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2019-20 President’s Report

Clara Chu, PhD

Clara Chu, PhD
Former ASIS&T President

Dear ASIS&T colleagues,

I close out a year unlike any other in history, a period of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has magnified our inequities and differences, while drawing on our resiliency, creativity and our shared intellectual and social capital. I have been honored to serve as 2019-20 ASIS&T President, aiming to strengthen and expand our community and advance our interests. In my candidacy statement, I had pledged: “As President, the values I will bring to navigate the future course of ASIS&T are diversity (our membership reflects our global information society), inclusion (our association is intentional in engaging all voices), collective impact (our work is cross-sector and multidisciplinary to achieve our mission), ethics of care (our association/membership is connected and interdependent), and sustainability (our association has the resources to thrive)….[and] I envision ASIS&T as the touchstone for information practice, research, education and professional development to build a sustainable world and change lives.”

Thus, this past year, I have invited the ASIS&T community to join me in advancing a three-pronged plan for organizational and social transformation: “We are ASIS&T: Be, Belong, Become”, a conceptual approach informed by the Early Years Learning Framework. As well, complementing it with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide this year’s conference theme and association activities: Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand/Global Challenges.

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

BELONG: focuses on a strong sense of identity.

BECOME: focuses on thriving.

First, BE: focuses on connecting with ourselves and each other, and contributing to not just ASIS&T but to Society (locally and globally). The opportunities to BE in 2019-20 were:

  • 83rd ASIS&T Annual Meeting – We anticipated the 2020 Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh on October 23-28, 2020, with the theme: “Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand/Global Challenges”. However, as it became clear that the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic would not permit a safe in-person meeting, we made the decision to hold it virtually. Our inaugural virtual conference has provided safer and greater access across the globe, and the opportunity to join locally while connecting globally, and to continue to engage with the rich content beyond the conference through the recordings. The programming for the conference was intentional to address the social challenges in our society and within our association. I introduced two new series (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Accelerator Series, and Industry Series), and the ASIS&T unCommons, a space for SIGs and others to showcase, engage and collaborate. The emphasis on “accelerator” for the EDI series is to go beyond the ASIS&T Diversity Statement and introduce issues and ways to advance EDI in all realms of our work, now and not in the foreseeable future or because we don’t have the knowledge or resources to do so. Keynote speaker Houman Haddad (Head of Emerging Technologies at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which has received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize), spoke about “Depoliticizing Information Through Blockchain”. As founder of WFP’s “Building Blocks” project, the world’s largest implementation of blockchain technology for humanitarian assistance, he elaborated on harnessing the power of blockchain to foster interagency collaboration and create efficiencies. The President's Opening Program and Reception was a meet-and-greet conversation on the infodemic during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closing plenary was a call to action, where our regional chapter leaders spoke about their chapters applying information to advance a sustainable world and proposing individual and collective solutions. All sessions were organized by the United Nations SDGs, and conference sessions addressing the COVID-19 pandemic were specifically valuable.
  • Advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – At last year’s conference, my President’s Advisory Group (Kendra Albright, Jia Tina Du and Bharat Mehra) led a full-day international incubator to develop and create transformational actions using information to advance the SDGs. The results from this pre-conference workshop, a series of Information Briefs, serve as catalysts for the information community to act locally or globally, personally or collectively. These constitute transformational actions using information to advance the SDGs that the ASIS&T community can undertake.
  • Recognizing that we only have a decade to act, the United Nations has launched a Decade of Action. Toward this end, I invite the ASIS&T community to collectively celebrate ASIS&T work on “Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand Challenges” by nominating our members’ (personal or institutional) research, teaching and/or professional work that addresses the conference theme. The actions will be acknowledged on the ASIS&T webpage on “Information for Sustainability” and the nominee will receive a certificate. The call has been extended until March 31, 2021.

Our committees are enhancing how we work together, such as the new Governance Committee, which is working to ensure the quality and performance of the Board of Directors and the governance structure of the Association. And our members and staff that have been actively engaged in webinars, including re-starting our Meet the Author Series webcast, SIGs and Chapters activities, mentoring activities, and publications.

Second, BELONG: focuses on a strong sense of identity. The opportunities to BELONG in 2019-20 were:

  • The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (formerly Diversity and Inclusion Task Force), co-chaired by Ana Ndumu and Hamid Jamali, has reviewed the Diversity and Inclusion in ASIS&T: A Report and Recommendations from AM16 Luncheon Discussion (see also from Wiley) and submitted its report. The task force will continue to work in the coming year to implement the recommendations in alignment with the ASIS&T Strategic Plan 2020-2025.
  • ASIS&T HOUR – I introduced this monthly virtual meet-up to enable the Board and/or other ASIS&T leaders to meet with members to connect and discuss issues important to the Association, our community and the field. I have learned from many of you at the ASIS&T Hour, offered at a different set time every other month in order for our members from around the world to have the opportunity to connect synchronously, and for those who couldn’t, a recording has been made available.
  • Connecting around the Globe – I have enjoyed meeting our members in person at conferences pre-COVID-19 and since, online at chapters activities. One of these, was the organizing meeting of the new Africa Chapter.

Third, BECOME: focuses on thriving. The opportunities to BECOME in 2019-20 were:

  • The 2020-25 ASIS&T Strategic Plan provides a road map for a thriving and expanding association. Brian Detlor, then President-Elect, chaired the Strategic Planning Task Force, which developed the plan and includes strategies for enhancing membership, publications, knowledge sharing and co-opetition.
  • One knowledge sharing activity to look forward to is the IDEA (Innovation, Disruption, Enquiry, Access) Institute on Artificial intelligence (AI), funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant ($208,142) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant number RE-246419-OLS-20), received by Dania Bilal, Soo Young Rieh and I. The Institute will create two cohorts of leaders 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. The IDEA Institute will live on through ASIS&T after the grant period. The collaboration was a result of the Big Ideas discussions led during Elaine Toms presidency.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not only facing uncertainties and health disparities, to which the ASIS&T community has responded with research and knowledge sharing, but we have also been witness to the George Floyd killing, one of many victims of police brutality, which has drawn attention to systemic racism, and the need for change worldwide. The Board issued the ASIS&T Statement on Injustice and Standing with George Floyd, on 4th June 2020, in a recognition that we need to commit to addressing injustice, which highlighted some of our association efforts, and resulted in online conversation on Open Forum and an ASIS&T Hour.
  • Co-opetition through the creation of the iFederation, a collaboration with ALISE and the iSchools, will allow for greater synergies and address issues on a common front.

I wish to close by thanking our Board of Directors for stewarding the association with me; Executive Director Lydia Middleton and all central office staff for all they do to deliver the Association’s activities and support our work; the many committees and task forces for providing leadership to strengthen the association, and the SIGs and Chapters for building community that create our sense of identity and belonging. I am especially indebted 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.

A special thank you to our conference sponsors and donors, and warm congratulations to our Award winners for the excellence for which you are being recognized.

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 continue to lead to address society’s grand challenges.

---We are ASIS&T: Be, Belong, Become. Thank you.

Return to Inside ASIS&T, December 2020