The Spirit of the Hunter: ALA Midwinter tradition upheld and updated
On a January afternoon in New Orleans in 1998, I carefully positioned my ALA program across my chest to partially cover my conference badge. I was hiding the fact that I was not an invited guest of Elsevier, but a competitor. With my most nonchalant swagger, I cruised into the meeting room, engaged in a covert operation: to witness Elsevier’s inaugural Digital Libraries Symposium (DLS) at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting.
Elsevier’s celebrated Senior Vice President of Strategy, Karen Hunter, had launched a forum to spur thoughtful examination and dialog around the digital library: its function and mission; the role of consortia; technology advancements; access and archiving; the impact on end users; and measurement and results. I remember that first forum, particularly the report on the PEAK project, a joint Elsevier-University of Michigan business model pilot challenging traditional subscriptions. I marveled at the academic-commercial partnership for thoughtful disruption of prevailing systems, not to blow them up, but to find practical alternatives to improve scholarly communication.
In the years following, I continued to sneak into the DLS and Karen continued to illuminate these topics. She drew upon industry leaders and risk-takers, those who challenged long-held notions on collection development, concepts of ownership, and information and discovery. And the topics themselves evolved: business model discussions expanded to open access; federated search was augmented to linking, searching, and discovery services; and impact factors soon stood alongside productivity metrics, ROI studies, alternative metrics, and usage and behavioral signals. The sessions were always thought-provoking, sometimes tense and adversarial, but more often inspiring with Karen Hunter focusing us on the possibilities that the digital technologies presented.
In 2001, I gave up party crashing and formally joined Elsevier. I thus had the privilege of working on several projects with Karen directly, including the DLS. Dialog and exchange with the library community proved so powerful that we created the Library Connect program in 2003 to enable the conversation all year long, all around the world, in multiple media channels. It’s been 15 years since the first DLS and 10 years since the launch of Library Connect. I find it amusing now to reflect on the topics of the past, such as the heated debate on giving up print. But one thing certain today is that tacking the term digital on to the word library is redundant.
The name may have seen its day, but the hunt for innovation to empower those who consume information and create knowledge continues. Elsevier is proud to relaunch the DLS as The Hunter Forum, in honor of our esteemed colleague Karen Hunter, retired senior vice president with Elsevier and the winner of the 2006 CSA/Ulrich's Serials Librarianship Award. Karen still works with us as a special consultant, continuing to challenge Elsevier leadership, librarians, and policymakers to advance research and scholarship. We now have a new name and a reimagined format, but the spirit of the hunter remains. The theme of the 2014 meeting is Empowering Knowledge in a Changing Research Landscape.
At this January’s event, three speakers will examine the researcher’s environment and how the very nature of the research process is changing. They will look at the response from a technology and policy point of view, and finally explore the possibilities of how all the pieces may come together to enrich the research experience and advance the future of discovery and research. Continuing the tradition that Karen set for us, I invite you to click here to reserve your spot for The Hunter Forum at ALA Midwinter; to be held on Saturday, January 25, 2014, 1:30-3:30 p.m. EST in Philadelphia.