Virtually Charleston: 2020 Conference Preview

The Charleston Conference, taking place virtually November 2–6, responsibly balances up-to-the-minute issues with the evergreen matter of scholarly library work. Below are a smattering of sessions selected by LJ editors.

Charleston Conference logo and b&w line art of two people in robes talking with legendWhile it’s true that virtually any topic can be made to sound urgent and timely by the addition of “post-pandemic” or “in the COVID-19 era,” it’s equally true that this is a unique moment in American society, and adapting to its ongoing and evolving impacts is the single most important question facing libraries, academic and public, as well as every other institution. The Charleston Conference, taking place virtually November 2–6, responsibly balances up-to-the-minute issues with the evergreen matter of scholarly library work. But it’s the former that primarily caught our eye.

Below are a smattering of sessions selected by LJ editors; for the full program, visit

One notable aspect that differentiates Charleston from other conferences in normal years is its permanent home, a contrast to conferences that shift around to a new venue each time. In homage to that, the Charleston Conference team has sprinkled an unusual amount of local flavor through an online event, featuring virtual tours of the Charleston Library Society, the Gibbs Museum of Art, and even a virtual ghost tour.

Breakfast/Sunrise Session: Reorienting Library Advocacy: Understanding and Measuring to University Leader and Stakeholder Priorities
Wed., Nov. 4, 9–10 a.m.
In this sponsored session by Elsevier will offer insights from two studies on the priorities of university leaders and individual researchers, plus perspectives from a university and a library leader on the likely impact of COVID-19 on planning.

Opening Keynote: Leading in an Age of Chaos and Change: Building a Community of Grace
Wed., Nov. 4, 11–11:50 a.m.
Earl Lewis, University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions director and founder, Thomas C. Holt, Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy, will speak to going beyond change management to rise to what is needed now.

2020: A Fond Farewell or Good Riddance?
Wed., Nov. 4, 12:15–1 p.m.
I know which way I’m voting. Panelists will address how they and their libraries affect change beyond day-to-day operational work.

If Not Now, When? Change through the Power of Diverse Voices
Wed., Nov. 4, 1:30–2:15 p.m.
Findings from the 2020 Emerald Publishing Global Inclusivity Report and the recently launched microsite, The Power of Diverse Voices, which explore barriers to achieving equity. Panel discussion among a publisher, librarian, and faculty researcher will discuss “are we ready to make a real commitment to change? What is involved in eliminating embedded inequities?”

What would it really take to achieve a full OA transition? An “open” take from a publisher, librarians, and a funder
Wed., Nov. 4, 1:30–2:15 p.m.
A wide range of current events have accelerated the urgency around access to research and materials. Fully open access in scholarly communications is a worthy ideal, but the transition to an all-OA landscape involves stakeholders at many levels. Here, a few of them weigh in.

Keynote: Do Librarians Matter and What Might Matter to Librarians?
Thurs., Nov. 5, 11–11:50 a.m.
John Palfrey, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has long engaged with considerations of the place of libraries and librarians. This year, with the pandemic looming and a federal election in progress, he should have some interesting updates.

Creativity, Conflict, and Black Lives Matter: How Libraries Can Help Change the Conversation
Thurs., Nov. 5, 12:151 p.m.
This presentation will address how African American cultural production advances social justice. Research on, personal experiences with, recommendations for, and visions of academic programs that promote antiracist views and actions will be provided.

COVID-19: Why Academic Libraries Will Never Be the Same
Thurs., Nov. 5, 2:303 p.m.
While several session unsurprisingly tackle the topic of how academic libraries have had to pivot in a hurry and how that will impact the field going forward, this one particularly appeals for its broad range of participants, representing research libraries, two-year/community college libraries, and consortia.

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