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For Everything there is a Season…

I once heard Pat Schuman say if you want someone to remember a point you’re making, repeat it seven times. Over on Mentat, Lori Ayre (a welcome voice in the biblioblogosphere) talks about the possibilities of mashing up services such as with My Place Of Work.

You can call that the fourth time the idea of convergence has come up at MPOW: before I came on board, when it was suggested MPOW offer its records to library catalogs ; early in my reign, when a few of us brainstormed a collaborative project that could bring together Infomine, MPOW, and several other portals; several years ago, when the vivacious and brilliant Susan McGlamery and I proposed a 24/7-MPOW relationship; and actually four or five other times when MPOW has experimented, successfully or otherwise, with collaborations with other agencies, sometimes–and this is nearly revolutionary in LibraryLand–across state lines, though our most successful project to date has been with an ‘umble agency right up the street.

Along the way, I’ve had various successes and failures and heartstopping moments and fun, interesting times with the Good Ship MPOW’s fabulous librarians. I’ve learned how to write a deliverable and a scope of work, how to fire a vendor, when to lie low, and the importance of friends in high places (who have kept me far better informed that some folk realize). I’ve learned that bragging about MPOW, sometimes until I am hoarse, is part of my job. I’ve learned how to be patient (MPOW’s seriously ugly, outdated design was something that embarrassed me for years, even though it was the natural product of bad funding and a legacy platform) and (something I wasn’t too convinced of in previous jobs) that Boards Can Be Your Friend, or at least MPOW’s friend.

I’ve even learned useful if slightly more piddly stuff, such as fax by email is truly awesome (I use Innoport, which sends my faxes as PDFs), version control is luverly, and the most basic MySQL queries can be learned in a day, if not a long afternoon. But those little things are just the byproduct of bigger lessons.

I already knew a few things before I came to MPOW–such as that when a long-anticipated grant isn’t funded, you pick yourself up and keep going; that on any boss’ report card, a strong B+ across the board is better than one A and a slew of F’s; that the most important thing you can do is make sure people get paid on time. I also knew intellectually, but now understand it implicitlly, not to take it personally, whatever “it” might be. I was also reminded week in and week out–by MPOW’s own ace team and by the many people we came in contact with–that most librarians are smart, funny souls with high care factors. I also learned from our annual surveys and comments from our users that we made a difference in many lives.

We’re about to launch a new search engine, and if you had told me five years ago it would take me five years to move MPOW to a new content management system, implement a new design, and update its search engine, I would have laughed. But I look back now, and considering the obstacles, the funding issues (money equals hands on deck, among other things, and there’s only so fast you can work when you don’t have a lot of deck hands), and the fact that MPOW is a service that can’t shut down for a few weeks during upgrades (as one person once suggested!)–five years doesn’t seem so bad. I can now say things like “we’ll have the funding for that by 2008, isn’t that terrific?” and mean it.

So, unless you really haven’t had your Wheaties today, you can see where this is going. My last day at MPOW will be October 31. This is not new information for the people who I report to; it has been coming a while–really since February 24, when I was advised by email that our budget was going to be cut 50%. I waited for Sandy to find work, and for us to have our new home in place, and–yes, I confess–for the search engine implementation to be Almost There, because that has been one of my babies. (I’m still not going to see user tagging on my watch, drat it, unless I can really schmooze a guy or two into helping us roll that out, but I will see RSS-feeds-for-searches and faceted navigation.)

Where am I going? Well, I have some possibilities, and then should those not materialize, I have a few more. I suggested to Sandy that I should take off a year and be the perfect spouse, but she just laughed at me. Plus in a year, I will be 50, and already at 49 I feel the need for a job with decent pay and real benefits–the most significant impetus for moving on. I’ve been working as a contractor on a grant-funded job for far too long. The final clincher was the cost of health-care, which despite my overall good health goes up significantly for me in Florida (and yes, thank you, we’ve looked at many options, and no, if I found a better deal it wouldn’t change things).

So what will happen to MPOW? The people who actually have decision-making power for that have some plans afoot for continuing management of MPOW. I of course will facilitate the transition as best as I can. But there is a point where I have had to tell myself, though I care deeply, at a certain point it’s just NMP (Not My Problem). MPOW has survived for fifteen years in one form or another, and there’s no reason it can’t go on for another fifteen: what it does is too important, not only in terms of its services, but as a model of the kind of work we librarians should be doing in this century. It may not be a household word, but at over 10 million hits per month, tens of thousands of newsletter subscribers, and frequent praise and comment from many info-insiders, I believe it is not out of line for me to say that I have done more good than harm for My Place Of Work, and that’s all we can ever ask of anyone.

I am still in charge through October 31, and look forward to the launch of our new search engine, which will be either a magnificent grand finale or final proof that it was time for me to move on. (Someone–not a team member–asked me if the search engine would be launching while I was on the road to Florida, and for once my carefully-taught efforts at “blunt affect” failed me completely and I burst out laughing hyena-like, braying “Oh SURE, I told the vendors, you just go on without me, let me know how it went!” But I digress… sort of.)

I’ll keep you all posted on my future (and MPOW’s, as far as I know it). They’ve called my flight, and that means it’s time to go.

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