We've Got to Stop Meeting like This: Conferences Online

Article excerpt

When putting together a list of conferences and trade. shows that librarians and information professionals might attend, I suddenly realized how different my approach was from what it had been several years ago. In a DOLLAR $IGN column that focused on travel and tourism information sources (DATABASE, June 1990), I devoted a few paragraphs to traveling to conferences. I discussed sources on commercial databases that listed upcoming conferences and trade shows. The two major databases at that time were FAIRBASE and Eventline, both then on DataStar.


Fairbase Database Ltd., as a company, still exists and is still headquartered in Hannover, Germany (+49-511-443330). However, it dropped the more general FAIRBASE database to concentrate on its database restricted to medical conferences. This database, MediConf is on both DataStar and Ovid, and lists over 8,000 upcoming events, including conferences, workshops, seminars, and exhibitions. A subset is searchable on the Web (http://www.mediconf.com). You click on the medical subject of interest to you--there are 40-and a list appears with the name of the event, the venue (which sometimes includes the hotel, but more often only the city), the dates, and contact telephone, fax, and email numbers. Clicking on Orthopedics and Orthopedic Surgery, for example, retrieved 57 out of 357 coming events up to the year 2004. The dates for the 57 displayed, however, were only for the next two months. MediConf on the commercial hosts features vastly more complete records, with full addresses of the organizers, event notes inc luding how often this conference is held, the type of show it is, expected number of attendees, and extensive descriptors. Search capabilities are also much more sophisticated.

Eventline, produced by Elsevier Science B.V. in the Netherlands (+3 120-515-9412, or 212/633-3980 in the U.S.), is even more available on commercial hosts than it was in 1990. You can search it on Dialog, DataStar, LEXIS-NEXIS, ESA/IRS, OCLC, STN, and QuestelsOrbit. Types of events covered are conferences, cultural events, sporting events, trade fairs, workshops, and mixtures of those five types. The records are very informative, including number of exhibitors, number of participants, frequency of event, and whether translation services are provided. In addition to the normal contact information for the organizer, Eventline now provides URLs and email addresses when available. Information is garnered from Elsevier publications along with other primary and secondary sources. The number of records added per year varies considerably, resulting in varying coverage of events held during the year. Keep in mind that records added during a year do not necessarily reflect the number of events held during that year. A record entered in 1998 could be for a conference to be held in 1999 or even farther out. The high point for conferences covered in Eventline is 1995, with 65,161 events listed. Low points are 1994 (27,677 events given that year) and 1997 (23,536 events). Thus far (July 1998), Eventline lists 20,380 events for 1998 and 8,529 for 1999. I found one conference to be held in 2015 which seems extraordinarily far in the future.


Eight years ago, my first line of attack was these databases. Today it's not. In all fairness, I should point out that my project involved an industry with which I am familiar. I tend to know which associations organize conferences and which organizations produce trade shows. What I needed was exact dates and locations. To do this, I went first to the associations' and organizations' home pages. Most associations for library and information science professionals list the dates and places for their upcoming conferences. Every once in a while, associations list conferences of interest to their members even though they are not the sponsor. A case in point is Special Libraries Association. …