Drawing A Difficult Year to A Close

Letter from the Executive Director, December 2020

As we enter the home stretch of what has been a very long, very trying, and very strange year, let's reflect on the resilience of our community. We have scrambled. We have retooled. We have made difficult decisions about what matters most. We have had to cut and trim to the barest minimum to survive in some cases. 

Through it all, we have managed. We have managed homeschooling. We have managed remote interactions. We have managed to keep business moving and continued to be productive. We have managed to support our at-home IT infrastructures to keep things moving. We have kept the boat afloat and moving forward. Nothing is quite as we had hoped, to be sure, but “life finds a way,” to quote Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park

Through this past fall, NISO has adapted our educational program plan to focus on how institutions in the information community have adapted their operations. The series has been an opportunity to highlight successes and share what people have learned during this time, which has been tremendous. From redirecting computer resources to those that need them, to adjusting staff responsibilities, to recognizing that not everyone has the same access to technical infrastructure to participate, the range of challenges that our community has overcome has been amazing. The last two events in this Change Management series, Rethinking Spaces and Moving into the Future, are scheduled for December. Throughout the series, professionals have shared story after story of how their communities have managed to succeed despite the challenges. 

Similarly, the need to innovate has not diminished. In many ways, it has accelerated. Moving to a virtual footing has been easier on some than others, but by no means has it been effortless for anyone, including NISO. Recognizing that standards play a critical role in how everyone is functioning remotely, people are paying more attention to the infrastructure of single sign-on access, of integrated discovery tools, manuscript processing, and accessibility. Over the past four months, we have seen a rise in the number of new work item proposals being put forward to the NISO leadership structure, with two initiatives launched last month. As  always seems to be the case, the more attention that is drawn to infrastructure, the more people recognize the inherent problems and the amount of work necessary to fix them.

Getting through such times as these allows all of us to see the strengths that we always had in reserve. When we look back on 2020, while there is much to mourn, particularly those who have directly suffered the pain of the pandemic, I hope we are able to reflect on the many positive aspects of having managed our way through. 

In some ways, we have done more than simply managed. For example, as NISO took an early decision to focus on a virtual event as an opportunity, the successes in planning the NISO Plus 2021 conference have piled up. The keynote speaker lineup is AMAZING.  We have received tremendous interest in discussing topics from the community, with a plethora of session proposals. While hosting a virtual event will be quite different from the in-person event we hosted last February, what we are planning is going to be tremendous. Registration is open and, thanks to our sponsors, extremely reasonably priced!

As we draw this year to a close, I  would again like to draw attention and give thanks to all of those who make NISO’s work possible. There are more than 500 people who engage regularly in support of our efforts, in working groups and leadership committees, and asmembers who read and comment on the standards or recommended practices we draft. The volunteers who engage with NISO’s work remain as active as ever, despite their own home and organizational challenges. Especially as the demands of home and work life increase and, of course, take priority, it is so gratifying to see how much time and effort these volunteers commit to NISO’s work. In a period of thanks and appreciation, we at NISO owe so much to you all for contributing and for making our outputs possible.

I hope that all of you reading this have a healthy, safe, and peaceful end to this challenging year.  Many things are pointing in a positive direction regarding the pandemic in the coming year. Perhaps that will be the greatest gift in the coming year: Relief.

With best wishes for the new year,

Todd Carpenter
Executive Director