The History of the Charleston Conference

The first Charleston Conference was in 1980, and it accompanied the College of Charleston’s Antiquarian Book Fair. There were 20 people there. It was hard getting attendees since the College was unknown and who in the world was I? I remember getting excited when we got someone who called to register but he was from Charleston West Virginia and had to cancel.

Anyway, the Conference was successful, and many people encouraged me to keep having it and volunteered to help. The new Director of Continuing Education at the College was very supportive as well. Jake Chernofsky, the editor of A.B. Bookman’s Weekly was the keynote speaker and Paul Koda, rare books librarian from UNC Chapel Hill was also a major speaker that first year. The Conference was the first of its kind to talk to grassroots acquisitions librarians about acquisitions issues, pricing structures, international publishing. Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory (Pergamon) began to regularly publish papers from the Conference every year

The Conference got a good reputation and so we kept it up. I conceived it as small, no concurrent sessions and no vendor exhibits. We did start using annual themes almost immediately.  We now have many simultaneous sessions and a vendor showcase before the main conference. I still look back fondly on those first conferences. The Charleston Conference has grown enormously over the years. 2020 will be our 40th Anniversary! The Conference is an organic organism. The thousands of people who come to the Conference have implemented hundreds of changes to make it successful and this will continue! Long Live the Charleston Conference!
I began Against the Grain in 1989, the year Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston. I thought that we needed a way for Conference attendees to keep in touch more often than once a year. Steve Johnson from Clemson (now retired) had a beer newsletter and knew all about publishing a newsletter and helped me with ATG. I had conceived it as a mimeographed short document. The very first ATG was 4 pages! It didn’t have advertising, but Ballen Booksellers and Ambassador Books offered to distribute it free of charge. Now ATG is 88 plus pages and subscribers and subscribers assure its solvency.

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