Gratitude to Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy for calling us together for LIS Mental Health Week 2016.

Pondering my bona fides. I will say this: the black dog is my constant companion. I cannot imagine life without that weight.

I am afraid to say more too openly.

I will deflect, then, but in a way that I hope is useful to others.

Consider this: I am certain, as much as I am certain of anything, that my profession has killed at least three men of my acquaintance.

A mentor. A friend. A colleague who I did not know as well as I would have liked, but who I respected.

All of whom were loved. All of whom had the respect of their colleagues — and the customers they served.

All of whom cared, deeply. Too much? I cannot say.

I have been working in library automation long enough to have become a member of that strange group of folks who have their own lore of long nights, of impossible demands and dilemmas, of being at once part of and separate from the overall profession of librarianship. Long enough to have seen friends and colleagues pass away, and to know that my list of the departed will only lengthen.

But these men? All I know is that they left us, or were taken, too soon — and that I can all too easily imagine circumstances where they could have stayed longer. (But please, please don’t take this as an expression of blame.)

I am haunted by the others whom I don’t know, and never will.

I cannot reconcile myself to this. If this blog post were a letter, it would be spotted by my tears.

But I can make a plea.

The relationship between librarians and their vendors is difficult and fraught. It is all to easy to demonize vendors — but sometimes, enmity is warranted; more often, adversariality at least is; and accountability: always. Thus do the strictures of the systems we live in constrain us and alienate us from one another.

At times, circumstances may not permit warmth or even much kindness. But please remember this, if not for me, for the memory of my absent friends: humans occupy both ends of the library/vendor relationship. Humans.

As some of you already know, Marlene and I are moving from Seattle to Atlanta in December. We’ve moved many (too many?) times before, so we’ve got most of the logistics down pat. Movers: hired! New house: rented! Mail forwarding: set up! Physical books: still too dang many!

We could do it in our sleep! (And the scary thing is, perhaps we have in the past.)

One thing that is different this time is that we’ll be driving across the country, visiting friends along the way.  3,650 miles, one car, two drivers, one Keurig, two suitcases, two sets of electronic paraphernalia, and three cats.

Cross-country route

Who wants to lay odds on how many miles it will take each day for the cats to lose their voices?

Fortunately Sophia is already testing the cats’ accommodations:

Sophie investigating the crate

I will miss the friends we made in Seattle, the summer weather, the great restaurants, being able to walk down to the water, and decent public transportation. I will also miss the drives up to Vancouver for conferences with a great bunch of librarians; I’m looking forward to attending Code4Lib BC next week, but I’m sorry to that our personal tradition of American Thanksgiving in British Columbia is coming to an end.

As far as Atlanta is concerned, I am looking forward to being back in MPOW’s office, having better access to a variety of good barbecue, the winter weather, and living in an area with less de facto segregation.

It’s been a good two years in the Pacific Northwest, but much to my surprise, I’ve found that the prospect of moving back to Atlanta feels a bit like a homecoming. So, onward!

Libraries are sneaky, crafty places.  If you walk into one, things may never look the same when you walk out.

Libraries are dangerous places.  If you open your mind in one, you may be forever changed.

And, more mundanely, university libraries are places that employ a lot of work-study students.  I was one of them at Ganser Library at Millersville University.  Although I’ve always been a bookish lad, when I started as a reference shelver at Ganser I wasn’t thinking of the job as anything more than a way to pay the rent while I pursued a degree in mathematics.  And, of course, there were decidedly limits to how much fascination I found filing updated pages in a set of the loose-leaf CCH tax codes.  While some of the cases I skimmed were interesting, I can safely say that a career in tax accountancy was not in my future, either then or now.

Did I mention that libraries are crafty?  Naturally, much of the blame for that attaches to the librarians. As time passed, I ended up working in just about every department of the library, from circulation to serials to systems, as if there were a plot to have me learn to love every nook and cranny of that building and the folks who made it live.  By the time I graduated, math degree in hand, I had accepted a job with an ILS vendor, directly on the strength of the work I had done to help the library migrate to the (at the time) hot new ILS.

While writing this post, it has hit me hard how much I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to my mentors at Ganser.  To name some of them, Scott Anderson, Krista Higham, Barbara Hunsberger, Sally Levit, Marilyn Parrish, Elaine Pease, Leo Shelley, Marjorie Warmkessel, and David Zubatsky have each taught me much, professionally and personally.  To be counted among them as a member of the library profession is an honor.

Today I have an opportunity to toot my horn a bit, having been named one of the “Movers and Shakers” this year by Library Journal.  I am grateful for the recognition, as well as the opportunity to sneak a penguin into the pages of LJ.

Original image by Larry Ewing
Original image by Larry Ewing
Why a penguin? In part, simply because that’s how my whimsy runs. But there’s also a serious side to my choice, and I’m happy that the photographer and editors ran with it. Tux the penguin is a symbol of the open source Linux project, and moreover is a symbol that the Linux community rallies behind. Why have I emphasized community? Because it’s the strength of the library open source communities, particularly those of the Koha and Evergreen projects, that inspire me from day to day. Not that it’s all sunshine and kittens — any strong community will have its share of disappointments and conflicts. However, I deeply believe that open source software is a necessary part of librarians (I use that term broadly) building their own tools with which to share knowledge (and I use that term very broadly) with the wider communities we serve.

The recognition that LJ has given me for my work for Koha and Evergreen is very flattering, but for me it is at heart an opportunity to reflect, and to thank the many friends and mentors in libraryland I have met over the years.

Thanks, and may the work we share ever continue.

I was a math major in college, but it was my student job at the college library that ended up setting the current direction for my career and life. I started out filing update pages for the Standard Federal Tax Reporter (and sometimes reading it!). I worked for most of the departments at the library at various points in time, and ended up as a junior systems administrator.

Towards the end of my undergraduate career, the library changed its ILS, and I wrote most of the code to extract and migrate the library’s data from the old system to the new one. After college, I started working for the vendor of the new ILS. I have spent the last nine years migrating data, programming, moving from Chicago to Anchorage to Tallahassee to Chicago, finding love and kitty cats, and watching and experiencing the trials and travails of the library automation industry.

I changed jobs recently, and am now coding for and supporting an open source integrated library system, Koha.

I plan to blog about library automation, open source software, metadata and the many headaches inspired by it, and anything else I happen to think of.