of the RILA Bulletin. Presenter resources and session recordings will be shared via the Conference website.