Reflecting on all that I am thankful for from 2013, I’d say that getting a chance to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), meeting all the folks I met, and learning all that the SSP is about – and learning all that attending the SSP’s annual meeting entails for an individual scholarly pub professional – is near the very top of the list. Attending the SSP changed my worldview and enhanced my understanding of the industry.
The SSP comprises leading industry consultants from around the world, heads and key staff of libraries, executives from all the major commercial presses, directors and staff of university and other not-for-profit presses, as well as professionals from third-party vendors (B2B providers). Having diverse populations from the communications ecosystem so well represented makes the SSP meeting a richly flavorful melting pot; not only are expert panel sessions informed and thought provoking, but all conversations in the halls, around exhibits, and in receptions are charged with brains and knowledge of multiple perspectives.
to participate in keeping up the high standards of networking and the sharing and development of best-practices in scholarly communication. (Deadline this Friday, 12/6.) This democracy of membership emulates (and accelerates) the cross-pollination and cross-strata flow of ideas that is in keeping with today’s best practices for competitive idea generation in successful firms.
My experience in attending this year’s meeting may have given me a uniquely swift and thorough view into what the SSP is all about: I won one of several Student Travel Grants offered by the SSP, and as a first-time attendee, I was paired with a “Meeting Mentor.” I was also grouped with other first-time attendees, for peer-to-peer networking, and as a group we were all under the further wing of the First-time Attendee Coordinator. My Meeting Mentor was Heather Staines, VP of the Stanford-born startup SIPX, past board member of the SSP, and long-time industry pro. My fellow first-time attendees and grant winners were similarly diverse professionals from library sciences and publishing programs across the country and overseas (I was the only MBA in the mix and the first one to participate in the program, thus far.) Our First-time Attendee Coordinator was none other than Will Wakeling, Dean of University Libraries, Northeastern University, founding member of the SSP, and industry/meeting icon.
The SSP meeting is huge, the orgs in attendance cover the globe (and all the walks of life above-mentioned); it might take several years to learn where the ropes are, let alone learn how to use them. Having a meeting mentor and first-time attendee coordinator accelerated the process for all of us and, for me, having a Meeting Mentor so versed and experienced as Heather Staines and a First-time Attendee Coordinator so knowledgeable and widely respected as Will Wakeling meant that I got to chat with international professionals at every level of the ecosystem, meet nearly all the past presidents of the SSP (and a host of the Chefs from the Scholarly Kitchen), and learn about the founding principles and history of the organization.
The sessions and conversations I had at the meeting were amazing; each more informative and eye opening than the last, and I could go on at dizzying length (as is my apparent wont) about the best-practices I learned of and the ideas I came away with – many of which have informed new initiatives I’ve begun since – and I will no doubt post some thoughts born of those takeaways. However, this post is about what I am truly grateful for from this experience, and that is getting to learn what the SSP is about: the people I met.
In the SSP logo, it says: “innovative people advancing scholarly communication.” I can say that the emphasis there is on “innovative people.” I met a dynamic, driven, and welcoming worldly horde of people. I’ve been to a number of meetings and attended some “schooling” here and there. In the first few minutes of the SSP, I met dozens of folks from a host of organizations and backgrounds, all of whom I look forward to seeing again and continuing to learn from, as we advance in our careers.
The wealth and diversity of backgrounds and perspectives (commercial execs, consultants, vendors-as-members!, librarians en masse, and not-for-profits), the democratic nature of the organization (a focus on you as an individual professional), and the generous disposition of the members (founders, Presidents, attendees, mentors, and colleagues) are what distinguishes the SSP at heart; these elements make the SSP exceptionally welcoming and engaging and make discussions at the meeting uniquely generative of new thinking and opportunities.
I am thankful for getting to meet all my fellow grant recipients, and for getting to meet so many of the best and brightest in scholarly communications (the many chefs, heads, and execs). I owe special thanks to Heather and Will and other SSP stalwarts who all took such a personal interest in our experience – I can’t thank you enough! On that broader front, I would be remiss if I didn’t back up and say thank you to the SSP itself for giving me the opportunity to attend this year’s meeting and to everyone I met who made the experience so rewarding.
Given my experience, I would be further remiss if I did not say to all my fellow colleagues in scholarly communication, whom I have not met yet (and likely already talked your ear off in this regard) and who are planning professional development activities for the coming year: I’m renewing my membership in the SSP and making plans for Boston. I recommend, whole-heartedly, that all seeking new ways to advance scholarly communication do the same and join the polyglot discussions at the SSP next year. When you do, I look forward to meeting you there!