As the 1998 Annual Meeting concluded in Pittsburgh in late October, I had the pleasure of assuming the role of president of ASIS. Irene Travis, editor of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, invited me to say a few words to the readership, and so I thought I might share with you the gist of the general remarks I made in my brief presidential "Inaugural Address" in October and tell you about some of the directions the Board will be exploring.
I am very excited to be serving ASIS, which has been my primary association for my entire professional life (and half my actual life). I am also very optimistic about the future. I derive this optimism from all groups of the ASIS organizational chart, which, as you may remember, has members at the top and the Board at the bottom, as it should be.
Despite the stresses and strains of late 20th century working life and the many competing forces that vie for our professional attention, I sense a great deal of enthusiasm and energy emanating from the ASIS membership. This is true for members I see locally in the New England Chapter (NEASIS), others I meet at national meetings and yet others with whom I share an e-mail relationship. This enthusiasm is expressed by long-time ASIS supporters and also by new ASIS members. There is a real sense of community within ASIS which is a key to the Society's future, and which I feel can be nurtured.
Special Interest Groups and Chapters
SIGs and chapters rise and fall, and rise again, perhaps under different guises. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as they are organic entities. In fact, a new SIG is being born this year, and a moribund SIG has been revitalized. SIGs were responsible for a strong technical component to the Annual Meeting this year, and they have some very exciting plans for 1999 in Washington. Chapters are also showing significant activity, and I am especially pleased to hear about student chapters willing to step in and take a hand when a local chapter needs help. SIGs and chapters depend on leaders, and more than 50 of them took the time to attend this year's leadership workshop.
One of my more pleasant presidential duties is to appoint committee chairs and members. I contacted some 30 people identified by the Leadership Development Committee as potential new leaders. Every single one of them volunteered for a committee, and several even asked if they could do more for the Society! It is important to note that attendance at Annual and Mid-Year Meetings is not a requirement of serving on a committee. In fact, the charges I set for 1998-99 committees mostly involve between-meeting activities.
What a wonderful group of people we have been blessed with in our Board of Directors! They are willing to work hard all year round and to move efficiently (but with due deliberation). This is a Board which is not afraid to take risks, but which always has benefit to membership on the top of its agenda. Each member brings different strengths, skills and knowledge areas to the table. We don't always agree, but we all feel free to speak our minds in debate.
Few people work harder on behalf of ASIS than the headquarters staff under Dick Hill's direction, and most of them do it all behind the scenes. They come up with creative ways for ASIS to do business, and they know when to ask for advice from the professional community.
All components of ASIS are working hard to maintain the Society's vitality. Various committees have been charged with developing services which reach members who do not attend national meetings. The Board has just received an action-filled report from a task force concerned with Society visibility and is also in the process of establishing a Program Advisory Board to support and strengthen the delivery of programming to members. More will be heard on these issues in the future.
What can I do to help ASIS make the most of all this energy and enthusiasm? On a personal level, I will focus on the fact that almost all of the Society's activities (SIGs, chapters, committees and meetings) are carried forward by volunteers. Anything that can be done to make ASIS leadership easier at all levels will be done. I hope this will include improving the continuity of the ASIS corporate memory, revamping the procedural content of the Web site and engaging in a great deal of personal contact (recruiting, reporting, following up, thanking and nudging).
On a broader level, I would like to return to the concept introduced some years ago of ASIS as a "bridge." Yes, there are niche societies and specialized conferences, and these are very vital and usually enjoy enviable spurts of growth. By their very nature, they are intensely focused on an aspect of information practice and are able to achieve deep coverage for an audience of practitioners or would-be practitioners. What ASIS has to offer in its various programs is a breadth across both practice and discipline(s). It's where the practitioner and the researcher from many different arenas come together (where the online searcher finds out about information retrieval research, where the publishing community comes together with the consumer and where the systems designer can meet the user.
The Board and I can use your help as we guide ASIS on your behalf. I encourage you to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any suggestions, questions or comments. More importantly, I ask you to tell your colleagues about the benefits you receive from ASIS (the critical session you attended at a national meeting, the networking you did at a local chapter meeting, the practical knowledge you got from a special topic Bulletin issue, the understanding you acquired from a JASIS "Perspectives" and the background you gained from a chapter in the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology). It's your Society – share it!
Candy Schwartz, President
American Society for Information Science