Bulletin, December 2006/January 2007

2006 Cretsos Award Winner

Leadership Is a Chain Reaction

by Caryn L. Anderson

Caryn L. Anderson is program coordinator and lecturer in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College, Boston. Reach her by email at Caryn.Anderson<at>simmons.edu.

Itís all Candyís fault. Iím sure Iím not the first to say that around ASIS&T. If Candy Schwartz [ASIS&T President (1999), Watson Davis Award (2000), Thomson ISI Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award (1994)] werenít such an engaging teacher, encouraging advisor, inspiring leader and friendly colleague, I might have floated lazily in and out of the Simmons College ASIS&T chapter until my MLIS degree was awarded and then slunk quietly back into the world of public policy analysis and nonprofit management from whence I came. I am deeply honored to receive the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award this year and to share it with my brilliant and dedicated SIG/International Information Issues (SIG/III) colleague, Nadia Caidi. But the deeds that have made me eligible for this award are due, in great measure, to the tireless support and partnership of a community of ASIS&T colleagues (old and new), which have made this society one of the most socially and intellectually invigorating experiences of my professional career.

I went to my first ASIS&T Annual Meeting before I even managed to make it to my first Simmons chapter meeting. On my flight back from Long Beach, California, in 2003, I composed an essay about my experience intended to fulfill the ďdisseminationĒ activity required for reimbursement of half my travel expenses by the Simmons College GSLIS Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA). When I asked Candy to read it to see if it was appropriate, she promptly forwarded it to Dick Hill, executive director of ASIS&T, and Irene Travis, editor of the Bulletin. Before I knew it, I was looking at my first LIS-related publication (ďThe Future in Person: A Student Memberís View of ASIS&T 2003,Ē www.asis.org/Bulletin/Feb-04/anderson.html). When I finally made it to my first Simmons chapter meeting, the main agenda item was selecting a new chapter chair. Candy forcefully nominated me, and, as my grade for cataloguing was in her hands, I agreed. I doubt even Candy suspected, at that moment, the trajectory she had launched me on.

In my tenure as chair of the Simmons chapter, coordinating events and funneling information back and forth between my fellow students and professional ASIS&T colleagues, I met a host of people who would shape my emerging ASIS&T life. I met Kris Liberman (1996 Cretsos Award Winner), who dragged me to my first Membership Committee meeting in 2004, whereupon I somehow ended up responsible for the New Member Brunch in 2005 (along with Elise Lewis) and on the international subcommittee with the legendary Michel Menou, whom I had also met through Candy and her arrangement of his appearance at Simmons College to discuss international information issues (a special interest of mine). It was my partnership with Michel the following year that birthed the International Calendar of Information Science Conferences (http://icisc.neasist.org/). But the calendar would not have succeeded without the support of my colleagues in the New England chapter of ASIS&T (NEASIS&T), particularly Beatrice Pulliam, then program chair of NEASIS&T (and Chapter Member-of-the-Year for 2005), who helped to facilitate the hosting of the calendar through the NEASIS&T website and negotiate the financial support of commercial sponsors.

The International Calendar of Information Science Conferences was also supported by the European chapter of ASIS&T and Special Interest Group/International Information Issues (SIG/III). Michel subsequently shoehorned me into SIG/III by secretly nominating me to be InfoShare officer and join Sue OíNeill Johnson in raising funds and selecting professionals in developing countries to receive complimentary ASIS&T memberships. It was then that I discovered the amazing team of dedicated and energetic SIG/III members who welcomed me instantly and enthusiastically into their world. Yin Zhang and Nadia Caidi, particularly, were unbelievably helpful and supportive as I explored the rich traditions and evolving dynamics of the dozens of ongoing SIG/III activities. 

An extensive list of SIG/III members have also provided me with instrumental support in translating the new ASIS&T information sheet into seven languages [Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, German, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish; all at www.asis.org/infosheets/], with five more already on the way (Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Mongolian, Russian). I may have coordinated the project, but this multilingual promotional piece involved the efforts of a team of people beyond the translators, including the editing skills of the Membership Recruitment Subcommittee, Gerry Benoitís multilingual design talents and the tireless cooperation of the crew at ASIS&T headquarters (Dick Hill, Jan Hatzakos and Vanessa Foss, particularly), who have been unbelievably patient with my interminable requests and suggestions since the day I first met Dick in Long Beach back in 2003. 

I have been thrilled to be able to return all the SIG/III support this past year by facilitating another connection between SIG/III and my home chapter. NEASIS&T is now hosting the SIG/III blog, which has become a fundamental vehicle for international discussion on issues of trust in information as part of the 2006 Global Information Village Plaza (http://sigiii.neasist.org/). 

These reflections bring me back to some of the most important people that have fueled and nurtured my ASIS&T engagement. The New England chapter of ASIS&T is full of wonderfully brilliant, curious, reliable and fun-loving information professionals. I went to my first NEASIS&T program committee meeting while I was still a student. I listened in awe as Darcy Duke and Nicole Hennig of the MIT libraries talked rapidly and casually about a host of information science concepts, technologies and new initiatives that made my head spin. But they never laughed at my questions and always took extra time to explain and make me feel part of the club. In more recent years, Iíve been thrilled to work with Darcy and Nicole alongside an amazingly effective and enthusiastic team of colleagues including Christine Quirion, Ken Varnum, Arun Sannuti and my dear friend Beatrice Pulliam, to craft, promote and execute award-winning, practical programs at the cutting edge of information science and technology (www.neasist.org/index.html). 

ASIS&T board member Beata Panagopoulos and outgoing president Michael Leach are New Englanders who have continued to patiently smile and mentor me while I bend their ears over and over again, like a child would. Iíve also been greatly honored to work and partner with some truly visionary and hard-working new Simmons student chapter leaders in Kjersten Elias, Jennifer Lege and Alison Cody. Be sure to keep an eye out for these names! 

Any field of inquiry and practice has the potential to be engaging or stagnant. The folks Iíve mentioned, along with countless others, keep information science and technology exciting for me because they hang out in the center, where the action is, and are constantly alert Ė looking for new ideas, creating new connections between those ideas and diverse colleagues, and drawing others into the party. 

The James M. Cretsos Award is intended to honor an individual for leadership activities and qualities. But Iím sure Jim knows, as I certainly do, that leaders are only as good as the team that supports them and the subsequent leaders they encourage. Iím pleased, therefore, to accept this award for all of us. And for those of you who still canít figure out how someone as pushy and outspoken and loud-mouthed as I am could get a leadership awardÖ well, itís all Candyís fault.