A New Direction (and either a clearer understanding or some serious rationalization)

I am pleased to say that starting August 19th I will be the new Systems Manager for the BC Libraries Cooperative. I am equal parts stoked and daunted by this opportunity. Stoked, because the Coop is doing some fantastic work in shared services using open source software in a sector, public libraries, that I’ve always felt a strong affinity for. Daunted because, well, I’m not a librarian and regardless of some exposure to library tech and standards, it’s a fairly new field for me. Still, a lot of the role is familiar to me, so I look forward to a few months of intense immersion as I get going, but I wouldn’t have taken the job (and presumably they wouldn’t have hired me) if I didn’t think I could do it.

It’s been 7 months since I left BCcampus. Seven months of rest, of growth, of uncertainty, of trying to figure out what comes next. For a while I looked for something in ed tech (but Victoria’s not that big a town), and then for a while I contemplated consulting work. I still plan to do some of that, but I decided for now I needed something more regular.

One of the things I struggled with in taking this new job was whether in doing so I am shutting the door on a 20 year career in educational technology, higher ed computing, and for the last decade, open education. The library world has its own technologies, its own history and language, its own set of challenges.

But as I’ve sat with it, I’ve come to realize that there has always been a thread in the work I’ve done and in the interests I’ve pursued which I think runs through this new job too and helps me see how this is a progression rather than a digression. For the last decade, in addition to working on open content (something I know I’ll find in the library world too) I’ve come to see the importance of civicly-owned, openly governed platforms for computing. When Web 2.0 came along, its appeal from a usability and motivation perspective was obvious and I was an early supporter of using these technologies for teaching and learning. But, slow learner that I am, it took me a couple of years longer to realize what a few of my colleagues had seen early on, that for all its advantages and appeal, the cloud had a dangerous flipside of centralized control and commercialized interest. I believe in both of these areas, education and libraries, there is still a window of opportunity to implement open systems that will give us the best of both worlds, the flexibility and efficiencies of the cloud but in a non-corporatized way that preserves so many of the values on which an open democratic society depends. And I look forward to the opportunity to work on this with a new set of colleagues in the library world, while still hopefully maintaining connections and building more bridges back to the world of teaching and learning online. At least for now, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. – SWL