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President’s Column

Clara Chu, PhDIn my last “Message from the President,” I take note that it is an exciting as well as challenging time for our community as we will soon be connecting virtually for our inaugural virtual conference but continue to face the uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and systemic racism and other inequities.

This past year I used “We are ASIS&T: Be, Belong, Become,” my three-pronged plan for organization and social transformation to advance ASIS&T vision and mission. I am delighted to share with you some updates.

BE: connecting with ourselves and each other, and contributing to not just ASIS&T but to Society (locally and globally).

The 83rd ASIS&T Annual Meeting, 22 October - 1 November 2020, as a virtual meeting, has created the opportunity for more access and participation across the globe, and ongoing engagement beyond the conference with the recorded content. The conference theme “Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand/Global Challenges” enables members of our information community (researchers, practitioners, educators, students, and stakeholders) the opportunity to learn, problematize, discover, and design information solutions to transform the world. All conference sessions are organized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include paper and panel sessions; posters; workshops and new programming: 6 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Accelerator sessions, 1 Industry Panel, and unCommons Sessions. The keynote speaker is Houman Haddad, CFA, Head of Emerging Technologies at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which has received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the founder of WFP’s “Building Blocks” project, which seeks to harness the power of blockchain to foster interagency collaboration and create efficiencies. Building Blocks is the world’s largest implementation of blockchain technology for humanitarian assistance. The President's Opening Program and Reception will address infodemics during the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the closing plenary, our regional chapter leaders will issue a call to action in applying information to advance a sustainable world and proposing solutions. I wish to thank the Annual Meeting Program Committee, co-chaired by Kendra Albright and Bharat Mehra, for its work.

As an association we also want to celebrate ASIS&T work on “Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand Challenges” and have issued a call for submission of actions to advance the UN SDGs. Nominations of our members’ (personal or institutional) research, teaching and/or professional work that addresses the conference theme will be acknowledged on the ASIS&T webpage on “Information for Sustainability” and will be conferred a certificate of recognition. Look for the call and be recognized!

BELONG: a strong sense of identity.

It has been a pleasure to connect with you during the ASIS&T Hour, our monthly virtual meet-up, where the Board and/or other ASIS&T leaders meet with members to connect and discuss issues important to the Association, our community and the field.  On October 14th, join us for the ASIS&T Hour: Launching Our Inaugural Virtual Conference. It will be held twice at 9am ET and 6 pm ET to reach our global community. ASIS&T staff, the Annual Meeting Program Committee, regional chapter leaders and others will discuss our inaugural virtual conference, how to navigate the conference platform and the way that members from different regions plan to experience and participate in the conference.

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (formerly Diversity and Inclusion Task Force), co-chaired by Ana Ndumu and Hamid Jamali, have submitted for Board consideration, its report, reviewing of the "Diversity and Inclusion in ASIS&T: A Report and Recommendations from AM16 Luncheon Discussion". Information on the findings and recommendations will be made available to our members.

BECOME: focuses on thriving.

The 2020-25 ASIS&T Strategic Plan provides a road map for a thriving and expanding association. For example, ASIS&T is excited to join ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education) and the iSchools in forming the iFederation, an agreement that advances the development and implementation of co-opetition opportunities, the fourth goal in the new strategic plan. The iFederation is holding a virtual session on “Higher Education and Research Community Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Friday, October 23, 2020; 11:00 am - 12:30 pm ET, where all members can register for free. I wish to thank the Strategic Planning Task Force, chaired by President-Elect Brian Detlor, for its work.

ASIS&T Board members have received a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Director-at-Large Dania Bilal (2016-19) from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is principal investigator, and President Clara M. Chu from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Director at Large Soo Young Rieh from the University of Texas at Austin are co-principal investigators. The $208,142 grant will fund the IDEA (Innovation, Disruption, Enquiry, Access) Institute on Artificial intelligence (AI), a one-week intensive, interactive, evidence-based and applications-oriented professional development program, open to library and information professionals. The Institute will create two cohorts of leaders (15 IMLS-funded and 5 self-funded Fellows per year; 40 total) with the knowledge and skills to innovate, apply, and evaluate AI in library and information environments. ASIS&T and the American Library Association (ALA) are supporting organizations for the project, which will run from September 1, 2020, to August 31, 2022. After the end of this project, made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant number RE-246419-OLS-20), the IDEA Institute will live on through ASIS&T. The collaboration was a result of the Big Ideas discussions led during Elaine Toms presidency.

I wish to close by thanking our Board of Directors for stewarding the association with me, and Executive Director Lydia Middleton and all central office staff, for all they do to deliver the Association’s activities and support our work.  I am indebted this year for the support, contributions and guidance from my Advisory Group, Kendra Albright, Jia Tina Du and Bharat Mehra. The work I have been able to lead and do has been possible by those mentioned here and many of you, who have not been individually named.

It has been an honor to serve as 2019-20 ASIS&T President. I am thankful for the gift of community at ASIS&T, where scientific and professional engagement leads to inspiration, synergies, and connections. Information and technology are vital in advancing sustainability, locally and globally, and at ASIS&T, let’s lead to address society’s grand challenges.