Bulletin, December/January 2006

Michael LeachPresident's Page

Michael Leach
2006 ASIS&T President
Director, Physics Research Library, Harvard University  
Head of Collection Development, Cabot Science Library, Harvard University
leach at physics.harvard.edu; mrleach at fas.harvard.edu

Normally, this being my first column in the Bulletin as your President, I would be writing about such topics as our upcoming goals for this year or what my vision is. Well, even if you have not heard about the five-year strategic plan or the efforts to expand our Society further into the international arena, you can find most of those details on the ASIS&T website or check the archives of ASIS-L for announcements. I won't repeat those details here. Instead, I want to talk about communities - and our roles in communities.

Each of us belongs to a number of communities. On the local level, we may participate in a religious community, serve in our local government or play on a sports team. We may also meet a group of friends regularly for a game of bridge, to discuss books or to enjoy the culinary delights of a nearby restaurant. If we have children, we may be serving on a local school parents' organization, coaching a football team (I'm thinking soccer here) or leading a group of scouts on a hike (my preference). Regardless of what the community is, we each participate in one or more. Why?

We share in the mission, goals and activities of each of these communities with our fellow members. Ideally, this sharing is fun, challenging and meaningful. Participating in a community provides purpose in our lives. There may be tangible benefits to being part of a community, but more often than not, there are more intangibles to consider - making new friends; providing service to fellow members of our community without expecting remuneration; creating shared memories; challenging each other to strive for high goals, to live according to high ideals; etc.

In our communities, there are various roles we can assume - ways in which we can participate with the others in our community. At times, we can be the leaders in our community - coaching, inspiring, guiding, etc. At other times, we are the followers - supporting, fulfilling, initiating, etc. Both roles are important - it is no surprise that one cannot be a leader without followers, and followers without leaders is a state of anarchy (despite what team management says). Regardless of our roles at any given time, we all have something to do, something to accomplish in our communities.

Now, you may be wondering why I have gone philosophical on you with this column. In essence, I want you to take a step back and look at your reasons for participating in this community called ASIS&T. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of supporting and enacting our five-year strategic plan, I want to be sure you remember why each of us is participating in this endeavor, in this community. Do you share in the mission; do you share in the goals; do you share in the activities? Are you having fun doing this? Are you challenged at times? Is your participation in this community meaningful for you?

ASIS&T is not a company that sells a product or service it is a community. You don't just pay a (membership) fee and get "x" or "y" some tangible deliverable - in return. Joining ASIS&T is not the same as joining a frequent flyer program of some airline. Joining ASIS&T is not the same as becoming a card-carrying member of Barnes & Noble so you can receive a 15% discount on book purchases. Frequent flyer programs and product discounts are not communities, but ASIS&T is.

Let me ask one more question of you: Can you be a part of a community if you do nothing at all with or for that community? More specifically: What do you see as your role in this community called ASIS&T?

I could use this point of my column to list the many openings on committees, officer positions for SIGs, authoring opportunities for our publications, etc., that are currently available in our ASIS&T community - chances for you to play a role, to participate, to be active. Rather, at this point, I just want you to think - to ponder and to contemplate. Take a moment to step back from the frantic pace of our lives and to consider why we are doing the things we do, in the communities we choose to be a part of.

In future Bulletin columns and elsewhere I will talk about specific opportunities - roles, activities and programs for participation. There will be lists; there will be calls for participation; etc. But not at this very moment.

As your leader for the coming year, know that when I call for your participation in our community, I am not just asking you to do "x" or accomplish "y" rather, I am hoping you will take time to get to know the members of your community, have fun with them, derive some meaning from this collective activity and be challenged. That is how I approach my role in this community, and that is why I have taken time to write about communities.

Michael (aka ASIS&T Philosopher President) Leach

P.S. Many of you will find out (if you haven't already) that while I am a manager by profession who takes his responsibilities seriously, I do have a sense of humor, too. And I don't bite. So, feel free to email me, call me on the phone, bump into me on the train (that has happened) and tell me what you think, how you are feeling and what great ideas you have for ASIS&T (and the world in general).