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of the American Society for Information Science and Technology       Vol. 31, No. 4    April/May 2005

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ASIS&T President Nicholas J. BelkinPresident's Page

HELP!

In this issues column, rather than focusing solely on describing what ASIS&T is doing, Id like to ask for some help from the membership in order to learn something about what you think we should be doing and how we should be doing it. And Id also like to learn more about what you think of what we are doing. We already have valuable information with respect to some of these issues as a result of our recent membership survey, but surveys are limited in terms of eliciting expressions of opinion.

I come to this focus as a result of a visit with a local ASIS&T chapter and with a couple of ASIS&T student chapters. In the course of these visits I learned about several problems facing these groups that they and I consider fairly serious. These problems mostly have to do with communication. As a result of these meetings and previous expressions of concern on these issues, the ASIS&T Board of Directors will be exploring means to increase and better structure communication between chapters and ASIS&T headquarters and among the chapters themselves. We are also considering new services to help the local chapters in their operations. We anticipate that the new ASIS&T website structure will provide a good framework for accomplishing these goals.

In addition, we will be considering ways in which to ensure that student members learn about how they can participate in ASIS&T volunteer activities, ways in which communication among student chapters can be enhanced and ways in which the benefits of student membership in ASIS&T can be made more clear. The last, of course, also requires that we make sure that the activities of the Society actually do provide substantive benefit to student members. My hope is that by opening an informal channel of communication to the membership at-large the Board and I will be able to get a broader range of opinion on issues of importance to the members and also a better idea of which issues are considered most important.

To start the ball rolling Id like to suggest that all members weigh in on some of our new or proposed initiatives. For instance, try the new ASIS&T Digital Library, and let me know what you think of its look and feel, functionality, usability, content and usefulness. By the time you read this, the ASIS&T DL should be offering access not only to JASIST and the Bulletin, but also to some volumes of the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting and of the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, using semi-automatic indexing from the ASIS&T Thesaurus of Information Science and Technology. As the professional society concerned with organization, representation, access to and use of information, we should be leaders in these areas. Let us know if we are, and if we arent, in what ways.

Again by the time this column is published or shortly thereafter, you will be interacting with a new and quite different ASIS&T website. Our previous site was, to be charitable, not too good and not too user-friendly. Is this one better? We hope so, but we also understand that any new system can be improved by taking account of its actual use. Let us know whether weve accomplished our goals of cleaner and more transparent structure, ease of use and utility to members, and let us know what weve forgotten to do, what weve done not so well and what we should think about doing in the future to support our members better.

The board has directed that the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting be produced only in electronic form (to be available to the attendees in some portable format and to all the members through the ASIS&T Digital Library). Is this a positive step for you? Should we be engaging in more purely digital publication?

Our membership services have been expanding recently, primarily through the use of electronic, as well as paper, communication. One more example is the ASIS&T Jobline Online. Is this the right direction for us to be moving? If so, in what ways should we extend our efforts of this sort? If not, what would be better? The Board has established an active Publications Task Force considering a variety of issues, including the possibility of new publication(s), integration of new materials in the Digital Library, going all digital and related questions. What are your thoughts, desires or requirements on our publication future?

Beyond benefits associated with publications, support for job advertisers and seekers and enhanced communication within our community, what should ASIS&T be doing in order to make the Society more useful to you, to the information science community and to society at-large? Is increased membership and greater variety in members of ASIS&T important to you? The Board is currently considering initiatives to target undergraduate information science and technology students as members and to increase our international presence and membership. The Board believes that enhancing membership in this way will increase both the viability and visibility of the Society and also its usefulness to its members. Does this make sense to you? Are other paths to these goals available? What other populations should we be targeting?

The ASIS&T Board is in the process of developing a (reasonably) long-term strategic plan of development. Your input on issues such as those that Ive outlined above will be valuable to us in its construction and implementation, and I hope that many of you will respond to my request here for direct participation in our Societys future. You can send your comments to me at an email account that I believe has space enough to handle the expected flood of messages:

asist-prex@scils.rutgers.edu

Im looking forward to answers to these questions:

        Is ASIS&T doing all that it should be doing for its members?

        Is what ASIS&T is doing relevant to its members?

        Should ASIS&T be doing new things for its members?

        Does anyone read this column?

Nicholas J. Belkin
2005 ASIS&T President
Professor & Chair
Department of Library and Information Science
School of Communication , Information & Library Studies
Rutgers University
4 Huntington Street
New Brunswick , NJ 08901-1071
nick@belkin.rutgers.edu
732-932-7500, ext. 8271  


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