Several years ago, after I started my position at Cal, I wrote an homage to Ohio University that outlined what I gained and learned during my time there. Thanks to my love of the place and the impressions it left on me, this was simultaneously one of the easiest and most difficult things I have ever written. I now find myself in a similar situation. Despite the anticipation of positive things to come, it is with a heavy heart that I write this farewell post to UC Berkeley.
In the course of my working life, I have found it impossible not to become attached to the professional surroundings I find myself in. The work we do shapes our lives day in and day out, and as we contribute to an organization we acclimate to its communities and collaborative networks and grow to appreciate them (if we are lucky). I have always had inordinately good luck, and it is this hybrid of personal and productive attachment that makes any institutional shift an emotional experience.
Later in the spring I will be starting a new job at the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven rigorous and beautiful liberal arts schools situated due south of Mt. Baldy in LA county. I’ll be their Instruction Services Manager/E-Learning Librarian, a newly created role at an organization that I believe will provide much opportunity for creative growth and skill building. It is a life move as well, bringing me much closer to the Southern Californian half of my heart (who I have been traversing most of this extremely long state to visit for far too long). Finally, I admit: the ocean beckons.
Working at a university like Berkeley has been a uniquely gratifying challenge. It has taught me volumes about librarianship and academia, most notably in the realms of pitch, advocacy, action, and accessibility. I leave a more skillful communicator and collaborator, confident in a form of organizational insight that can only come from learning to navigate a complex system. I have gained respect for workflows and channels of communication, and at the same time an awareness that it can take a bit of system hacking to achieve goals. While I am happily transitioning to an environment that returns me to my Reed College roots, I will miss the sensation of being a part of such a vast, public, and oft-conflicted concentration of talent and conviction.
Being sentimental in the extreme, the protracted goodbye to my brilliant students, faculty, and colleagues is already difficult. I will miss the relationships I have built with them, which I hope to cultivate indefinitely. Most heartbreaking is leaving my liaison role with the School of Information. Never have I met a more creative and dedicated cohort of individuals, and I will continue to appreciate their prescient window into the future of technology and culture, albeit from afar. This association and all that it has brought has arguably been the most gratifying experience of my career: keep up the amazing work, and best of luck to all of you (not that you need it).
My love of organizational complexity and campus dynamics contributed to my decision to join the Claremont Colleges, which is a rare Oxford-style arrangement of small private institutions. Each maintains its own distinct personality, and what I have heard described as a “fiercely independent” academic/social culture. I imagine that this will make my combined job of coordinating instruction, outreach, and assessment approximately seven times more challenging (and seven times more interesting) than normal, not to mention upping the learning curve ante of a new job by a factorial degree.
A centralized library, Honnold-Mudd, serves all seven Claremont campuses, which consist of Pomona, Scripps, Harvey-Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, the Claremont Graduate University, and the Keck Graduate Institute. Their combined enrollment of six thousand or so is smaller than any institution I have worked for – Ohio University, the most relatively diminutive, had upwards of twenty thousand.
I’m happy to say that my impression of my future colleagues and the work to come is extremely positive; I have observed an attitude of excellence and dedication to students that is rarely matched, as well as strong senses of collective/individual identity (not to mention humor). I perceive a strategically shifting, agile environment in which much can be tried, tweaked, and tried again. Needless to say, I am fairly exploding with ideas.
More on the transition to come.