Welcome to the first column by a president of the Association for Information Science & Technology. Since the last issue of the Bulletin, the name change has become official and while it will take a few more steps to complete the changes on every listing and publication, I suspect the greater challenge will be for all of us to get used to uttering the new name without hesitation. We are still ASIS&T, of course, but it will take time for us to unpack the acronym automatically. Regardless, this is a landmark event in the history of our society – now association – and it represents true recognition of our international nature.
While the name change has occupied much of our collective, public discussion over the last few months, several other important projects are afoot within ASIS&T. Primary among these is the work of Diane Neal's Task Force on Web Presence, which is charged with examining the ASIS&T website, as well as our use of social media and online communication tools. The goal is to recommend to the Board a plan to improve the delivery and use of online resources for all members. ASIS&T has successfully launched a webinar program, but the view of many members is that our website is not always current, that information needed for the effective organization of committees, chapters and SIGs can be difficult to find and that as a leading information association, we do not make the best use of available tools and resources to reach and serve our members. Obviously, no one plan can solve everything, and it is clear that there will be non-trivial costs involved – but we must address these issues. If you have views on these issues, be sure to let me know.
One area where I believe ASIS&T needs to take the lead is in the provision of an appropriately moderated discussion forum for information ideas. If, like me, you subscribe to other lists in this field, you are probably tired of the endless puff pieces or announcements of events and talks that you could not possibly attend, which seemingly make up the majority of traffic on such lists. Yet when I attend a conference or meet up with colleagues from other programs, the conversations we fall into tend to be far more compelling, detailed and relevant than what appears online. It has always been a desire of mine to participate in a thoughtful, informative discussion group for our field, and I believe ASIS&T should take the lead in providing one. The best lists I know are invitation-only, heavily moderated and somewhat private. I understand why these work as they do, but I would much rather have ours be open and give us the ability to conduct year-round conversations and idea-sharing discussions that characterize the best conference experiences. After all, it's hard to be a thought leader if you don't share your thoughts, and within ASIS&T we should provide the means to do so.
Another initiative worth attention is the work started by past president Diane Sonnenwald to create a new resource for information professionals that would serve as point of reference outlining the range of careers and opportunities for people interested our field. ASIS&T is taking the lead in helping to shape broader understanding of the information profession and has reached out to other relevant groups and professional associations for potential partnership. Again, this proposition is possibly expensive, but one has to wonder why, in 2013, our profession is so poorly understood. Do a search on information professional and take a moment to read the results. Is this you? One website will not provide all the answers, but if we can address this matter constructively, in partnership or on our own, it would be progress.
All this activity tends to go on behind the scenes, but it speaks to the essence of making our society more interactive, more publicly engaged and more communicative. We are a volunteer organization, and if you want to be part of the improvements, you need to participate actively. I have been impressed so far in my presidency by the willingness of so many to step up, but we are always seeking input and assistance, so please don't wait to be asked. Not sure where to start? Try a local chapter or a SIG or send me a line. The future of all professional associations is unclear at this time as members seek increased value and return for their dues. For ASIS&T, this is a moment of opportunity to ensure our status as a defining voice in the world of information. Get involved.