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Bulletin, April/May 2010


ASIS&T President, Gary MarchioniniPresident's Page

Gary Marchionini
2010 ASIS&T President
march@ils.unc.edu

Information scientists study how information is created, flows through various systems and impacts our world. Information professionals manage such flows and help other people find, manage and apply information resources. We have developed systematic ways to manage discrete information artifacts such as books, databases and media streams; however, the biggest challenge all professionals face is in deciding how to use our attentional resources. 

Throughout our lives we learn selective attention skills for filtering ambient and targeted information streams. Children are asked to pay attention to the teacher or to the classmate granted the floor, and parents wonder if their children can really study, watch TV, listen to music and text friends concurrently. Herbert Simon long ago noted that our attentions are finite and highly valued by the economic system – consider that significant portions of ad revenue for websites are based on the number of attentional cues manifested in human click streams. 

As information professionals and scientists, we understand the roles that information management plays in people’s lives and aim to develop tactics and strategies that help people not only find the information they need but to cope with the increasing pressure of information streams both directed at us and propagating in the digital ambience of modern life. Certainly, the ASIS&T community has a rich tradition of studying information dissemination and retrieval and there is growing interest in both theoretical work on information filtering as well as in teaching information coping skills. 

These efforts, understandably, focus on discrete information sources or instantaneous needs. What is more challenging than filtering specific information streams is making decisions about a confluence of streams that influence strategic behavior over time. Most ASIS&T members likely often find themselves in what I like to call “opportunity overload” situations, where projects and social or professional commitments present themselves at sometimes dizzying rates. More and more individuals, institutions and organizations recognize the intricacies of producing, acquiring, storing, using and preserving information and seek our expertise. This puts us in excellent positions to serve and to have societal impact beyond our personal lives. However, it also means that like Bradbury’s Martians, we are at risk for burning out not as super-empaths but as dedicated professionals. It seems to me that each of us must develop some principled approach to managing opportunity overload as we shape our careers. These principles might be based on well-defined mission statements, on service population boundaries or personal interests and should likely be flexible enough to allow some creative response and exception handling. I am quite curious about how people develop these principles and the associated strategies for coping with opportunity overload and hope that you will share your ideas with the broader ASIS&T community in any of our communication venues ranging from JASIST to the various social media channels ASIS&T supports.

Just as we each must develop our own strategies for managing opportunity overload, ASIS&T as an organization also struggles to filter and prioritize its attentional cycles. These functions are particularly important for a professional society because the attentional cycles are given voluntarily by members and are thus especially precious resources. The ASIS&T Board of Directors must make decisions about where to invest these resources, and one of the principles is, of course, to gather input from the membership. Traditionally, we have invested attentional resources in meetings, publications and various kinds of collaborative partnerships. The present Board is committed to innovative meetings that well-serve participant investments. 

We are exploring collaborations for meetings and other activities with organizations in North America and beyond. For example, ASIS&T members belong to many allied groups (ACM, ALISE, ALA, SLA, AMIA, to name only a few), and ASIS&T as an organization is often asked to join metasocieties (e.g., AAAS, CRA, IFLA, ALA, CSSP). Additionally, many new organizations devoted to information science continue to arise around the world, and many want to partner with ASIS&T. A few years ago ASIS&T was instrumental in organizing the Global Alliance of Information Sciences, Technologies and Services Societies that is still getting started. This year, we are partnering with the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and the International Conference on Knowledge Management at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting, and we routinely partner with the Information Architecture Institute during the ASIS&T IA summits. We have many opportunities to cooperate and collaborate with these organizations and welcome your thoughts about how best to do so. 

Beyond the usual channels of email, phone and ASIS&T social media I invite ASIS&T members to participate in a series of teleconference conversations with me and other ASIS&T leaders. The first conversation will be held on March 25, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. EST (before this issue goes to press) and the second will be held May 13, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. EST. Others will be scheduled for the summer and be announced via the ASIS&T membership listserv and on the ASIS&T website. The idea is to give ASIS&T members a chance to provide input, ask questions and generally participate in the Society more fully. The procedure will be to register for the conversation via an email request that contains a question or topic. The first 20 members to register will be sent the call-in number. For the March conversation, the issue of how to best collaborate with other professional organizations around the globe will be one topic of discussion. 

Finally, in keeping with the participation theme of 2010, I encourage all ASIS&T members to join in the two Summits this April and make plans for the Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh this fall. You can volunteer for any activities by using the volunteer form on the ASIS&T website (http://ASIS&T.org/volunteerform.html). In keeping with our goals to increase participation while reducing costs and carbon footprints, the Board of Directors will meet via conference call in April rather than in person, and we look forward to ideas and suggestions from the membership on ways to increase member participation in ASIS&T and ASIS&T participation in the larger sphere of information science. I also invite discussion on strategies for managing opportunities both personally and organizationally. 


Gary Marchionini is the 2010 ASIS&T president and the Cary C. Boshamer Dean, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He can be reached at march<at>ils.unc.edu.