Bulletin, December 2006/January 2007

President's Page

Edie Rasmussen
2007 ASIS&T President
Professor and Director, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
The University of British Columbia
Suite 301, 6190 Agronomy Road 
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3
E-mail: edie.Rasmussen<at>ubc.ca

When Sam Hastings, as past-president of ASIS&T and chair of the Nominations Committee, asked me to run for president, I was more surprised than anything else. Shortly before, I had announced my intention of leaving the University of Pittsburgh, where I had been a faculty member for 15 years, in order to return to Canada to become director of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Weren’t ASIS&T presidents American? After all, it is the American Society… “No,” said Sam, in fact given the Society’s growing emphasis on internationalization, citizenship and residency weren’t factors at all. I’m not the first Canadian to be president of the Society – I think perhaps Candy Schwartz had that honor – but I am probably the first president to hold office while living outside the United States. 

My year as president-elect has been an educational one. In addition to my deficiency of citizenship and residency, I had another lack – although I had been active in ASIS&T in a variety of capacities, I had never served on the board. The ASIS&T Board of 14 members meets quarterly, at the Annual Meeting, and throughout the year in person or by conference call, including a two-day retreat at mid-year. They are a diverse group who mirror the diversity in the membership – academics, consultants, information professionals, library directors, systems experts. It has been a pleasure to work with them, and you are fortunate in having such a dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of professionals to guide your Society.

At the end of this year as president-in-training (and I thank Dick Hill for his patience), I have come to appreciate the complexity of the Society, its finances, resources and challenges. I’ve also come to appreciate the need for continuity, as many of the issues and initiatives that the Society faces are not amenable to rapid solutions, but are shepherded from one president to the next, facilitated by the executive director. When I ran for this office I identified three concerns: membership, internationalization and publications. My year on the board has confirmed for me that these are key issues facing the Society. 

Membership is an issue because the Society is not growing – and this at a time when changes brought about by the Web have made information in all its forms more accessible than ever before and created new information-related professions. What is needed is first to make these new groups aware of ASIS&T and second to convince them it is their society of choice as a professional community. I hope to build on prior initiatives, such as the membership survey, and also work closely with the Membership Committee to identify strategies to broaden the membership base. 

The Society has increased its international presence in recent years, largely through the work of a number of committed individuals. The international paper competition, the position of international liaison to the board, the International Program & Collaboration Task Force, and the International Calendar of Information Science Conferences are all examples of this trend. ASIS&T in-kind sponsorship has been extended to a number of international conferences. We have international chapters in Europe and Taipei, and a new student chapter at the University of British Columbia has just been formed. This evidence of internationalization is positive, but we have not addressed the underlying question: What kind of international presence should ASIS&T have? Does internationalization mean more members from more countries? More international chapters? A greater global presence? What are the barriers to international membership? These questions are interesting ones that I would like to address in the year ahead.

ASIS&T, like other professional associations, has a resource in its publications which represent its intellectual capital and which generate needed revenue for the Society. We can be proud of our publications: the Bulletin, JASIST, our conference proceedings, ARIST and various monographs, which are influential and highly cited in our field. As an “& Technology” society we need to be in the forefront of electronic access and to consider how to make our publications widely available, reducing barriers to access, while ensuring that the complex issues of ownership, authenticity and preservation are addressed. 

I’ve presented these three goals: increased membership, internationalization and increased availability and financial stability for our publications, as separate entities, but of course they are closely interconnected. Internationalization broadens membership, greater access to our publications increases our international visibility and a broader community base will strengthen our publications – progress in one area will support progress in the others. I look forward to working with the board, with executive director Dick Hill, with ASIS&T committees and task forces, SIGS and chapters, and with the membership at large towards these goals.

When I was elected president of ASIS&T, I received many congratulations… and also lots of advice. This is an association in which the membership is invested; you have ideas about where we should be and how we should get there. I look forward to hearing more of your ideas and opinions in the coming year.