ASIS&T Annual Meeting: Student volunteer edition

I had the good fortune of attending this year’s annual meeting of ASIS&T – the American Society for Information Science and Technology – as a student volunteer. I was randomly selected to participate in helping to ensure that paper presentations operated smoothly, and the financial assistance (read: free conference attendance) was quite helpful.

Each volunteer submitted a request for the panels that they preferred to attend, and I’m happy to say that I was matched with two of the panels I had requested. In addition to monitoring these panels, I was asked to supervise the Placement Room, a venue where job hunters and recruiters could submit their resumes and position openings. I found it extraordinarily helpful to chat with the patrons of the placement room about the professorships they were hoping to fill, and their research focuses as PhD candidates.

The first panel for which I volunteered was positioned within the Information Behavior track. Each presenter was firmly based within the HIB discipline; the whole of the panel showcased a wide variety of focal points, from research in the humanities to information sharing around specific health issues. I particularly enjoyed a paper presentation by Michael Olsson from the University of Technology Sydney in which he interviewed thirty five Shakespearean actors in order to identify the ways in which each actor seeks to make sense of their role. The results of Mr. Olsson’s interviews were quite surprising, and I am intrigued to think of how I might apply similar methodology to other types of performing arts.

Monday afternoon’s volunteer activities included a panel on digital collections. Three of the four papers presented addressed issues of copyright and aggregation of collections, while the fourth spoke to the generational divide in use of digital technology and what that might portend for our office-specific relationships across generations. An LIS professor from my alma matter, UW-Madison, presented a paper on the ways in which copyright issues prevent digital collections from coming to fruition, in spite of cultural expectations of remix and reuse. This presentation afforded an interesting point of view regarding ways in which legal issues prevent access to cultural collections.

My last obligation as a volunteer was a panel discussion on the information industry. Leaders in the tech industry were on hand to provide insight into the challenges that the tech industry is working to tackle, including improvements in search technology, cloud computing in business, the increasing expenses of data storage, and the shift to green technologies in data centers. The panelists included owners of tech startups local to Pittsburgh, and a manager at Google’s Pittsburgh branch. It was very interesting to hear their perspective on the trends going on in information, and I was happy to hear that they do employ people with MLS degrees for relevant projects.

In addition to these obligations, I took in so many presentations that I could barely think straight, joined in the many social activities that were planned for the conference (free wine!), participated in a meeting of the special interest group for “Visualization, Images and Sound,” was impressed by the quality of posters at the poster session, met a whole lot of friendly information scientists, and even took a couple of hours outside of the conference to visit the Andy Warhol museum.

Attending the ASIS&T Annual Meeting is a great way to see what’s on the forefront of thought in Information Science, and to get a feel for the trends in LIS research. This conference is particularly recommended for students who are considering an academic path through the field, as well as practitioners who are working with technical aspects of information work.

Stay tuned for updates on the ASIS&T Annual Meeting from Denise Pasquinelli and Kevin Pelrine, my fellow ASIS&T @ Pratt officers and conference attendees.

Davis Erin Anderson, VP, ASIS&T @ Pratt


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