President’s Column, November 2021
As I reflect on what I should be writing in my first message as President, I think of my ASIS&T Bulletin column in 2013 when I first wrote on what ASIS&T means to me. ASIS&T is a professional community, which, along with being a professional association, is also an extended family for all its members - a place where one can feel at home. Each year at the annual meeting, you meet luminaries - senior members who have been coming to the meeting for 10-20-30-40 years, people who have made their mark in the information science field, and who speak to a new member with the same level of friendship, support, and kindness as they would to people they’ve known for years! While ASIS&T has numerous opportunities for leadership development - through the SIGs, student and regional chapters, committees, the Board, award juries, etc., being supportive, collegial, and helping each other are what I have experienced as being the hallmarks of ASIS&T. In the recent past, we have been able to grow the ASIS&T membership to above 2000 members, primarily on account of reduced and free membership for qualifying countries. We hope the new members will be able to imbibe and carry forward this supportive ASIS&T culture even as we forge ahead to meet new challenges.
I think of each ASIS&T member as, in Brenda Dervin’s words, “a body-mind-heart-spirit moving through time and space, with a past history, present reality and future dreams or ambitions.” Dervin writes that humans are sometimes orderly and sometimes chaotic, that there’s a human need to create meaning, and that no person is the average of their culture. “We fight as human beings to fall in line. We fight as human beings to fall out of line.” As I speak to people, I find that the COVID-19 pandemic has had its toll on everyone. A lot of people are either tired or overworked or overstretched. It is my quest to connect to people - to you and to make each one of us feel valued, and feel listened to.
Instead of coming up with new Presidential initiatives (except for certain tactics such as an ASIS&T-wide mentorship program, multilingual chapter events, a succession-continuity plan, etc. that I mention below), my personal goals for ASIS&T align completely with the goals of the strategic plan. All that I have wanted for ASIS&T in my different roles over the years finds its way into the strategic plan that ASIS&T has committed itself to from 2020-2025. It has 39 tactics for fulfilling 15 objectives that serve 4 major goals: 1) supporting, engaging, and growing the ASIS&T community; 2) improving ASIS&T publications; 3) improving knowledge-sharing opportunities; and 4) developing and implementing co-opetition opportunities with affiliate information associations, global organizations, industry partners, and practitioner organizations. Many of the tactics of the strategic plan are charges for various committees, SIGs, and chapters. The board discusses and tracks the progress on the tactics and we will carry forward that work.
For example, for Goal 1) we have a reorganized chapter structure, and new chapters in Africa and the Middle East, along with our chapters in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and South Asia, a distinguished member program with an inaugural pool of 28 members, and investment in a marketing plan. The Awards and Honors Committee is working towards a fellowship program. The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) task force will work this year under Clara Chu to further our DEIA objectives. While the professional development committee is working towards an early-career mentorship program, and SIGs and Chapters are tasked with creating a mentor program, I would like to put together a task force to work towards an ASIS&T-wide mentorship program where every member has a mentor and is a mentor to someone. To further deepen the international nature of our association, I would urge Chapters to organize some events in local languages during the year, along with those in English. This will help further the impact of ASIS&T in local communities. You can also volunteer to translate the chapter page on the ASIS&T website into different languages representing the chapter.
For Goal 2, with the hard work of the Publications committee, we have Editor-in-Chiefs in place for JASIST, a new open publication - Information Matters, a reinvigorated ARIST, proposal for another journal to complement JASIST, and a Managing Editor to help with publications. The committee will work this year to help make the new publications successful. I urge you to participate actively and contribute to the publications.
For Goal 3, the Professional Development committee is working towards a 24-hour conference and podcasts. We have a successful webinar structure in place - high both in quality and frequency. The History committee is working hard to curate and safeguard ASIS&T’s 84-year old history. We have begun initial steps towards a new consulting arm of ASIS&T, which would allow ASIS&T members to take on contract work and provide additional revenue streams for the association. I plan to work with Lydia Middleton to put in place a succession-continuity plan for the association. We have a strong team in place for the 2022 ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh with Dirk Lewandowski as Conference Chair. The conference theme is, “Crisis,
Transition, Resilience: Re-Imagining an Information-Resilient Society”. Even though the recently concluded hybrid Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City was successful, it was imbalanced in modality with more than 500 virtual attendees and only slightly more than 100 in-person attendees. As the conversations and sense of community that an in-person conference fosters are crucial to preserve, the Board has decided to have the 85th Annual Meeting completely in-person with some minimal virtual components. The mid-year virtual conference being planned and other programming such as webinars will continue to cater to virtual attendees across the world.
For Goal 4, ASIS&T has set up the iFederation in partnership with iConference and ALISE. In recent years, the iFederation held joint panels. The 2022 ALISE conference is being timed along with the ASIS&T Annual Meeting. This year, with the help of a new leader working with me, and leaders of Chapter Assembly and regional Chapters, we will work towards creating a database of LIS associations across the world and exploring possibilities for collaboration. I also hope to attend Chapter Meetings and Chapter events when possible, even if briefly. Do please add me to your calendar invites.
Do please write to me and let me know how I, working with the Board, the excellent ASIS&T staff headed by Lydia Middleton, and the various SIGs, chapters, and committees can make your life easier than what it is. I hope to be able to personally speak with as many of you as I possibly can during the year. I would like you to know that I am just an email or phone call away, and you can easily contact me or any of the board members. In conclusion, I would like to share with you a poem (listen to it here) I wrote in May-June this year that I read out at the Business Meeting in Salt Lake City upon taking over as President.
A bucketful of happiness
I feel like taking a bucketful of happiness and pouring it all over you.
You, yes, you,
You, who is dealing with pain,
I want to show you the cherry blossoms,
and the rainbow.
I want to teach you how to talk freely,
To laugh heartily,
And to sing your heart out.
I want to hug you tight,
And tell you everything will be alright.
You, who is dealing with loss,
You, who is a prisoner of your own words,
You, who is holding on to grudges,
You, who is letting a judgment banish a loved one from your heart,
You, who is weighed by hurt feelings and injured relationships,
I want to help you forgive and embrace,
and to heal and mend,
I want to help you untangle
the knots of your heart.
You, who is overworked,
Whose knees give in to the weight of expectations,
You, who is grappling with chronic pain,
You, who bravely gets up to face one more day,
You, who feels tired with years catching up,
With thinning hair and wrinkling skin,
Or not the best of health.
I want to make you a bench by the flowers
And the stream,
For you to rest and rejuvenate,
And sit by your side to make you feel better.
You, who is tired of faking and pretending,
And putting on a mask to look strong,
I want to tell you that I won’t judge you.
And I will protect you.
And that it’s okay for you to be
vulnerable, and to be seen.
You, who has no arms coming forward
to help you,
I want to tell you that you are enough.
You, who is tired of waiting,
And waiting some more.
You, who is feeling misunderstood,
and unloved, or abandoned,
I want to tell you that love will nourish you,
And love will keep you together.
So cheer up, my friend!
Sit up and smile.
It’s a bright new day
Ready to greet and love you.
If there’s no one else for you,
I am right here, now, for you.
Naresh Agarwal's 2021 Business Meeting Remarks