Friday, July 30, marks my last day at OCLC: twenty five years, three weeks, and one day of service to the cooperative. I began my career in OCLC Research without a day in library school, my main qualification being an obsession with microcomputers. I forgot my belt that first day, and my resulting sartorial inelegance seemed to me to mirror my insecurity about my future in a field for which I had no direct training (does being married to a librarian count?).
Over the years I benefited from managers who gave me what I needed at the right time. Mike MacGill gave me a job, Martin Dillon was a mentor on how to be productive; Terry Noreault let me take risks. Lorcan Dempsey afforded me the luxury of exploration. Jim Michalko gave me a new perspective. Jay Jordan supported the work I did from the top, with a commitment to standards and community involvement that was critical.
I have enjoyed and been stimulated by OCLC colleagues who work at the highest level of our profession, some of whom know more than most anyone about their domains, and who are recognized widely for their expertise and contributions. Most everything I know about librarianship was incubated in their care. There is simply no substitute for being able to walk 20 paces to chat with a global leader in duplicate detection, or Dewey, or name matching, or VIAF, or FRBR, or any of dozens of other esoteric disciplines of librarianship, digital and otherwise.I was fortunate during much of my tenure at OCLC to have the freedom to work directly with the community... in the community. After the New York Times article that brought the Web to the broader attention of the world, Terry Noreault asked me if I’d like to look after our early Web liaison activities, and thus began a whirlwind engagement with the Web community that has channeled my activities to this day.
The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative was a direct outgrowth of this engagement, and has been a nexus for dialog on resource description ever since. On a personal level, it allowed me to engage the collaboration of colleagues and practitioners in the library community on five continents. I’ve talked about metadata at the top of medieval towers in Tuscany, in an onsen hot spring in Japan, and on horseback in the outback of Australia. I’ve greeted the dawn at the Taj Mahal, swam in shark infested waters within sight of Hong Kong, and spent a night in the 14th century in Mongolia.
All of this, in the company of the passion and commitment of friends and colleagues to a mission anchored by Ranganathan, the trajectory of which will persist far beyond our own efforts. Life affords us few rewards greater than the opportunity to do important work with good people. It has been a great privilege to play my role, and for this I am indebted and grateful -- to an organization with global reach and vision, to a community that embraces and challenges new ideas, and, especially, to my colleagues of a quarter century at OCLC.
I look forward to writing another chapter, whatever it may be.
A special thanks to all who have looked after me at OCLC down through the years. It is an understatement to say that administrative competence has never been high on my list of virtues. Suzanne Krouse, in particular, deserves special mention, and Karen Disbrow helped me keep things straight when I couldn't manage to myself.
Seattle at sunset from Kerry Park, the city's archetype postcard view