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Fiesole Retreat 2022: Tradition Meets Innovation

by | Apr 15, 2022 | 0 comments

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Fiesole Collection Development Retreat: Tradition Meets Innovation
April 5 – 7, 2022
Athens, Greece

By Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Hub

This year marked the long-awaited 22nd annual Fiesole Collection Development Retreat, held at the breathtaking National Library of Greece at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens. The event was sponsored by The Charleston Company, Against the Grain, and Casalini Libri, with additional support from Atypon, Data Scouting, EBSCO, HEAL-Link, and InterOPTICS.

The National Library of Greece
Registration table in the main lobby.

After two years’ absence due to the global pandemic, it was even more sweet to re-gather to see old friends and network with new acquaintances while hearing top-notch presentations on topics ranging from local projects and innovations in Greek libraries, to global initiatives and projects. The program and presentations are available on the retreat website at https://www.casalini.it/retreat/retreat_2022.asp. Offered as a hybrid event with both in-person and virtual attendance options, registration was at a record high of around 100 people. The retreat is intentionally kept to a small group size to facilitate a more informal feeling where discussions can thrive. Virtual attendees were included in the presentation Q&A through moderators in the meeting room, and Twitter facilitated additional conversations between in-person and virtual attendees.

These lively Twitter threads are available for review at https://twitter.com/hashtag/Fiesole2022 and https://twitter.com/hashtag/FiesoleRetreat22, and an archive of tweets is also available in Google Drive (with thanks to Christy Anderson, our Marketing and Communications Manager, for setting this up!). I’d like to especially recognize the lightning-fast live tweeting of attendee and presenter Quinn Dombrowski (@quinnanya) of Stanford University for capturing the event so well! You can check out the threads there for a much more granular play-by-play of the presentations that this overview will provide.

The event began with a tour of the National Library, where our guide Gregory showed us a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the facilities. Founded in 1830, the National Library of Greece expanded from its location in the city center of Athens to the newly constructed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in 2018, alongside the National Opera of Greece.

Interior of the National Library of Greece

The preconference session was titled “Innovation and Greek Libraries: A Review of Local Projects and Efforts.” Giannis Tsakonas, Acting Director of the Library and Information Center of the University of Patras, Greece, set the stage as convener of the session. He reminded us that innovation constantly competes with the “business as usual” mindset, and that it is highly dependent on the local context – innovation means different things in different locations.

On Wednesday morning, the first full day of the conference, the event was kicked off with a gracious word of welcome from our hosts, Michele Casalini (Casalini Libri), Becky Lenzini (The Charleston Company), and a virtual welcome from Katina Strauch (The Charleston Conference and Against the Grain), who spoke charmingly in both Greek and English.

The opening presentation was from Filippos Tsimpglou, the Director General of the National Library of Greece, who spoke on how “the past meets the future” at the NLG. He used the analogy of “The Streetcar Named the Future” – the vehicle of information, and asked of the audience, “Is the future passive or active: do you just wait for a streetcar to come along, or do you design the route, identify user needs, and build new tools?”

The morning panel on Cultural Heritage, convened by the incomparable Ann Okerson, Senior Advisor for CRL, included presentations from Martina Bagnoli of Europeana, who said that their purpose and goal is “to develop an open, knowledgeable and creative society.” Maria Georgopoulou from the American School of Classical Studies in Greece spoke on the origins of travel and tourism, and it closed with a strikingly timely presentation from Quinn Dombrowski of Stanford University about the SUCHO initiative (https://www.sucho.org/)  to preserve Ukrainian heritage online.

The afternoon included a panel on new publishing models, chaired by Julien Roche, Director of the Libraries and Learning Center at the University of Lille. Presentations included Wilhelm Widmark from Stockholm University on transformative agreements (he posed the question, “Will there be any transformation?”) and from Pierre Mounier of OPERAS on the challenges of the Diamond Open Access model. Anne Ruimy from EDP Sciences presented on the “Subscribe to Open” model and their experience as a smaller publisher, and Didier Torny from CRNS gave a systematic analysis of transformative agreements. Torny said, “We actually read the documents!” and indicated that it is difficult to get access to all the details across various institutions.

Thursday opened with a keynote presentation from Roman Piontek, Director of SaaS Innovation France, EBSCO, who spoke on “Big Data and Big Systems: Tradition, Innovation, Renovation, Challenges.” Piontek asked, “Big Data, Where Art Thou?” and indicated that 84% of all users start their search on Wikipedia or Google Scholar. Google Scholar “cuts down on cat pictures,” but still lists results in dubious order. The use of linked data with triples (subject + predicate + object) creates accurate access points for discovery.

The last panel was on Humanities Scholarship, and was convened by Anthony Watkinson, CIBER Research. Ros Pyne, Director of Open Access and Research at Bloomsbury Publishing, spoke on the challenges inherent with open access for humanities books and how that differs from journals and STEM publishers. Emily Poznaski, Director of the Cultural European Press in Germany, was scheduled to present but was unexpectedly unable to attend due to family matters. Eleni Gkadolou, Postdoctoral Researcher at Harokopio University in Athens, presented on Pelagios, a project that involves geospatial research for history and categorizes historical maps.  Following a break, we saw lots of statistics and data from Mike Taylor, Head of Data Insights at Digital Science, on the impact and visibility of open access books in the humanities. Toby Green of Coherent Digital gave a fascinating talk on “wild content,” also known as grey literature, and how digital is changing how research is published. His entire presentation was given as via Twitter instead of PowerPoint slides – as Toby said, “PowerPoint is so pre-pandemic!” The panel concluded with Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who presented on infrastructures for digital humanities scholarship. She posited that though the library is a living organism, she prefers using the term “built environment” rather than “ecosystem” since the library is designed with intentionality, crafted and shaped through policy, politics, and financials.

The closing remarks were provided by Jim O’Donnell, University Librarian at Arizona State University, who, as usual, provided a sharp and witty summary of the event. A write up of his remarks is provided in the April issue of Against the Grain, volume 34 #2, titled “Back Talk: A Streetcar in Athens.”  Riffing off the “streetcar named the future” analogy from the opening presentation, Jim says that he “…closes with optimism,” and, “Streetcars aren’t renowned for their speed, but they can be a very good way to get where you’re going.”

Retreat organizers said that information about the 2023 event will be coming this summer. Thanks to all who presented and provided this wonderful opportunity.

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