Bulletin, February/March 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

Details, details, details. There are so many details to managing and leading an effective organization, whether it is a library, a professional society, an academic department or even a Cub Scout Pack (I have experience in all four). An old cliché states, “The devil is in the details.” I don’t believe that – rather, “gold is in the details.” Let me explain with a few examples.

On November 30, each ASIS&T member received an email from Dick Hill, executive director, informing him or her about the new Web-enabled membership database. You were asked to visit the new ASIS&T website (I hope you have seen this new site by now), log in and update your member profile, especially two sections – the Web viewable section and the areas of expertise. Alas, as I’m writing this (on the winter solstice), few of you have completed this task.

Now, I know we are all busy, but we (I and your fellow ASIS&T colleagues) need you to fill in these two sections of the membership database. The Board of Directors decided not to make any membership information Web-viewable that was not chosen by the individual member. We could have gone the other route – making your directory information viewable and then making you “privatize” this information after-the-fact. Instead, we are relying on you to choose which information to make available to your fellow ASIS&T members (remember – only members who are logged in can view the Web-enabled information; none of the membership data is publicly viewable).

Secondly, with this new membership database, we will soon be able to “mine” the information for a variety of purposes. Chapter and SIG program planners could look for expert presenters on a given topic for an upcoming event. Standing committee chairs could locate expertise in a given field for fulfilling a committee charge. And your Board of Directors and president (that’s me) frequently need advice on various topics, challenges and issues – this database will be one source to tap into for such advice (although, not the only one).

Finally, if you change jobs, phone numbers or even email addresses, you are now able to enter this updated contact information into the membership database yourself, ensuring timely, accurate information. All of us benefit, including you. So, the gold is really in the details – the details you provide in the membership database.

There is another area where our details could be mined – reporting on our events and programs, especially at the chapter level. You and your ASIS&T colleagues spend a great deal of time creating and delivering top-notch programs each year. We hear about these programs through the various electronic discussion lists and the respective chapter websites, but once the events have occurred, there is frequently silence.

Some chapters do a good job of capturing their events – through such means as newsletters, blogs or photographs. We – not the royal “we,” but, rather, your national leaders, such as the Board of Directors – would like to see more of this content mirrored on the ASIS&T website, especially now that we have a prominent news section on the front page. Let colleagues know what a great event you had. Send along some pictures and a brief write-up to ASIS&T headquarters. Send out your “captured event” information (even if it is just a URL to a website or blog) to Chapter-l, ASIS-l and other relevant lists. For those folks who couldn’t attend, let them know what they missed! And for those who did attend, let your publicity cement the memories. “Mine” more gold.

My final example focuses on personal news. The ASIS&T Bulletin has a section for members to announce awards received, appointments to prominent boards/committees, significant new publications and recent job changes. Our new website also has this capability to publicize personal news. However, both these forums rely on you to provide the content – to provide the gold. Now, I know that this can be a difficult action for many of us, because if we do follow through and pass this news along, it appears as if we are arrogant, perhaps conceited, or just full of ourselves – a state of being that many (but not all) of us would avoid.

However, I would like you to think of this action in a different light – akin to updating your email address or providing a new phone number in the membership database. These nuggets of information – your recent award, a job transfer, a new publication – are pieces of information that can be used by your colleagues to enhance programs, conduct business and support research, among other activities. For example, publishing a book is another way of announcing your expertise in a given topic/discipline. An ASIS&T colleague, who is planning, say, a chapter event, would note this announcement on the ASIS&T website and say, “Hey, why don’t we invite so-and-so to present on such-and-such a topic; she just wrote a book about it.” Here’s another possibility: Say you receive an award from a division or section of – oh, let me pick ACM or SLA – and it so happens your Board of Directors is looking for someone to act as a liaison with that division or section. We now know an ASIS&T member who is active in and who has close ties with said division or section. Even more gold.

Let me wrap up by emphasizing the responsibility we all have to fill in the details – to create the gold – in all levels of our Society. I, as your president, have this responsibility, and you, as my colleagues and fellow members, also bear this responsibility. Let’s work together to mine more gold for everyone.

Michael (your “gold-mining president”) Leach