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On being a Community Librarian, and this and that

I have had so many ideas rolling around in my head, and so much catch-up time, that I’ve been stumped every time I open WordPress. So I’m pushing out the first idea in case it’s like the piece of paper caught in the printer, holding up everything else.

I get asked how I like being a Community Librarian for Equinox. Actually, the first question I get asked is, “So what is a Community Librarian?” … as if it were listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and not some title I invented because I was avoiding the squinchy-feeling “open source evangelist” title, which would be just a little less uncomfortable than calling myself a Maverick or something like that.

This is a job in the process of invention, and it changes as need be. I do some inward-focused work related to Evergreen timelines, and I’m honchoing a documentation project, but most of my work is outward-faced. The first several months the focus was on catch-up in a few areas related to communications, getting some projecty stuff launched, and outreach to the original PINES libraries — to the point where someone asked me recently if I were “allowed” to visit libraries outside Georgia (since I was in Australia when this question was asked, the answer was a safe “yes”).

Now PINES has a project manager on board, and I can start to reinterpret my job in light of the broader Evergreen community. Yes, I speak, but I think my real outward-facing work (and the truest connection to open source “evangelism” or whatever you call it) is in the one-on-ones (face-to-face, virtual, whatever) and group visits, and even my writing on two blogs as well as the lists, where I’m teasing out community interests and hopes and concerns.

It’s much different than the traditional vendor relationship. This is the moment where some folk out there (not in the Evergreen community, to my knowledge) begin criticizing librarians for being unable to communicate with open source developers, but in my book, it’s a two-way street (if not a complex daisy-chain overpass). Everyone is in the process of learning how to do this, and it’s not simple but it’s very important.

Do I like it? Yes, indeed, and this isn’t just official flak. It’s a fun, dynamic job and I’m always feeling like there is far more to do than I can accomplish, which is how I like things. The Equinox folk are good people, and it’s a fascinating time to be part of all this.

If there is anything awkward, it isn’t related to my job, but my life. It’s that we’re in limbo here, so I am teleworking part of the time and sitting in a motel in Georgia at least one week per month, when I’m not on the road.

There’s nothing wrong with that, except that since I know we’re not here forever, I have this vaguely disconnected sense. I see something in a store, and I think, “But we’d have to move it.” (Note: this is not a bad reaction to acquiring Stuff.)

Places… I’m between them. Perhaps I’m post-geography. I don’t know Atlanta very well, and my only local connection in Tallahassee is with my writing friends. I don’t physically work in the Atlanta office enough hours to even hang a picture over my desk, and yet my home office feels a bit discordant too, since I’m in and out of it quite a bit. My personal writing has gotten off track, though I have the temporary excuse that I’m judging essays for a writing contest, which in addition to our monthly workshop review is more than enough to deal with. The only habit I have kept up is exercising, which I do 5-7 days per week.

Market Tour Oddly enough, several days in Melbourne only sharpened my dysphoria. Melbourne is a lovely city about as old as San Francisco, with similar Gold Rush origins. It’s the first city I’ve been in for a long time that felt truly sui generis.

Some old cities feel like a set piece, some have had their souls rebuilt into chilly commercial canyons, but Melbourne has kept a lot of character (not without proactive help from its citizens). From the Vic Market (click on photo for a set of my food tour) to the funky little cafes in alleys (see this larger set), Melbourne resists being bottled. Sydney is beautiful and tidier, but Melbourne has broader shoulders and a way of tossing its hair that says, “I’ve been through a lot.”

Then again, life is transient. That may be part of it. Sandy and I have spent a fair amount of time of late reminiscing about life in other places — the churches she’s worked, the jobs I’ve had, the people we’ve shared times with, the places we’ve lived. Last night we couldn’t remember the details of our first Thanksgiving together.  (We spent our first Easter at Fudrucker’s, which is another story.)  Obviously nothing traumatic or amazing happened, or we’d have those details down pat.

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