Letter from the Executive Director, August 2020
Not that long ago, summer breaks were an opportunity to get away, shift gears, and enjoy some time off. It seems in our current world, it’s increasingly difficult to “get away” or even to get some time off. When many are forced to work from home, the idea of a “staycation” isn’t the pleasant idea it seemed not that long ago. And the opportunities for getting a needed change of scenery are potentially risky and the costs harder to bear for a great number of our community members, who are facing increasing economic challenges. Something that hasn’t changed, though, is how quickly summer seems to pass. We're already thinking about the fall, and with the revolving cycle of seasons, it’s a promising time to consider our vision for what's next.
There are four core elements for achieving this vision in NISO’s strategic plan, formally published today. The first is the inclusivity of those whom we seek to engage in our work. The second is the vitality and forward-thinking aspect of the work that we do. The third focuses on the value and quality of the work we undertake. Finally, the fourth centers around driving the engagement, participation, and sustainability of the community we support. I discussed these priorities during our Annual Members Meeting and in NISO I/O last month.
In September, NISO will host the first NFAIS Humanities Roundtable since the merger of our two organizations. Originally envisioned for the spring, like so many other events it was postponed, and we have restructured the event as virtual. It’s now scheduled for September 23, 2020. This event will tie together two of NISO’s strategic goals, diversity and inclusion and thought leadership. In recent years, the humanities have worked to address issues of inequality, questioning the normative paradigms of culture in literary works. In this cultural moment, despite the pandemic, exploring the power structures that exist or have existed and subsequently changed is important. As a concrete example, our information resource, discovery, and management systems are inherently biased and based on a decidedly Western vocabulary. Much like the classification systems of the 19th century (I’m calling you out, Dewey!), this Western European–centric vocabulary exists and frames much of our search and discovery. The Humanities Roundtable will explore ways to break out of this constraint. The event will also explore the topic of providing historical context for content that may be considered offensive today, and the ever-important issue of providing content to those who might have challenges accessing it. I expect we will also delve into the topic of assessment and measuring success in ways that take into greater account the diversity of the creator community. Like the NISO Plus Conference, we aim not only to discuss these ideas and the challenges in addressing them, but also to explore ways that NISO can move beyond discussion and transform the ideas into action.
We are seeking sponsors to help make this program and discussion forum free to attendees, which is why registration is not yet open. If your organization is in a position to support this program and thereby make it open access, we would appreciate hearing from you.
Also looking forward, we’re putting into place plans for our forthcoming NISO Plus 21 Conference in February. Despite all the challenges that we are facing individually and collectively, NISO is committed to advancing these important conversations and identifying areas that need a consensus solution to solving problems that inhibit access to materials. The barriers may be obvious to some, but less so to others. Often, solutions become apparent when concerned, skilled, and empowered people come together with a common purpose. We seek to provide that forum, both at the forthcoming Humanities Roundtable and NISO Plus 21, and at the other events we will host throughout the fall, winter, and beyond. We’ll be looking forward to your voices and ideas to contribute to these conversations.
Executive Director, NISO