Since the founding of the Royal Society in the 1660s and with the development of disciplinary fields in the later 19th century, scholarly societies have established themselves as mediators of the professional lives of faculty and as vital components of the ecology of scholarly communication. In their interactions with libraries, societies may appear primarily as publishers of newsletters, books, reports, journals, and indexes and databases, but they also promote the creation and diffusion of knowledge by serving as hubs for professional activity, contributors to the making of public policy and opinion, providers of education, representatives of the interests of their members, and, more generally, shapers of the institutions and purposes of higher education.
Society operations and education or outreach programs depend to varying degrees on revenues from publishing programs and membership dues. Today, however, changing demographics and membership decline, the academic job market, the weakening of library budgets, new modes of publishing and media for establishing scholarly reputation, and the importance of making scholarship available to a broader audience than those who can afford to purchase it challenge traditional society roles and especially the business models that have supported those roles .
Panelists will address the ways in which scholarly societies are addressing the current information environment and how societies are adjusting programs and roles as they continue to build and maintain communities of scholars and promote the interests of teaching, learning, and research.