James cretsos leadership award: What ASIS&T means to me



Editor's Summary

A professor's advice to “find your community” started Naresh Agarwal as a doctoral student on a path to discovering and connecting to others with similar interests and goals. After visiting other conferences, Agarwal felt welcome at ASIS&T's Annual Meeting in 2008 and made the most of the connections he made. He got involved in several SIGs and with other roles and increased his level of participation over the years. His advice to new members includes continually expanding your circle of connections, finding ways to contribute, focusing on one thing at a time and even trying frugal strategies to attend ASIS&T events. Regular communications help reinforce contacts and are essential for SIG and chapter sharing and continuity. Communications and collaboration are key criteria for the SIG/Chapter-of-the-Year Award, which Agarwal helped SIG/ED to win in 2012. Agarwal hopes to see ASIS&T become more open, agile and responsive to members, supporting collaboration and interaction through social media on the association's website.

When I was pursuing my Ph.D. at the Department of Information Systems, School of Computing, National University of Singapore, my professor and mentor Dr. Pan Shan Ling told me, “You need to find your community.” When I inquired further, he explained that I needed to find a group of people across the world that is interested in and working on things that I'm interested in, a group that I could identify with. I, perhaps, didn't fully understand him at the time; however, I went to a number of conferences and tried to mingle and fit in. Then, in 2008, I got to attend the ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Starting at the New Member and First Conference Brunch and continuing through all the sessions I attended and the meetings I had and noting the way I was made to feel welcome at every step, I instantly knew what Dr. Pan had meant about finding my community. ASIS&T was my community, and I knew it – the way I knew that this person was the one I was going to marry when I first met my wife years before. During that first meeting, I tried to soak in as much as possible about ASIS&T and its primary mission.

I haven't missed any meeting since then; that's how I've come to know many of my favorite people who've been involved with ASIS&T for a long time. Like a bee attracted to flowers, I quickly got involved in a number of SIGs and in other roles within ASIS&T, such as being the Student Chapter Representative to the Chapter Assembly, leading to my current role as its Deputy Director. As chair of SIG/ED last year, my biggest sense of joy was to see it win SIG-of-the-Year (along with SIG/MET) in 2012, something that only became possible because I had such a great team. I see myself being involved in ASIS&T for a long time to come.

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What I wish to share below is my advice for new members, some dos and don'ts, and my thoughts on some of the changes I would like to work toward and see implemented.

If you are a new member, the first thing you want to do is to try and attend the Annual Meeting. There are funding opportunities provided by different universities. Many SIGs (special interest groups) offer travel awards. You can also make use of online communities such as couchsurfing.org to find a local host in the city where the conference is being hosted. Other options include making use of the ASIS&T listservs to find people to share accommodations. The conference organizers could also help facilitate this undertaking – a need I've heard some students express.

Once you're at the meeting, make sure you talk to people about your research and goals, about ASIS&T and about how you could get involved. Almost every person you talk to will be very helpful and will give you invaluable tips that will serve you for a long time to come. In addition to attending technical sessions and other open events, don't miss the new members brunch, the leadership session and the secret students' party (yes, there is one!). Say, “Hi” to many people but get to know three to five people well. In each subsequent conference, get to know a few more people, and soon you'll feel yourself a part of the community.

The best way to feel at home is to find a way to contribute. Attend the planning meeting of one or more SIGs you're interested in. I've also found it very helpful to attend the SIG Cabinet and Chapter Assembly meetings as well as the Annual Business Meeting. These meetings are very helpful in understanding the governance structure of ASIS&T. It is also helpful to get involved in the student chapter of your university and/or the regional chapter closest to you.

If you are a new officer in a SIG or chapter, it is easy to get lost. Since we are often busy with our studies, research or teaching, finding time to contribute requires discipline. One thing that I've learned through experience is it is best not to stretch ourselves too thin. It is best to get involved in one thing at a time. Each year, we can take on something else and gain experience over time.

Also, regular communication among team members is important. Often, a statement I've heard is that we come to the Annual Meetings and plan for the year, and then we come again the following year and plan. To avoid this syndrome, I've found it helpful to do two things right at the outset: 1) set up an email listserv such as Google Groups to easily email all officers (such sites also help archive all communication among officers for future committees); 2) set up monthly Skype calls to communicate among officers and to plan and carry out ongoing webinars and other activities through the year. Since most team members are dispersed geographically and often in different time zones, having avenues for synchronous communication, either through phone or Skype, is extremely important in helping establish a common context.

Each SIG and chapter should also think about issues of continuity and establish a mechanism whereby outgoing officers fill out a form with two columns to be passed on to new officers: 1) best practices (things that went well and that new officers would benefit from continuing) and 2) lessons learned (things that didn't go well and that would benefit from change).

If a SIG or chapter aspires to win the SIG- or Chapter-of-the-Year award, it is helpful to go through the award criteria (available at the ASIS&T website) right before the first planning meeting and then plan your activities during the year accordingly. In order to enhance greater collaboration and knowledge sharing within and among chapters, SIGs and other bodies, the Chapter Assembly approved the following three changes at the 2012 Annual Meeting (something that officers of Student and Regional Chapters need to note):

  • 1.Judging criteria for student and regional Chapter-of-the-Year awards will be modified to have 5 points allocated for collaboration with any SIG, chapter or a body within or outside ASIS&T. For the student chapter award, these points would be taken from the 40 points allocated for Chapter Activities.
  • 2.We will create an opt-out (instead of opt-in) to the various lists for leaders. If you are a chapter leader, you are automatically added to the key lists such as the list for all chapters and any other list.
  • 3.From this point forward, all student and regional chapter annual reports will be made public (instead of them being viewed only by the jury), but only after the jury has decided on the award. A chapter submitting a report will have an opt-out option in the submission form if it doesn't want the report to be made public.

In order to take on new challenges in an ever-changing world, I'd like to see ASIS&T become more agile and responsive to change, while retaining its core values. One area which I think requires urgent attention is the ASIS&T website. It needs to evolve from Website 1.0 to Website 2.0, making use of Web 2.0 functionalities such as Wikis, social networking, blogs, photos, videos and other collaborative features in the way it is envisioned, built and used. From a platform of information dissemination, it should evolve into a platform of information creation, contribution and shared participation. The various listservs are also largely used for occasional information dissemination by SIG and chapter officers. The members are often not aware of their potential for use for questions such as those related to their research, research methodologies or career advice. Logging on to the ASIS&T website (behind the walls of which lie many of the benefits of membership, including access to the archives of past webinars) requires remembering one's membership ID, which may be hard for many members to recall easily. Members often don't fully realize the benefits they gain by joining a SIG related to their research area or they don't know the breadth of such benefits. By calling for and facilitating increased collaboration and participation, we'll find ways to provide members with their money's worth in being a part of ASIS&T, as well as specific SIGs and chapters. I wish to contribute to this process of change and would like to invite all members to participate actively in taking ASIS&T to even greater heights.

I would like to thank all my letter writers and all those from within and outside ASIS&T who've inspired me. Thank you for accepting me as a part of this wonderful community and being a part of mine. As I try to pass on some of the kindness that I've received, I'd implore new members to do the same. If I can be helpful in any way to you or I can do anything to make your life any easier than it is, I'd be glad to help. Last, but not the least, remember to be happy always.

News about ASIS&T SIGs

Special Interest Group/International Information Issues (SIG/III) announces its 13th international paper competition for authors who are citizens and residents of developing countries. Winning papers are submitted for the 2013 Annual Meeting, which will take place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November 1–6, 2013.

Building on the Annual Meeting theme, this year's paper contest is looking for papers addressing Beyond the Cloud: Rethinking Information Boundaries. Papers may discuss issues, policies and case studies on specific aspects of the theme from a global and/or international perspective. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following core areas:

  • Human Information Interaction: information retrieval; information behavior;

  • human computer interaction; usability; e-science and distributed collaboration; virtual organizations; user modeling; mobile technologies

  • Information Organization and Representation: metadata; taxonomies; information visualization; information architecture; digital libraries; indexing and abstracting; classification; social tagging; semantic web and ontology; social media

  • Information Use & Analysis: information seeking and user studies; strategic, security and competitive intelligence; information and knowledge management; comparative analysis of information practices; information metrics (bibliometrics/informatics/webometrics)

  • Information Preservation & Access: digital curation; big data; e–book; information quality; copyright, intellectual properties and related issues; information literacy

  • Information Environments & Socio–Cultural Aspects: organizational and contextual issues; security & privacy; economics of information; social informatics; information policy; foundation of information science; digital humanities; Web 3.0 and related technologies; cloud computing

Selection Criteria

Up to three winners who will be selected by a panel of judges that includes Maqsood Shaheen, IRC, U.S. Embassy, Islamabad; Alma Rivera, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México; and Fatih Oguz, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The judging criteria will be based on the following elements:

  • Originality of paper in the developing world and global information ecosystem (originality of the project described, etc.)

  • Relevance to the paper contest theme

  • Quality of argument, presentation and organization

Eligibility & Information for authors

Only papers by a principal author who is a citizen of and resides in a developing country are eligible. Winners in the 2009–2012 contests are not eligible. The papers should be original, unpublished and submitted in English.


The award for each winner is a two-year individual membership in ASIS&T. In the case of multiple authors, the principal author will be awarded the ASIS&T membership. In addition, depending on SIG III/fundraising for this competition, the first place winner will be rewarded a minimum of $1,000 toward travel, conference registration and accommodations while attending the ASIS&T Annual Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November 1–6, 2013.


Authors are invited to submit manuscripts, not to exceed 5,000 words, by May 31, 2013, to Maqsood Shaheen at ShaheenMA@gmail.com, preferably as Microsoft Word or PDF attachments.

News about ASIS&T Members

Chirag Shah, assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at the Rutgers University School of Communication & Information, received a $273,000 grant from the IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Early Careers program. His project, CIS3: Collaborative Information-Seeking Support and Services in Libraries, employs a user-focused approach to investigate information seekers' behaviors while working collaboratively.

Tomas Lipinski, most recently executive associate dean and professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, is the new director of the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Lipinski holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; master's degree in library and information science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; master of laws degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago; and a J.D. from Marquette University Law School. Issues related to copyright, information law and intellectual property are the focus of his ongoing research.

OBITUARY: In Memoriam: Don R. Swanson

Don R. Swanson, three-time dean at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School (GLS) and professor emeritus n the humanities division, died in November of 2012 at the age of 88. Don won the ASIS&T Award of Merit in 2000 for his trailblazing work in the relationship between natural and computer language and his belief that electronic databases held the keys to medical knowledge.

Among many groundbreaking discoveries, Don used his theory of undiscovered public knowledge to identify key relationships between dietary fish oil and Raynaud's disease and between magnesium deficiency and common migraine headaches. With these findings inspiring his effort, Don and Neil Smallheiser developed Arrowsmith, software that assists in identifying connections between two sets of clinical research; this model has been adapted to study the correlations of genes with diseases and find possible new uses for medications.

Swanson began his career in physics with degrees from California Institute of Technology, Rice University and the University of California at Berkeley. After working for a while as a computer systems analyst and research scientist, Swanson joined the University of Chicago faculty as dean of the now-closed Graduate Library School. His background as a physical scientist led his GLS focus on computer-aided information retrieval which was a new area of study at the time.

Swanson is survived by his wife Patricia, son Richard and daughter Judith. Another son, Douglas, predeceased him.