The Most Important Things Begin on Wednesday

Letter from the Executive Director, March 2020

If you’re planning a big event, months before it starts you have an idea about what you hope to do and how it will turn out. You begin by laying out the big details, the date, the location, the budget, and then go to work. You fret about details big and small. You worry about who will come and if everyone will get along. You hope the weather will cooperate and that all the various component bells will chime in sync and on time. When the day arrives, you fight back some nerves and then dive into the event, trying to enjoy the time together, while also scrambling to make sure everyone else is satisfied. In the end, you step back, look through the photos, share some laughs with your friends and family and, hopefully, reflect on the success and joy your event brought to others.

If you have put on an event of any reasonable size, you can relate to how the family of NISO’s staff and Board felt over the past year. Last week, NISO hosted its first NISO Plus Conference. It could not have been a greater success. Each and every goal we set for the meeting was surpassed. The meeting sold out almost a month before the start. Support from sponsoring organizations allowed us to keep registration rates modest and allowed us to bring in 12 scholarship winners. Sessions were engaging and participants were eager to share their ideas and experiences. The tracking documents are full of notes and potential projects NISO can work to advance. Social media was full of lively reporting and virtual discussions that matched the enthusiasm in the rooms.

The Board and the staff had a vision for why NISO Plus needed to exist. It was tied to the rationale for the merger between NISO and NFAIS. We felt the need to marry what is happening on the edges of technology with the practical demands of bringing that technology into use. Identifying what are the strategic trends in our community is one important step in the process of advancing our organization. Taking that knowledge and applying it is another. We hoped to continue to discuss the emerging strategic technology trends, but also foster conversations about what we collectively need to do to support the advancement of those trends.

As I said in my closing remarks, while we can be proud of what happened in the rooms at NISO Plus, the most important work happens now. Unlike the often-repeated tagline for Las Vegas, what happens at NISO Plus has to be spread widely for the conference to be effective. The most important outcome of the meeting is not what transpired between when it started on Sunday and when it closed on Tuesday.

The most important things began on Wednesday after everyone left, when we sat down and began the process of synthesizing the results and began sifting through the suggestions and project ideas, big and small, to determine what we as a community need to do.The NISO staff have begun synthesizing our reactions. Several others have as well: herehere, and here. I hope you will do the same. In March, the NISO leadership Topic Committees will begin their own synthesis and tease out potential projects to move forward with.

If you had an idea — or liked someone else’s ideas — and want to make sure it doesn’t get lost or overlooked, I encourage you to reach out to me or Nettie Lagace and press the case that we pursue that work. Also, I’d like to encourage you to volunteer to help, because in the words of Tommie Usdin, during her session on JATS-BITS-STS, “That’s how volunteer organizations work.” And to continue quoting Tommie Usdin, “Volunteering to help doesn’t mean you volunteer to do all the work, it means you HELP.” NISO can support you in finding others who are facing the same challenges and want to help too. This is how we get our work done: we help each other solve problems.

When the NISO and NFAIS Boards met in January 2019 to work through a vision for the merger and to lay out ideas for the annual conference that became NISO Plus, we were confident it would be well received. It would have been an act of hubris to envision it being as great a success as it was. So many things came together at the right time: the people, the enthusiasm, the support. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all the sponsors, the <program committee>, the many speakers and moderators, and of course all the attendees who engaged as well. It wasn’t the “sage on the stage” that made the conference a success, it was the entire group who contributed.

As we begin to develop the outcomes, against which the final success of NISO Plus will be judged, we are also looking forward as well to our next gathering. We have settled on the dates for the second NISO Plus conference, which will take place again in Baltimore on February 21-23, 2021. Registration will open in September. In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do. Let’s keep this party going!

Todd Carpenter
Executive Director, NISO