Letter from the Executive Director, March 2021
It should be abundantly clear that NISO is an organization supported by, driven by, and made effective by volunteers. The NISO staff does its utmost to keep projects and programs running, but without the contributions of the experts, the outreach teams, and the leadership who contribute to our work, we would accomplish far, far less. It wasn’t until the merger with NFAIS in 2019 that NISO publicly recognized the contributions of its volunteers, in part because we lacked a forum to highlight those contributions. This was a gap, and I’m pleased that with the launch of NISO Plus last year, we have rectified this deficiency. We should celebrate those in our community who take participation in NISO to the highest levels. In the second year of the NISO Plus Conference, the best part for me has been the opportunity to acknowledge and thank those many volunteers who make NISO a success.
The NISO Fellows Award was previously established to acknowledge lifetime achievement both within and outside NISO. We continued this tradition by honoring George Kerscher as the 2021 NISO Fellow. His incredible list of contributions would fill more than the length of this note. He has led the transformation of content from print to digital for more than three decades, having personally contributed to dozens of standards projects related to accessibility and to the formats that are used across the entire world of electronic content. NISO also continued its tradition of honoring an outstanding individual with the Miles Conrad Lecture, this year highlighting Heather Joseph’s lifetime of achievements in pursuit of open content. Heather’s talk connected openness to the mission of scholarly communication and laid forth a vision of a world more effective and transformed by open sharing of knowledge. Both George’s accomplishments and Heather’s vision are inspiring.
We also honored those who contribute in unsung ways, as well. This year, we recognized Julie Zhu and Athena Hoeppner for the work that they have made in various NISO standards projects. Julie has contributed her time and efforts not only at the NISO Topic Committee level, but also on six different standards committees. Athena has served as Topic Committee Co-Chair for Information Policy and Analysis, as well as co-chair of the Content Platform Migrations project, and is presently advocating for another potential NISO standards project, which she discussed at NISO Plus. Both are stellar examples of the dedication and passion that members of our community bring to NISO, for which we all owe a debt of gratitude.
Overall, the NISO Plus Conference was a celebration of volunteer contributors. The projects and ideas that were discussed, all of the potential outputs that will be pursued, even the event itself — all were a result of volunteer contributions. The voluntary contributions of <sponsors> allowed us to keep registration rates low. Each of the speakers gave freely of their time, for which we are incredibly grateful. The program committee contributed their expertise in crafting an amazing program. It was an astonishing team effort. To watch it come together and to watch the hundreds of participants engage in our community filled me with such pride. At the end of NISO Plus 2021, I talked about keeping the excitement going and keeping the conversations on the new NISO Community Forum and project ideas discussed at the meeting moving forward. We can support you, but primarily, this will need to be done by all of you. Based on past results, I have every reason for faith that you all will continue to do the work necessary to make our collective vision for NISO Plus a success. Because it is not what happens between the time when NISO Plus starts and when it ends that matters. It is what we are doing today, now that the conference is over, that will determine whether the meeting achieves our goals.
In the coming weeks, we will work to organize a number of follow-up workshops to harness the energy that was unleashed last week at NISO Plus. We have dozens of ideas, which generated a lot of interest. We can’t pursue all of them, to be sure. But we will see if the community wants to engage in many of them. Those that have the passionate support of volunteers will advance, because it isn’t up to the few of us central to NISO. It is up to you all to engage and support our work. That is what being a part of a community means; contributing what you can to its overall success. Let’s bring the discussions from last week to life — this week, next week, and through the rest of the year.