New Orleans was the site of this year's ALA Midwinter Meeting, held January 18-23 at the Morial Convention Center. Despite the obvious signs of excitement this city generates when Mardi Gras hovers around the corner, the tempo of the meeting was noticeably less hectic than expected.
ALA Midwinter's focus is on facilitating association business among the organization's various boards, councils, and committees. But there's always additional behind-the-scenes commerce that transpires between vendors and attendees.
Perhaps the most interesting observation I made was that this meeting represented several extremes--attendees' perceptions seemed in direct contrast to one another. Although the effects of September 11 weren't nearly as pronounced as they had been at conferences held late last year, brief comments and acknowledgments on its possible contribution to the lower attendance were still in the air.
An interesting contrast was the vendor perception of booth traffic. On one end of the spectrum were those who felt inundated by the number of librarians who approached them, despite a general feeling that attendance was low. On the other hand were those who felt they spent more time interacting with other vendors and colleagues than they did with customers or prospects. I heard no middle-of-the-road assessments. Among the librarians I queried, there was a general impression that they had noticeably more room to maneuver in the exhibit hall than in recent years. According to ALA, registration was down approximately 14 percent from last year; exhibitor participation was down 24 percent.
In terms of the sessions, there were those who thought the content was very worthwhile despite fewer programs and others who were disappointed with the content. I heard no shades of gray in these assessments, either.
Vendor News and Highlights
A number of vendors that offered innovative services caught my attention. The following had interesting news to share about a new or recent development:
* Alternative Press Center (APC; http://www.altpress.org)--APC is a nonprofit cataloging member of OCLC. It is offering its Alternative Press Index (API) database on a per-search-fee and subscription basis through OCLC's FirstSearch service. APC's primary focus is on raising public awareness of independent and alternative press.
* BioOne (http://www.bioone.org)--An aggregator of full-text, peer-reviewed, high-impact research journals in the biosciences, BioOne is a successful collaborative venture among noncommercial scientific publishers, societies, and academia. Focusing on providing cost-effective electronic aggregation on behalf of smaller scholarly societies, institutes, and museums, BioOne now delivers close to 50 titles from nearly 40 publishers. Its platform enables cross-journal searching and inter-journal linking from within references.
* Brill Academic Publishers (http://www.brill.nl)--Brill, an international journal and book publisher specializing in the humanities--particularly Middle Eastern and Asian, historical, and religious studies--announced the acquisition of the electronic and print versions of Index Islamicus. This product is a bibliography of European-language publications related to numerous aspects of Muslim and Islamic studies.
* ebrary (http://www.ebrary.com)-ebrary introduced ebrarian 2.0 to 36 libraries, including pilot customers Yale University Library, Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources, and the Peninsula Library System. ebrarian enables libraries to offer unlimited, multiuser access to full-text books and other electronic materials. The delivery of the content is integrated with the institution's catalog and other digital resources using MARC records. Currently more than 5,000 full-text resources from over 100 publishers are available on the ebrarian platform, including those from Taylor & Francis, John Wiley & Sons, Greenwood, Yale University Press, McGraw-Hill, and Random House. …