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of the American Society for Information Science and Technology       Vol. 30, No. 6      August/September  2004

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    Editor's Note: Amy Wallace is the 2003 winner of the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award for "new ASIS&T members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in professional ASIS&T activities." In this article submitted at the Bulletin's request she discusses how she became active in ASIS&T and how such participation has helped her professional career.

Come One! Come All!
by Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is with California State University, Channel Islands, One University Dr., Camarillo, CA 93012; phone: 858-535-6398; e-mail: amy.wallace@csuci.edu

Professional associations can have such a profound impact on a person's career in the field of library and information science. My story starts as a first-year LIS student. I knew that I wanted to be an archivist so I applied for an internship with the University of Southern California to ingest data into their GIS-based project, Information for Los Angeles (ISLA). I saw the project as a cool way to preserve all sorts of historical artifacts.

My workstation was adjacent to Marianne Afifi's office, and we often chatted about what I wanted to do when I grew up. She also told me all about the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (LACASIS) and encouraged me to join as a student member. At the time I was working full-time, participating in two internships and planning to complete library school in a year and a summer, so I declined the offer. Plus I did not know how an association like LACASIS would help me achieve my goal to become an archivist. I was not a computer person before entering library school, and coming up to speed on technology was the hardest part. I naïvely saw the technology learning curve dropping off once I finished my courses.

A few months later I had completely abandoned the idea of becoming an archivist. I had no idea that archivists had very little contact with the public, and I had worked in public service for many years before going to library school. I knew that I needed a career that would get me out and talking to people. Since I already had a master's degree in history, I decided to set my sights on becoming an academic reference librarian. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Chapman University as an off-campus librarian. I served the university's Northern California academic centers. My partner in crime was Pattie Dillon, who was responsible for the Southern California academic centers.

After we had worked together for a few months Pattie asked if I would be interested in helping her solicit sponsors for an upcoming workshop sponsored by LACASIS. I said "Yes" more because of my inability to say "No" than my interest in LACASIS. I still did not think LACASIS was the best place for me, but figured the project was short-term and an easy way to help a friend. I decided not become a member, and just helped Pattie behind the scenes.

During the sponsorship project with Pattie, I joined The Claremont Colleges as a reference and instruction librarian. One of my new colleagues, Linda Gunter, was also working on the LACASIS Fall Workshop committee. She talked me into helping her with a few things and encouraged me to attend. It was not until I went to the workshop that it all clicked. Just because I wanted to be a reference and instruction librarian or a history subject specialist did not necessarily mean that I could only be part of professional organizations that focused on those areas. I had been to meetings of other associations and always got the same feelings – I had not done my time, the group had worked many years to refine their little niche and things had always been done this way. I quickly found LACASIS workshops and meetings were different.

Linda encouraged me to attend a LACASIS board meeting, and everyone welcomed me as if I had been in the field 20 years, not as a recently graduated student. Every conference, workshop and program left me dazed and confused, and I loved it. Speakers talked about cutting-edge technologies and came from a variety of library and information science specialties. Months, and sometimes years later, things I was exposed to at a LACASIS or ASIS&T event helped me to make a decision or chart a course. Events and networking have also taught me to communicate beyond reference and instruction librarianship. I am not afraid to learn something new or to admit I do not understand. I will not accept the answer that "This is the way we have always done it" or "This technology will solve all your problems but I cannot explain how it helps the user in plain English." As a result I have been able to bring groups together to look at the balance between technology and public service. My last position at the Libraries of The Claremont Colleges was as the Team Leader for Digital Libraries. This team was not created merely to develop databases of digital assets and resources, but instead to investigate strategies, resources and technologies that would enhance services and better provide resources to our users.

I got sucked into LACASIS while working at the Libraries of the Claremont Colleges. I use the term sucked because of the intensity that is LACASIS. I have been a member of, and elected to office in, a number of other local and national associations, but no association does more with less than LACASIS. Fifteen to twenty active member host more events and engage in more activities than any other association in which I have been involved. I was asked to be the publicity chair at the first meeting I attended. I sent out all electronic publicity to lists and other local associations. A few board meetings later the group talked about ways to bring new student members into LACASIS. I agreed to plan a career event for my alma mater. The career event featured two panels, one with five speakers with hiring responsibilities and the second with seven recent graduates. I also encouraged employers to bring job flyers, and I compiled a binder of jobs from corporate, public, academic and law libraries. The board was very enthusiastic about the event's success and honored me with the Chapter Membership Award.

Soon after the first career event Linda Rudell-Betts talked me into running for chair-elect/program chair. I ran unopposed and soon found myself in my first elected office. Of all the positions that I have held this one was by far the most hectic, but most enjoyable for me. I remember sitting down with Karen Howell (a past chair) and Marianne Afifi (chair) in the same area where I had done my internship a few years earlier. Karen, like me, has a timeline for everything. As Karen talked about the outline, I could not wait to get home and start planning for the next year. In all I planned two awards programs, three dinner programs, a career program, a business-meeting program and a joint holiday program. Since serving as chair-elect, I have also served as chair, co-chair, past chair/Nominations Committee chair and past chair/Awards Committee chair. No matter what position I held I always tried to weasel my way back into doing program planning, and I have subsequently chaired or co-chaired several other events.

Program planning has allowed me to meet so many people in both ASIS&T and the library and information science community. As program chair in 2000 I planned a program on e-books that focused on users (not vendors) and ended up corresponding with a member of the 2000 ASIS&T Annual Meeting Planning Committee. As Fall Workshop co-chair in 2001 I secured numerous speakers to come speak, but two stand out in my mind. One would be a future colleague at the University of California, San Diego, and the other would be my future boss at California State University, Channel Islands. I had never met either man and had solicited them to speak at the meeting via e-mail. It was not until the day of the workshop that I actually met them face-to-face. Luckily for me they were both great speakers, and I am fortunate that opportunities opened up to work with them.

I always tell students at career events that you never know whom you are going to meet at LACASIS. For example, I convince a person to speak at a LACASIS event. He takes a job as the director of the library for the newest California State University. He puts out a job announcement for a head of public services to help in his vision to create a digital teaching library, and I end up in my dream job – a new university that focuses on the student, a university librarian who values information literacy and embraces new technologies, a fast paced start-up library, wonderful hard working colleagues and a five-minute walk to work.

Since I finished library school LACASIS friends and programs have had a huge impact on how my career has unfolded. The commitment of the chapter's core members continues to astonish me. Many people that I mentioned in this article are not only active locally, but also active nationally. They have inspired me to plan quality programs and activities for LACASIS members and others in the Southern California library and information science community. As chair of the 2004 Fall Workshop, which will focus on the balance between access and privacy, it is my hope that a few non-members in the audience will be energized by the program content and networking opportunities and decide as I did to become more involved with LACASIS. I believe without a doubt it will change the way they think about the field of library and information science.


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