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

30 thoughts on “A New Direction (and either a clearer understanding or some serious rationalization)

  1. Alan Levine (@cogdog)

    Congrats Scott! A win for you and them. From what I can see there is a lot of opportunity that jibes with your skills and interest at that systemic level for advancing openness, information, yadda yadda.

    You are not leaving anything behind, brother, you are who you are not what you do, and the Scott-ness you always have will always be there.

    You are officilally and honorably cast out of the unemployed hangout club ;-)

  2. Emma

    What Alan said… AND

    congratulations and so exciting! Learning and challenge is always the best way forward, I’m thrilled for you !

  3. Mike Caulfield (@holden)

    I love the title. That’s exactly how I feel about most job change posts. It’s good that we’re of an age where you’re aware that whether it’s rationalization or not (at least to start) you’ve just got to throw yourself into it wholeheartedly, because that’s the only way for it to be rewarding. I’m not sure there’s as much difference between rationalization and understanding as we think.

    That said, I will say that some of the most forward-thinking people I’ve met have been library people, especially the younger crop of them. Not sure why that is — maybe it’s just to go into this field at this stage in history you have to have a larger sense of purpose and mission. In any case, congrats!

  4. Richard Schwier

    I’m always humbled when someone acts on principle — or even has a clear idea of what principles deserve attention and action. Congratulations, Scott.

  5. Brad Payne

    Hey Scott — very happy for you. Congratulations. It seems like a great fit. While I have been exposed to only a few of your ideas around libraries and the role they could play in society, I like what I heard.

    I find no shortage of things to be critical of when it comes to ‘the cloud’ and all that it has come to represent, but taken out of the hands of corporate interest, it can make a lot of sense. In my own small way, I’ve benefitted from using and installing ‘owncloud’ — I love it.

    Good luck and congrats!

  6. Amy

    Congratulations, Scott – truly it is a very fuzzy line between EdTech and libraries, and I look forward to watching you make it fuzzier.

  7. Michael Feldstein

    Mazel Tov, Scott. Count me in the group that thinks that this is a good move. I also agree with Mike about the line between rationalization and understanding. I may not be the most Postmodern person in this crowd, but I do believe that we often make our own meaning, or at least, our own purpose. I have changed jobs almost as often as I have changed pants, and I never regretted a move—even when it was from a more pleasant job to a less pleasant one. It always turned out in retrospect that I was on a path and therefore was where I needed to be.

  8. Keira

    I’m not ready to kick you out of the jobless club yet- let’s do one more wrap-up, celebratory hang-out before your start date.

    I’ve explored the library path in the past. Glad I’ll have the opportunity to listen in as you learn.

    1. sleslie Post author

      I know I mean seriously, I haven’t even started working yet and Alan’s kicking me out of the clubhouse. Sheesh, what’s a bum like me to do?!

      Let’s definitely do another call; that was something I forgot to do in the body of the post, is thank all of the friends and colleagues who had lent their moral support though out the 7 month search. It really meant the world to me.

  9. Catherine Novak

    Congratulations! It sounds like a great place to be, especially since libraries are actually all about edtech these days.

    Don’t Forget To Be Awesome in your new job ;-)

  10. Grant

    So happy for you Scott – looking forward to hearing and reading more from you as you learn and grow in this new role.

  11. Jeff

    Congratulations Scott! I spent 5 years working at a library when I was a teenager – I have fond memories of those times. When I started working in edtech, I was surprised how well my time in the library served me. I’m excited you have the opportunity to help build civicly-owned, open systems. Looking forward to reading more!

  12. Jen

    I took my time trying to come up with an intelligent response, because my first reaction was, ‘Well, duh!’ I’m sticking with that. :) This is such a natural fit for you. I hope you are privileged to work with good people who appreciate your gifts. I love the idea of you contributing to library as a platform for civil society. I look forward to learning from you.

  13. Chris Lott

    Congratulations. This does seem like a very natural fit for your interests and skills. Libraries continue to be ripe for innovation when it comes to engagement, community, and becoming (or remaining) Great Good Places. I look forward to the revolution!

  14. Clint

    Librarians rock, and you’ll surely help them turn the volume to 11. Congratulations, Scott (and happy you were able to find something that keeps you in Victoria).

  15. Tim

    What they all said.

    Libraries and education are not the same worlds, but their intersection of interests is not trivial. enough new to be interesting, enough familiar to be grounded and relevant.

  16. Giulia Forsythe

    I saw this tweet from Boing Boing today: https://twitter.com/BoingBoing/status/356784190253056001 and then shortly afterwards I read this post.
    Libraries are essential to educational technology whether it’s within an institution or for the classic autodidact. Most libraries should be so lucky to have a Scott Leslie on staff. As many have said already, I’m also looking forward to learning a lot from your new adventures. Congratulations!

  17. Keith

    Congrats Scott. I’ve always thought of libraries and librarians as another spoke on the educational wheel (though more grounded and less flaky than us edtech types). All the librarians I know are stoked about new possibilities to transform library services (those that aren’t probably avoid me).

  18. Kathreen

    Congratulations! First on taking the time to rest, reflect and renovate- Second on taking a leap into a new genre of work. May this new direction continue to stretch and inspire you!

  19. James Morrison

    Congratulations on your new job, I have been working one day a week from my local library helping teach job search techniques and computer skills will be interested in following your career and hearing about your ideas of developing education and the differing roles our libraries both in Canada and Uk face in a changing environment

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