Reflecting on how participation in ASIS&T led to her winning the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award for 2010, Crystal Fulton focused on how ASIS&T’s Special Interest Group/Information Needs, Seeking and Use (SIG/USE) has added to her career. Dr. Fulton reflected on early engaging discussions with the SIG/USE scholarly network and members’ encouragement to become actively involved in SIG planning activities. This led to executive roles including chairmanship of the group in 2008-2009 and serving on the SIG/USE Cabinet. During Dr. Fulton’s chairmanship, the SIG celebrated its 10th anniversary with a range of activities aimed at membership development and communications and was named SIG-of-the-Year for the second time. Dr. Fulton recognized the many colleagues who have supported her career development and SIG participation and encouraged ASIS&T members to become active in special interest group planning.

career development
information scientists

Bulletin, February/March 2011

2010 ASIS&T James M. Cretsos Leadership Award

by Crystal Fulton

Winning the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award is a great honor and a highlight of 2010 for me. The award means a great deal to me, particularly as recognition of my work in ASIS&T for SIG/USE. I have been asked to discuss here my participation in the ASIS&T and SIG/USE communities; however, my story is really one of how ASIS&T has contributed to my development.

Although I had known about ASIS&T for some time, I did not become a member until 2004. At that point, I had already been living in Ireland for a few years where I had focused my efforts largely on European associations to “find my feet” here. However, I remained in close contact with colleagues who had formed the backbone of my support network during my doctoral years in Canada; my subsequent joining was due in no small part to Karen Fisher and Julia Hersberger, who not only urged me to travel to ASIS&T’s Annual Meeting, but also convinced me to join ASIS&T and SIG/USE (Information Needs, Seeking and Use).

Becoming a member of SIG/USE opened up to me a wider world of discussion about information behavior. The annual SIG/USE Symposium offered an introduction to a highly collegial network of scholars who maintained a strong presence in ASIS&T. I am very grateful to the members who engaged me in discussion at our symposia and in the hotel corridors during various ASIS&T Annual Meetings. While they are too many to list here, particular thanks go to Barbara Wildemuth, one of the founding members and organizers of SIG/USE, for her ongoing support and encouragement.

I immediately found myself helping with symposium activities at the 2004 conference. The SIG/USE planning meeting for the next year deepened my participation and began my annual contribution to planning and implementing activities in our SIG. My interest in SIG/USE led subsequently to my executive roles as chair-elect of SIG/USE in 2007-2008, chair in 2008-2009 and past chair in 2009-2010. From 2007, I have been a member of SIG/USE Cabinet, a gathering of past chairs of the SIG who facilitate decision making in the group. Taking part also in the general ASIS&T SIG Cabinet not only helped me learn about the internal organization of SIGs in ASIS&T, but also importantly introduced me to K.T. Vaughan, whose bubbling enthusiasm and commitment to the SIGs were contagious. 

In 2008-2009, SIG/USE celebrated its 10th anniversary. Officially chartered at the 1999 ASIS&T Mid-Year Meeting, SIG/USE has for now over a decade promoted research that explores cognitive and affective information behavior. Our 10th anniversary offered the SIG an important opportunity to pause and reflect on our accomplishments and future possibilities, not only as a special interest group in ASIS&T, but also as researchers. As a result, plans for celebrating this landmark year in SIG/USE’s history began a full year before ASIS&T 2009. Having previously chaired the ISIC (Information Seeking in Context) conference in 2004 in Dublin, I knew SIG/USE had a very busy year ahead. 

Our 10th anniversary celebrations were a huge success, as a result of the time and support given generously by fellow SIG/USE officers (Karen Fisher, Olof Sundin and Soo Young Rieh), SIG/USE Cabinet, our SIG/USE membership and ASIS&T organizers. Our combined efforts enabled us to mark our 10th anniversary meaningfully with a number of events at the 2009 ASIS&T Annual Meeting.

A highly participatory anniversary panel, 10 Years of SIG/USE: A Fish Bowl Dialogue on Information Behavior Research Past, Present & Future, welcomed all ASIS&T members to discuss both accomplishments and future of information behavior research. While I moderated the session, Donald Case, University of Kentucky; Barbara Wildemuth, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Karen Fisher, University of Washington; and Heidi Julien, University of Alberta, reflected on the development of information behavior research. A fish bowl dialogue followed, initiated by discussants Marcia Bates, University of California at Los Angeles; Gary Burnett, Florida State University; Sanda Erdelez, University of Missouri; and Eric Meyers, University of British Columbia. With over 125 researchers participating in this event, the panel was an overwhelming success, the echoes of which will stimulate new ideas in information behavior research. 

Inspired by our anniversary year, we undertook several new and exciting innovative projects, including the following:

  1. Academy of SIG/USE Research Fellows. A first in SIG/USE and in information behavior circles, an academy of SIG/USE research fellows was established to celebrate 10 years of SIG/USE and to recognize the contribution of scholars to information behavior. Marking 10 years of SIG/USE, 10 academics were inducted at ASIS&T 2009. An additional fellow will now be inducted each year.
  2. Special 10th Anniversary Evening Reception. Marking a departure from the usual evening receptions at ASIS&T, SIG/USE organized a special anniversary reception for ASIS&T 2009. Special thanks are due to SIG/USE member Ruth Vondracek who facilitated the organization of catering for this event, as well as the ASIS&T organizers who helped us organize our birthday cake.
  3. 10th Anniversary Poster of Influential Models of Information Behavior. SIG/USE members proposed 10 of the most influential models in information behavior research for inclusion on a poster, which was then sold as a fundraiser for our SIG.
  4. SIG/USE Presence in Social Computing Venues. SIG/USE has led the charge in adopting a variety of social media to engage and communicate with our membership. 
    • Virtual Discussion via Second Life. A first at an ASIS&T conference, SIG/USE incorporated Second Life into both our 10th anniversary panel and our Annual SIG/USE Symposium, enabling SIG/USE members who could not physically attend the Annual Meeting to virtually participate in discussion. Allison Bruekner and Diane Nahl were instrumental in helping us extend SIG/USE’s presence virtually.
    • Twitter. Taking advantage of instant communication with our membership, we tweeted news to our membership. To date, SIG/USE remains the only SIG to tweet to its membership. 
    • Facebook. SIG/USE was an early adopter of Facebook, and membership to our Facebook group grew in 2009.
    • Flickr. SIG/USE’s space in Flickr was updated, and all members are still encouraged to post their photos there.
    • SIG/USE website. We rejuvenated our web presence through the SIG/USE website, a main information portal to information about the SIG, awards, events and publications. Tawnya Means, our webmaster, facilitated expansion of our web site and brought together all of our social computing points under one umbrella. 

Our various modes of communication were aimed to attract and retain members. To ensure effective communication across social computing venues as well as our SIG/USE discussion list through ASIS&T, Stephanie Willen Brown took on a new role of communications coordinator for SIG/USE and must be commended for her capable work behind the scene in managing overall communication to our membership as well as efficiently tweeting and Facebook-ing everyone.

Having won SIG-of-the-Year in 2008, our 10th anniversary year efforts were rewarded with the SIG-of-the-Year award again in 2010, two sterling outcomes for the hard work of so many members over the past few years. 

In addition, our post-anniversary publication, “A Decade of SIG/USE: Celebrating SIG/USE and Information Behavior Research,” a special section in the February/March 2010, edition of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology [1], won the SIG Publication-of-the-Year Award in 2010. Editing this publication was a memorable experience and it was a pleasure working with my colleagues who contributed to this reflection on our 10th anniversary events.

My experiences with SIG/USE and ASIS&T have been very rewarding, both on the personal level of working with colleagues and as an academic. I would urge all ASIS&T members to consider participating in one or more SIGs, and I would especially encourage SIG/USE members to become actively involved in annual event planning. 

In closing I’d like to thank Diane Sonnenwald, head of school at the UCD School of Information and Library Studies (, Julie Hersberger, Stephanie Willen Brown, Gary Burnett, Soo Young Rieh, Lis Davenport, Claire McInerney and everyone in SIG/USE and ASIS&T for their hard work and kind support for my nomination for the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award.

Resource Mentioned in the Article 
[1] Fulton, C. (Ed.). (February/March 2010). A decade of SIG/USE: Celebrating SIG/USE and information behavior research. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 36(3). Retrieved December 18, 2010, from, pp.25-48.

Crystal Fulton is a lecturer in the School of Information & Library Studies University College Dublin, Belfield Dublin, Ireland. She can be reached by email at Crystal.Fulton<at>