What It’s Like to Attend an ACS Annual Meeting for the First Time

IMG_4021Attending the ACS Annual Meeting for the first time was a very welcoming experience; the chemistry librarians received me with open arms and made me feel right at home in the Division of Chemical Information (CINF) Sessions. I have been to other disciplinary professional organization conferences, including the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and Medical Library Association (MLA), and was actually surprised to observe attendees often only attending their division sessions; the presenters changed but the audience mostly stayed the same.

The technical program was a bit overwhelming, but the online platform made it quite digestible and the co-occurrence of so many programs is quite likely a reason for lower attendance in certain sessions. For example, though I only attended CINF program sessions, I was quite interested in many of the Chemical Education concurrent offerings. I was particularly excited to see PubChem highlighted in so many CINF sessions, as I recently completed the National Library of Medicine’s “Librarian’s Guide to NCBI” training program. I expect many information professionals would discuss PubChem features and utilization at every conference but learned that the reason it was so prominent in the 2016 meeting was two main investigators on PubChem, Steve Bryant and Evan Bolton, were being honored with the Herman Skolnik Award.

The relevance of conversations throughout the sessions around data storage and standards, ontologies, and working across organizational structures to adopt the same ontologies and standards were right on trend to the issues in data librarianship across many biological science disciplines. Hearing perspectives from those outside of academia, including pharmaceutical chemists and journal editors, was enlightening and challenged me to think about my biases regarding data sharing. I remain a strong advocate for open data, open access, and open educational resources, however. In the program on altmetrics and scholarly communication, I was very impressed by the EPA’s use of research impact solutions and gained more models for implementation of tools like Kudos and ImpactStory to try at my institution.

IMG_4020The networking opportunities at the conference were plentiful and the vendor exhibit space was quite unique. I have never seen so many intricate glassware configurations! SciMix was one of the largest poster sessions I have ever attended and I was pleased to see so many student presenters across divisions. I also enjoyed meeting Professor Molenium and Milli and fully support the campaign to have her appointed to Professor status as well. The CINF Luncheon presentation on “The Chymistry of Isaac Newton” was a wonderful case study of a digital humanities and physical science collaboration. It would have been a wonderful complement to the program if we had been able to visit the Rare Books collection in the Othmer Library of Chemical History at the Chemical Heritage Foundation but I have found solace in exploring the University of Chicago’s Special Collection Research Center’s resources on chemistry and alchemy.

It was a valuable experience to attend a physical science discipline specific conference, particularly one with an established information professional community. I encourage other librarians who focus on issues related to data services to apply for the spring conference scholarship. While I am not a chemistry subject specialist, attending the conference brought back fond memories of balancing equations and performing experiments to determine molecular chemical structures from my high school advanced placement and college chemistry courses. It was also a clear reminder, however, of the value and importance of having chemistry subject-specialist librarians who can translate chemistry questions into information solutions.