Submitted by Debbie Malone, VAL Committee member: This blog post is one in a series of posts discussing the library value work being done by the ACRL Liaisons to non-library higher education organizations. We welcome Allison Ricker, Oberlin College, who is our liaison to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
I am honored to serve as the ALA Liaison to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the “world’s largest general scientific society.” AAAS is well-known as the publisher of Science, one of the most highly respected journals world wide to cover all aspects of science. Researchers at any level as well as students and the general public, can appreciate the weekly issues of Science; every issue includes a review of science news in brief, research summaries, editorials or opinion pieces, letters, and reviews as well as peer-reviewed research articles of vital importance. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.
AAAS is far more than a publisher. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. Its affiliations with 261 other academies of science, as well as scholarly, educational and research organizations make it the world’s largest non-profit federation of scientific and engineering societies. AAAS and its Affiliates serve more than 10 million members. The principal goals of AAAS are:
- to further the work of scientists
- to facilitate cooperation among them
- to foster scientific freedom and responsibility
- to improve the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare
- and to increase public understanding and appreciation of the importance and promise of the methods of science in human progress.
One of my functions as ALA Liaison is participating in the meeting of Affiliates at the AAAS Annual Meeting, hearing reports on legislative concerns, federal funding for science, and programs to develop scientific literacy and foster innovation. The wide range of scientific interests and achievements represented in that one session is just a fraction of the dazzling array of symposia, workshops, posters, events, seminars and plenary lectures that make up the annual meeting.
Months before the annual meeting held in February, I send out a call inviting librarians to request free registration for the meeting. For several years, the AAAS Publications Division has sponsored up to 30 librarians annually, covering the entire cost of meeting registration and/or negotiating a reduced fee for all librarian attendees. To date, AAAS has supported meeting attendance for at least 240 librarians, thereby increasing our visibility among scientists as colleagues and potential collaborators in matters of scientific literacy, research and education.
My role in this process, as I see it, is akin to corralling feral cats. In the past three years there has been an initially enthusiastic response to the call for sponsored librarians (nearly 60 individuals vying for 30 sponsorships this fall), but inevitably and unavoidably several (or many) people cancel. Contacting people on the wait list is an interesting exercise in email or phone tag. Eventually, the list is finalized by mid-January and we join the throng in some conference city
Affiliate liaisons are appointed by AAAS to one the association’s 24 sections. The 24 sections arrange symposia for the annual meeting, nominate fellows and review fellow submissions, elect officers, and provide expertise for association-wide projects. The ALA Liaison is affiliated with Section T, Information, Computing, and Communication. Their business meeting and a session for librarians are the two other obligatory functions at the annual meeting. Planning the librarian’s session, with assistance from AAAS staff, has been a delight. Our sessions have been an excellent way for librarians to give presentations and discuss among ourselves, as well as hear from the AAAS Publications Division staff, but we have not been as successful drawing in other meeting attendees. There are, however, five days of opportunities for interaction with others, in invigorating and intellectually stimulating sessions and events that open possibilities for outreach and collaboration. Some sponsored librarians have also given poster presentations in the general poster session, which brings hundreds of conferees together.
Many AAAS objectives and activities dovetail with those of ACRL, particularly in scholarly communication, legislative advocacy, facilitating research and education, and literacy broadly defined. I have regularly attended sessions and events sponsored by the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER), which states, “Building on AAAS’s long-standing commitment to relate scientific knowledge and technological development to the purposes and concerns of society at large, [DoSER] facilitates communication between scientific and religious communities.” As within ACRL, a diversity of viewpoints are respectfully considered, with an abiding interest in resolving misunderstandings with reliance on accurate information while supporting the fundamental rights of freedom of opinion and expression.
I am looking forward to the 2015 Annual Meeting on “Innovations, Information, and Imaging.” The theme is a natural for a group of librarians, and I am sure we will find ways to promote library innovations for accessing, archiving and managing information, including imaging new and old collections to create digital resources for teaching and research. Presentations at the librarian’s session, now in the early planning stages, will be posted on the Science site, at sciencemag.org/librarians.
Alison S. Ricker | Science Librarian | Oberlin College | firstname.lastname@example.org