The 2020 CRKN Virtual Conference, held from October 1 to 29, 2020, was a resounding success amid the unusual and challenging circumstances facing our community this year. Originally intended as an in-person event in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the conference shifted to a virtual environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sessions were held on afternoons twice weekly to accommodate changing work and life patterns this year, and all presentations were conducted remotely.
Despite this shift, the CRKN Conference offered 36 sessions and social events given by 85 speakers, and welcomed 525 participants. Each week of October focused on a different theme building on the overall conference theme of Access to Knowledge, and included a week devoted to CRKN business and the Ron MacDonald Distinguished Service Award Ceremony, honouring this year’s recipient, Tony Horava.
Please note: video recordings of conference presentations are linked throughout the article. All video recordings can be found on Vimeo by clicking here.
Week One: Access to Research
Following the pre-conference Introduction to CRKN and speed networking sessions given on October 1 by CRKN staff, the CRKN Conference officially launched on October 6 with a keynote address from Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor of Canada. In her address, Dr. Nemer emphasized the importance of openly sharing research with the public, which not only generates knowledge but increases public trust in science. Dr. Nemer also discussed her office’s natural alliance to CRKN’s mission of expanding access to knowledge, and described steps towards the future of open science.
Following the keynote, attendees heard a presentation from representatives of Coalition Publica. On October 7, staff at CRKN member institutions gave presentations on negotiation strategies, advocating for open educational resources (OER), and the Dataverse platform. These well-attended sessions generated a great deal of discussion on the realities of working in academic librarianship and open access publishing.
More presentations from Week One:
Week Two: Access and Preservation
The second week of the conference covered topics relating to the access and preservation of heritage materials, both physical and digital. On October 13, sessions focused on working with Indigenous archival materials as well as innovations in the GLAM sector, including the use of artificial intelligence to transcribe handwritten documents, and the Open GLAM initiative. On October 15, discussion shifted to a broader look at the opportunities for aligning digitization and preservation strategies across Canada. A brief update on the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) Secretariat transfer to CRKN was also provided.
In particular, the sessions on working with Indigenous content and Indigenous communities were impactful and provided CRKN and attendees with a deeper understanding of how to grapple with difficult histories and implement meaningful change, always in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. CRKN thanks the presenters of these sessions for sharing their insights and experience.
More presentations from Week Two:
Week Three: Access in Action (CRKN business sessions)
Week Three of the conference brought members together for sessions devoted to CRKN business. On October 21, updates were provided by the Preservation and Access Committee (PAC) and Finance and Audit Committee (FAC), and an hour-long session was given to present the final report of the Heritage Content Priorities Task Group (HCPTG). Member feedback towards the report was unanimously positive and provided valuable insights into how the report’s recommendations can be operationalized. A session was also held on the future of Heritage Content Access and Preservation (HCAP) fees in advance of the vote at the Meeting of the Members. During this session, members were given a financial and principle-based overview of the proposed revisions to the HCAP model and an opportunity for discussion and feedback.
Following the day’s sessions, attendees were invited to a Welcome Reception co-hosted by the University of New Brunswick. Guests enjoyed a round of challenging New Brunswick trivia before separating into virtual breakout rooms to share laughter and conversation with colleagues.
On October 22, the Content Strategy Committee (CSC) and CRKN’s licensing team reviewed CRKN’s updated licensing principles and gave an update on current and future renewals. In particular, time was devoted to discussing the largest license up for renewal in 2020, Elsevier ScienceDirect. Following the licensing update, the annual Meeting of the Members was held. CRKN members received reports from the Chair of the Board and Executive Director, as well as from the Chairs of the CSC and PAC. Treasurer and FAC Chair Denis Cossette delivered the Treasurer’s Report, and called a vote on the proposed HCAP fee extension, which passed.
Finally, members and the public were invited to attend the Ron MacDonald Award Ceremony, a virtual celebration honouring Tony Horava, this year’s award recipient. Although conducted over Zoom, the celebration was a touching and personal event bringing together friends, family, and colleagues to share memories and accolades.
Week Four: Access in Transition
The final week of the conference began on October 27 with a powerful session on transformative agreements, featuring global perspectives on publishing models and the transition to open access. Presentations were also held on transitioning aspects of digital heritage, including issues of language and the impacts of COVID-19, before moving on to a lightning round-style session on persistent identifiers (PIDs) in Canada.
The conference closed on October 29 with a day bringing together key CRKN members and stakeholders to share updates on work accomplished during the last year. Ten representatives of CRKN partner organizations gave a series of energetic lightning talks on the progress of these partnerships and a look towards the future, followed by a presentation from OurDigitalWorld. The day ended with a roundtable discussion from four library directors on strategies for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.Conference Wrap-up:
At last year’s CRKN conference, the phrase “Just do it” appeared again and again in presentations, encouraging attendees to take bold steps toward institutional, regional, and national goals. For CRKN, it was a timely catch phrase as we launched our 2019-2024 Strategic Plan and prepared some of our most ambitious projects yet.
Looking ahead, it is clear that the coming year will bring more uncertainty. The health of those close to us, budgetary concerns, and the challenges of remote work will continue to be front of mind. However, this year’s conference reminded us that despite setbacks, our work has continued, and will continue, in the spirit of collaboration and resiliency.
CRKN thanks our members, stakeholders, and guests who attended this year’s event. Save the date for next year’s conference, tentatively scheduled as an in-person event from October 19-21, 2021 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Until next time, CRKN wishes you health, safety, and well-being.