Monday, February 18, 2013

A new direction...

I want to take the opportunity to update this blog's readers about myself and explain why the blogging has slowed a bit in the past few weeks. 

As some of you may already know, I recently accepted an appointment at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma to become the University Libraries, Associate Dean for Knowledge Services and Chief Technology Officer.   

Before I say more about that, I first want to spend a moment talking about my time at Virginia Tech Libraries and my experience in working with the Dean of Libraries there, Tyler Walters.  Which, to be honest, has been fabulous.  Some may note that my time at Tech was fairly short (about 6 months), but this was in fact, by design.  Tyler and I originally talked about my doing consulting work for him and after numerous conversations, he offered that rather than do a consulting assignment, he would be willing to put me on the staff of the library, part-time, doing the same work we'd been talking about doing. Knowing that I had stated a desire to move to the academic side of the profession, he noted that this move would give me actual work experience "in" an academic library that I could list on my CV.  While doing that we agreed I would be free to continue to seek a full-time position within the profession. Creative thinking.  Mutually beneficial.  I liked it.  For all of this, I'm really and truly grateful to Tyler.  

One thing people on the "business" side of the library profession find out rather quickly is that even though you have the same Masters Degree as those who've worked "in" a library, when you try to return to the library side, it is often met with statements like this: "Yes, but you have NOT worked IN a library for X years".  Really, it's an absurd and infuriating statement.  Particularly for someone like myself who has run a number of companies, or divisions within companies, that showed a lot of success.  I usually tried to counter the statement by pointing out that actually, I'd worked in hundreds of libraries around the world and had a wealth of solutions and ideas for problems rather than just a few based on experience in one or two libraries.  As often as not however, that point fell on deaf ears.  Traditions, as we well know, die slow and hard in the library world.  As I bemoaned my experiences to another library director, he reminded me that the profession of librarianship frequently acts in ways that meet the classic definition of insanity, i.e., the principle which states:  "You keep doing the same thing (hiring the same kind of people) and expecting different results."  I had to sadly smile in agreement.

All of which is to underscore that Tyler Walters saw beyond that and was willing to think "outside-of-the-box".  His thinking was refreshing to say the least.  Tyler represents a breed of director/dean that I only wish our profession had many more like.  He is one of those working to ensure that librarianship remains vital and valued in higher education and society and is willing to explore new pathways to ensure that happens.  

It is my belief (and hope) that Tyler's thinking was rewarded by what the team at Virginia Tech Libraries, and I accomplished while working together.  I hope all feel it was mutually beneficial.  I also strongly believe that under his leadership, Virginia Tech Libraries will continue to be a very successful example for academic research libraries around the globe.  

Which is where Rick Luce and the University of Oklahoma come into the picture.  I've known Rick for many years. He was a customer of Ex Libris North America during the time I was the President and Chief Librarian.  We'd always worked well together and I'd personally talked to Rick and sought his advice, about my desire to return to the academic side of librarianship while he was still the Dean of Libraries at Emory University.  Impressively, he must have taken serious note because after he'd moved to the University of Oklahoma and started some reorganization and creation of new positions, he called me and encouraged me to keep an eye on their job postings as he thought that I might find something of interest.  He was right.  When the posting for the Associate Dean/CTO position appeared, I quickly applied.  After the interview process I was even more pleased to be offered the position.  Here was another library director/dean who could see beyond the usual boundaries when it came to hiring and could see the benefits my background might bring to the operation he was running (a person begins to have their faith in the future of librarianship reinvigorated after multiple encounters like this!).  Again, I want to publicly express my thanks to Rick Luce for having that understanding and for providing me with this opportunity.

With regard to my actual position at OU, in the announcement of my hiring to the staff and faculty of OU, the following was publicly stated:
"With the creation of this position, the University of Oklahoma Libraries is responding to a rapidly changing landscape in higher education and to evolving user expectations.  Knowledge Services will integrate formerly discrete components in the library to achieve a more seamless user experiences when interacting with digital content. Traditional library departments such as Cataloging; Metadata and Library Systems will work together with new areas such as the digitization laboratory to enhance access to digital collections, to preserve digital data, and to examine library technology platforms that best meet the needs to of today's scholars. Knowledge Services will also support learning, teaching and research through the creation of a collaborative commons.  Dean of Libraries, Rick Luce, notes, "As with all academic libraries, OU is experiencing a rapidly evolving and significant transformation in way that students and faculty learn and teach, impacting the way our users need and expect support. We are becoming more  engaged in the integration of information into the digital landscape in support of new pedagogy, in the role of digitization and preservation, and in supporting the infrastructure to manage the life cycle of multiple forms of information. Carl Grant will have key leadership responsibilities at the intersection of digital services and  our transformation to a more user centric organization."
You probably can imagine, given that description and all I've said in this blog, as well as my publications and in my talks, I'm absolutely thrilled to have this chance to go put a lot of these ideas to work in an environment such as is described above.  

For the many followers of this blog, please rest assured, it is my intent to keep sharing my thoughts and observations on our profession, higher education and technology.  It might take me another month or so to get back to a regular (if I ever had one) blogging schedule.  In that same time frame we're moving across almost one-half of this country and I already had a hectic set of speaking engagements planned in the same time frame (not to mention a book that is due shortly). So I beg your understanding.  

Please also note that it is my intent to continue to do some very limited consulting work through CARE Affiliates.    

As always, thank you for your readership and please stay tuned...