Among the 250+ attendees at the inaugural NISO Plus meeting were 12 especially important people — our first NISO Plus scholarship winners. Hailing from Baltimore to Brazil, they were selected from close to 60 applicants, based on why they wanted to attend the conference and what they hoped to get out of it. So, did it live up to their expectations? Here’s what they told us…

First, we asked how attending NISO Plus helped them professionally, and a number of themes emerged in their answers:

Networking — both with their fellow scholarship winners and more widely. To quote Kimberly Arleth of the American Psychological Association: “It was particularly helpful to attend with a cohort of other scholarship winners from a variety of organizations with differing focuses/interest areas. The conversations the group had throughout the conference were invaluable in gaining insight into how others approach this work.” Liz Fedden (Leo Baeck Institute) said: “I was excited to meet other early career librarians too who were excited about learning more and growing in their field … the scholarship awardees are now part of my group of new librarians starting their career. I also met other librarians at different points in their career who inspired me with not only what they have accomplished by how they did it.” And for Gabi Mejias of ORCID: “ the networking and social element of the event allowed me to have lively — and nerdy! — conversations with other attendants and learn more about their ongoing work, challenges and ideas.”

Perspective — looking at issues and organizations in new ways. For example, Ray Pun (Alder Graduate School of Education) noted that: “ I learned how to think differently about artificial intelligence in the library field and appreciated the numerous perspectives shared on this issue,” while for Marisela Madrigal of Bates College: “Attending this conference has given me the opportunity to learn and hear about both sides of the information profession: publishers and librarians. Sitting in on the sessions allowed me to see firsthand how librarians and publishers interact—and more importantly, discuss the future of products and services and how they can be improved to provide quality service to users.”

Ideas — practical suggestions they can use in their own work. Clarissa West-White of Bethune-Cookman University told us that: “I have wanted to offer more technical, data-related workshops to students but was unsure where to begin. The conference has helped me frame where to begin and how to enter the conversation with them about privacy and protecting their personal information,” while Ray: “received some ideas on how to promote my faculty colleagues’ work in open access, and now feel more comfortable in implementing such ideas after attending NISO Plus.”

Next, we asked about the most valuable thing they learned at NISO Plus. Themes here included:

Community — the need for the information community to work together to achieve our shared goals. As Lega Martin Yoyo Mogga of WHO put it: “The role of information professionals is very critical in this information age. This honorable duty can’t be performed well by operating in silos but through collective efforts and synergy while working under a central body like NISO.” Qiana Johnson (Northwestern University) agreed: “The most valuable thing I learned at NISO Plus was if you identify a problem or concern in the information community, there are those who are willing to come together with you and work on it.” Or, as Ray put it, “it really does take a village/community to get things going … We need to engage with each other, ask the difficult questions, and come up with solutions collaboratively.

Context — learning more about the information community overall. For example, Gabi Rundle (Emerald Group Publishing, UK) told us that what she valued most was: “learning about the scholarly community as a whole. Being fairly new to the academic publishing industry, and working outside of standard journals publishing, a lot of what was discussed was really new to me, and the sessions really helped me build on my knowledge.” Marisela noted that: “Prior to attending this conference, I had the impression that publishers primarily just wanted the business of librarians and did not really care about the user interface of products … Applying the knowledge gained from attending this conference will assist me to better communicate with my institution’s service providers and reevaluate my own workflow.”

Problem-solving — several scholarship winners identified specific learning points that they can put into practice. Melissa Close of Emerald Group Publishing, US, told us: “Coming from a small social sciences publisher, the most valuable thing I learned at NISO Plus was context for many of the pain points librarians express. Going to sessions about new systems and up and coming technology was a great opportunity to get a grasp of the solutions we are working towards as a community to the problems we are facing now … Already, I have noticed that the questions I am asking of myself and my colleagues as we are discussing our content and plans has changed, becoming reflective of a more nuanced perspective on the needs of other stakeholders in the industry.”  Kelly Denzer (Davidson College) said: “Professionally, the KBART Automation project directly relates to the work I do and addresses the challenges I have accessing accurate records for our collections.Those sessions were particularly applicable to my everyday work and my overall understanding of the processes used by publishers, vendors, and information specialists to get accurate metadata into discovery systems.” Clarissa told us she learned: “That peoples’ biases impact data in ways that aren’t always common sense … this proved quite valuable to me as I move about my day-to-day decisions and interactions.” For Liz, the most valuable learning points were: “the advancements in linked data and the standards that will soon be released. I learned about Bibframe and the ILS Folio which I hope to help my library develop long term plans to switch over to. The ILS we currently use will soon become outdated and I’m so excited that we can possibly use this as an opportunity to launch into the future.” 

Last, but not least, we wanted to know what more NISO can do to help support a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable information community, and their ideas  included:

Expanding the pool — diversifying the group of scholarship attendees further. For example, Kimberly felt that: “Continuing to support diversity among those who attend the conference, including bringing in researchers or other consumers of information, would only add to the conversations that could be had to help shape the future for the industry. It was nice to see even in this first year a mix of national and international attendants and it would be great to see this grow.” Carolina Tanigushi of SciELO took that further, noting that: “the path to a more diverse and equitable information community starts by enhancing the voice of those outside of the usual US-Europe pathway … The scholarship was an amazing initiative to increase diversity in the community, but as a next step I’d be great if you would consider inviting more speakers from underrepresented areas to truly understand our struggles and what makes our models sustainable and functional.”

Staying involved — we are delighted that the scholarship winners want to continue to stay involved with NISO, and they had some great suggestions about how to do so. Gabi M told us that: “As a scholarship awardee I would love to contribute by helping with the program, event organization, promotion and wherever remote help is needed. Maybe NISO could implement an ambassador program for those of us who do not live in the US and would like to promote the organization in other countries.”  Liz suggested creating a mentor program: “The prospect of engaging in NISO is good but it can be difficult to know what that looks like especially early in my career when I do not yet have much expertise. If I were able to work with a mentor it would help me identify specific ways I can engage with NISO while watching somebody who has more experience leverage that for the good of the information community as a whole.” 

Our thanks to all of our scholarship winners, for their enthusiasm and engagement during NISO Plus, and for giving us plenty of food for thought as we think about how to develop both the conference and the scholarship program in future. Look out for more posts from them in the coming months!


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