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A new role for the Equinox community librarian

It’s with mixed emotions that I write this (from the 25th floor of the lovely Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, where a team of Evergreeners has been planning the 2010 conference), but very shortly I am changing roles in the Evergreen community.  I have an opportunity to return to library administration and to Northern California, two opportunities I (and my family) had hoped would be in our future at some point.

So to Brad and team I bid a fond adieu. In a short time I was able to be part of Evergreen’s first-ever user conference, help nurture into being a fabulous community-driven documentation project, and help build bridges of communication among all the Evergreen stakeholders.  I picked up some skills I knew I needed (nothing like a little XML to tide a gal over), and some skills I didn’t realize I needed (once I learned how to ask sponsors for conference funding, it became almost intoxicating!). I was able to give talks about open source from Indiana to Australia. Not a bad gig at all!

But I am by no means bidding farewell to the Evergreen community. You will continue to hear my voice as a strong advocate for open source software in libraries, and for Evergreen in particular — not just the software, but the wonderful magic bus that is carrying it forward, a bus overflowing with passionate developers, librarians, users, and other champions of engagement.

You're either on the bus, or...

History will prove us right

Those of us who “get” open source have sometimes been denounced for our support of what open source means in LibraryLand. We have sometimes  been condescended to as if we were cultic simpletons — as if passion and knowledge could not go hand-in-hand.

But the reality is that open source is here to stay. It’s a necessary alternative to the way we’ve done things, and not simply because it has forced new thinking from traditional software sources (who in many cases, despite their own public comments, use open source themselves within their applications).

Get in, Put the Keys in the Ignition, and Drive

I have spoken many times in the last several years about the bad state of affairs we librarians fell into in the late twentieth century, when we moved from designing and building the tools we use to a passive relationship with other folks’ software.

This sad situation has not been healthy for anyone involved — not librarians, vendors, or users.  It threatened the very existence of librarianship as a legitimized profession. If we are not engaged with tool creation, then who are we? (For more on this, read The System of Professions.) This passive relationship also turned vendors into vending machines, forcing them to produce software that reflected individual punchlists, not community vision.

Open source restores the tool engagement we need at a crucial point in our future, when it is clear that we are in the middle of a massive shift, and that everything related to information access, transfer, and ownership is on the table. We must be stewards of our future. We must drive that bus!

Last thoughts

I have had a great time at Equinox Software as Community Librarian. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I respect Equinox for having the insight to create the position in the first place.  I look forward to watching Evergreen continue to evolve, and to watch the community stride forward into the future.  I won’t say “I’ll miss you all,” because I’ll be right here — just in a different role.