WASHINGTON—As it starts a year-long celebration of its 50th birthday with a gala annual meeting in Boston this week, the American Society for Information Science faces a couple of paradoxes that together constitute an identity crisis.

While the information industry is growing rapidly, the membership of ASIS is not. The society’s diversity, attested to by a membership drawn from a wide swath of academia, industry and government, has the disadvantage of diffusing its professional focus as well as the advantage of providing common goals for several interest groups.

However, the Washington-based society is taking the opportunity presented by the anniversary celebrations to address the identity issue and to increase its influence in the information world. ASIS hopes to increase its visibility by taking stands on public policy issues involving information, and by marketing itself to potential members.

The membership’s diversity is central to the debate over what ASIS can and...

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