For the last couple of months, I’ve been working with some lovely folks from OSU’s College of Nursing to plan a publishing strategy around a conference they held this week. The conference was a two-day affair, followed by a meeting of a sub-group of attendees interested in creating a new organization around the topic. The two-hour meeting mostly consisted of discussion of the proposed organization’s vision, mission and goals, and since one of the goals was the new journal we’ve been planning, the conference organizers invited me to attend.

Now, what I know about nursing could fit in a Pez dispenser – without removing the little Pez-es first. I’m equally ignorant about the topic of the conference and the new organization. I agreed to come to the meeting because I try never to pass up an opportunity to BE IN THE ROOM. Having spent years working on repository projects, I know how rare and valuable those opportunities can be. It’s much more typical for someone to come to us the week after their conference, or the day before their grant proposal is due, and ask us to do our magic. This is inevitably followed by much frustrating leg-work retroactively collecting permissions or what have you. Being asked to participate in the planning process for a new publication is exactly where I want to be.

In this case, it was a fascinating and incredibly productive experience – not because the community had tons of great ideas for a journal, but because they pretty clearly didn’t want one. That might have been frustrating (months of planning! down the drain!), but I got to hear what they actually DO want. I got to be in the room with the potential contributors to, and target audience for, a publishing project, and hear, in their own words, about their information and communication needs. I even got to ask some clarifying questions of my table group. As a result, I have some great ideas about the kinds of tools that would help them, and I can’t wait for my next meeting with the organizers. If I had only heard a summary of the discussion after the fact, those little triggers in my brain might never have gone off, and I might not have thought to suggest something my partners didn’t know to ask for.

Never pass up a chance to be in the room.