The NFAIS Annual Meeting: February 26-March 1, 1990

By Brenner, Ev | Information Today, May 1990 | Go to article overview

The NFAIS Annual Meeting: February 26-March 1, 1990

Brenner, Ev, Information Today

The NFAIS Annual Meeting February 26-March 1, 1990

The Scandal

Shocking news! We hear more and more that information is POWER. But, what about the misuse of power? We know that EC92 denotes an intent to wield more power via a cooperative effort of European member countries. In fact, that intent seemed so important that the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services (NFAIS) devoted one full day of its three day annual meeting to EC92. But that's not shocking news. We know and feel the power and influence of a Chemical Abstracts, one of the most powerful and influential members of NFAIS. Harry Collier in England keeps reminding and reminding us of that in Monitor, so that's not shocking news, at least not in Europe.

Okay, get ready. Here goes. The shocking news is that Art Elias received a Certificate of Appreciation from NFAIS. Now, I know this is not going to sit well with a lot of you readers out there, particularly those who know the intimate relationship between Art and Betty Unruh, the Executive Director of NFAIS, but I'm here to defend them. In fact, don't be too quick to begin litigation. As you might know, Art is an astute guy and has become expert in anticipating all problems when a database producer negotiates a contract with a database vendor. Given that prenuptial arrangements are so prevalent today, I wouldn't be surprised if Art and Betty's marriage contract stipulated that in the event Betty became executive director of NFAIS, it would in no way interfere with Art receiving a Certificate of Appreciation.

Under Betty Unruh's leadership, NFAIS has been a most active organization. I am an admirer of this organization. Through its publications, members receive very pertinent up-to-date news, and the seminars it has been holding fill an educational gap for people in all areas of information dissemination. Now it has finally become obvious that Betty couldn't have done it all by herself. It's logical. If Art receives a Certificate of Appreciation, he worked for it - he earned it. He had to work harder than anyone for it. Forget all other recipients of the award. They didn't have to live with NFAIS.

Don't hiss and boo this seeming transgression by NFAIS. Instead, let's roar our approval. Long may Betty and Art live - and together!

The Meeting

An annual highlight at the NFAIS meeting is The Miles Conrad Lecture. There's a published collection of them well worth your reading. This year's was excellent. Lois Granick was the recipient. She just recently retired as head of Psychological Abstracts at the American Psychological Association and is now Special Advisor on Electronic Communication Design at APA. I met Lois in the hallway just before she was to deliver the lecture and facetiously said. "Give `em hell, Lois." And `ya know what? she did!

Lois rued the fact that the abstracting and indexing (A&I) community had over the years failed to act collectively and has had no "transcending" goals. She traced activities specifically related to the duplication of records amongst the A&I services and showed what meager results these activities have produced. Nor has there been any significant cooperative work on standards since 1976. She lamented that standards such as the 1973 Standard Record Format did not emanate from the database producers but was forced upon them by the vendors. She went so far as to say that the A&I community, because of these failures, has little influence, could become irrelevant, and has no secure foundation for changes to come. And - it has itself to blame. Them's fightin' words. We'd better clean up our act.

"Cleaning up our act" took on an expanded meaning when she related it to delivering reliable, accurate, and dependable information. She spoke of achieving a moral highground and ethics, not business ethics, but ethics defined as "trust" in information.

"Transcending" goals and "trust" in information may sound idealistic and can easily be dismissed as unrealistic generalities, but Lois Granick is a practicalist and has been a fervent worker in the Industry Information Association as well as NFAIS. …

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