Reviving the Lost Art of Planning for the Future

Letter From the Executive Director

January 2021

Through all of the strangeness that has filled the past 10 months, one of the oddest elements to fall by the wayside has been planning. It became difficult to think months in advance when each day of the pandemic brought new restrictions, limitations, or attempts to rethink traditional approaches to providing service in this topsy-turvy environment.

Not long ago, a yearly tradition in my family during the holiday break was the day we spent mapping out the coming year: who would be where, what my travel schedule would be, and when sitters would be needed to tend to our children. It would take nearly half a day to plan these details. Both fortunately and not, this activity is a thing of the past. While my kids are a bit older and can tend to themselves, at least for short periods, my own ability to hop on a train or plane and head off to a far-flung meeting locale has been completely grounded, like sitting out a storm in the airport.

The start of a new year had traditionally been a time full of possibility and of goal setting for the upcoming year. This year seems so different in many ways, with the same feeling of time standing still, but also slowly passing on. 

Not one who likes to sit still or wait for the storm to pass—in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano trapped many thousands in Europe, I sought to escape—I want to start looking forward to the future again. Instead of erasing things off our calendars, let’s all get excited about putting things back on the calendar. 2021 will be a year when society gets back on its feet, and things start moving again. Sure, we might not know exactly when that will be, and the exact timing will vary from person to person, location to location, but there is light out there.

Without committing to buying a plane ticket or making a hotel reservation yet, here are 10 things I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • We’re starting off January with a flurry of standards work that came to a close at the end of 2020. The public comment period for several NISO standards under development is open, offering a critical opportunity for the community to consider a working group’s efforts and provide feedback before the project is published. This month, we’re collecting feedback for a revision of the NISO indexing standard, as well as providing an opportunity for feedback on the Recommended Practice on Content Platform Migrations. In addition, a new NISO Recommended Practice on Reproducibility Badging for articles in computer science is due to be published in January 2021.  

  • In December, it was announced that an amazing group of people were elected to the incoming Board of Directors of FORCE11 in 2021, and I am honored to be among them. The first orientation meeting is this week. FORCE11 has been among the most vibrant communities in scholarly communication over the past decade, and it has been a tremendous experience engaging with their work. Continuing the work of FORCE11 into its second decade will be an exciting challenge.

  • The second NISO Plus Conference kicks off in late February, with content beginning to stream virtually in the run-up to the meeting. Note that the early-bird registration period closes on January 8, so you’ll want to move quickly. But have no fear, the conference registration rate remains modest even after the early bird deadline! The conference looks to be amazing. Hopefully, you’re as excited as we at NISO are for this event!

  • The ISO Principles of Identification Technical Report, which was approved by , should be published in early 2021. I have been chair of this project, which was developed by ISO TC 46/SC 9, the ISO Technical Subcommittee on Identification and Description that is managed by NISO. I’ll be speaking about it at the upcoming PIDapalooza conference in January.

  • The Board of the Public Library Data Alliance met for the first time in December and will meet again throughout the spring of 2021 to map out a plan for its work, goals, and vision for the next several years. This amazing group of leaders from the public library community is keen to explore ways to use data in storytelling about how libraries are serving their communities.

  • SeamlessAccess has proved incredibly valuable in supporting the rapid shift to remote learning and research that has taken place in 2020. This shift will continue into the new year, particularly as more service providers roll out their applications of the SeamlessAccess service. The project will also continue its work on describing attribute bundles and preparing model contract language that librarians can use to buttress their expectations of privacy when using the SeamlessAccess service.

  • Continuing our focus on equity and inclusion, members of the NISO community have begun a conversation about addressing some legacy issues in historical literature, which was not as sensitive to differences of race, ethnicity, or sexuality. What are ways in which modern services can signal an awareness or review of these issues without retracting large swaths of their historical materials?

  • Thankfully, because of decades of investment and research in genetics and medical research by dedicated scientists, several vaccines have proven effective and are beginning to be distributed. At some point in 2021, a majority of you will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, and this period will be well and finally behind us.  Please stay safe until you get those shots.

  • Looking further into the year, who is to say whether ALA Annual, the ALPSP fall meeting, the FORCE11 conference, the Frankfurt Book Fair, or the Fall 2021 CNI meeting will be the next in-person gathering for many of us?  Rest assured, we will be able to get together in person again sometime in the not-too-distant future.

  • Finally, on a personal note, last year my daughter and I had planned to visit the last state in the US to which we hadn’t yet traveled: Alaska. Obviously, we couldn’t make the trip in 2020, but we will make it at some point in 2021, and it will be amazing! My wish for each of you is that you, too, will have the opportunity to catch up on some missed or delayed personal activity. Whatever it might be, I hope it will bring you the joy we have all missed so much over the last months.

I hope that all of you are looking forward to great things in the coming year, both personally and professionally. Whatever they are, do share your ideas and experiences with us. Perhaps one may be the next great NISO project, which we will later recognize as having moved us forward in 2021. Happy New Year, everyone!


Todd Carpenter
Executive Director, NISO