Bulletin, April/May 2006

President's Page

by Michael Leach

Collaboration and synergy. Buzz words? New/old paradigms? The latest business trend? When it comes to organizations and their success, we hear this phrase a lot – in professional literature, in newspaper articles, on the radio/TV talk shows and elsewhere.  But what does “collaboration and synergy” mean for us in ASIS&T? A lot. Let’s look at some examples.

ASIS&T has some really strong chapters – and some really weak ones. The same goes for our special interest groups (SIGs). Some of our chapters hold half a dozen or more programs a year. Others hold none. Our SIGs have traditionally focused their programs at the Annual Meeting, but more and more are holding pre-conferences – or want to. A conundrum arises – we end up with “program-rich” and “program-poor” chapters and SIGs. How do we share and distribute this wealth? I’m sure you see the direction in which I am heading: collaboration and synergy.

My first question to you: Why can’t our chapters and SIGs collaborate to create local programs? You would be surprised at how little has been done in this area. Why? Many reasons, but I won’t go into those. Rather, I ask, Why not? What would facilitate this collaboration? How can we put the leaders of these groups together? Similarly, why can’t chapters collaborate on producing programs – a strong chapter helping a weaker one? What is keeping us from accomplishing these collaborations?

Do we need new communication tools to support collaborations? Clearly electronic discussion lists are not the answer, as we already have a SIGs-l and a Chapters-l. How about one or two conference calls amongst interested SIG and chapter leaders? Would this form of communication help? Another perspective – do we need to restructure Chapter Assembly and the SIG Cabinet at the Annual Meeting? Do we need other face-to-face opportunities to create synergy?

I can tell you that your Board of Directors and a number of Standing Committees at the Society level are already addressing some of the questions I’ve raised. We are currently examining ways to “take programs on the road” – that is, to develop program modules that can be used by more than one chapter. The local chapters just provide the logistical support. With a good program, one can then recruit new members and leaders. Similarly, we have already supported one SIG/Chapter collaboration, the DASER (Digital Archives for Science & Engineering Resources) Summit . Much has been learned from this program. Furthermore, we restructured the Chapter Assembly and SIG Cabinet meetings at the last Annual Meeting in Charlotte (although we have not done any collaborative SIG/Chapter governance meeting yet). Other items are in the planning stages and will be rolled out over the coming months. But we need more – your participation.

The above initiatives are only part of the answer toward leveraging our collaborative and synergetic/synergic (yes, both are correct adjectival forms) potential. Chapter & SIG leaders must step up and take an active role in this process. And each of us must be willing to communicate with our respective leaders, at the SIG, chapter and Society levels – tell us what you think and share with us your new ideas for facilitating collaboration and synergy. Please, don’t keep your ideas to yourself – share them. If you are not sure to whom to talk, then just email me (mrleach<at>fas.harvard.edu). I’ll be happy to facilitate your collaborative effort. So, let’s not make collaboration and synergy buzzwords; rather, let’s make them an integral part of our leadership style and planning processes.

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