Closing the Circle

By Pace, Andrew K. | Computers in Libraries, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Closing the Circle


Pace, Andrew K., Computers in Libraries


In case you couldn't tell from the title, it's come time for me to wrap up this column--to close the circle. This was not an easy decision, and it was not made lightly. The demands of another monthly column, increased responsibilities at work, and other activities have led me to make some difficult time-management choices. The fact that my wife, Sharon, once called my laptop the "other woman" and that my two young children--Emma, 7, and Eli, 3--have come to think of it simply as an appendage also helped. It's been 5 years, and that's enough times around a circle to make anyone dizzy. But before I close it, I hope you all will indulge me in my last column as I look back and maybe forward just a bit.

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My Tenuous CIL Beginning

When I first arrived at NCSU Libraries in the winter of 1999, I was anxious to begin my scholarly pursuits in library science. I loved the time I spent working for a vendor prior to coming to the university, but I had little time for extracurricular professional pursuits. I was itching to write, and I was willing to do anything to avoid reviewing books (no offense intended to those who I admire for doing it so well).

When my colleague Eric Lease Morgan announced that he was bringing his CIL column, Libraries of the Future, to an end, I thought there might be a chance for me to approach the magazine and to keep the column in the NCSU family. Never mind the fact that I was starting a new management position at the university and moving into a new house at the same time. Ever since I got married, finished grad school, and moved across the country simultaneously, I've decided that I like major life changes to come in threes.

I sent a long e-mail to Kathy Dempsey (then, Kathy Miller) to introduce myself. Its length was meant to make up for a lack of professional writing and experience. I wanted to prove to her that I could put two sentences together. I have saved her gracious reply to this day. "I'm already impressed by the scope and completeness of your message," she wrote. How could she have known then that her kind words could one day serve as a euphemism for the fact that I am an opinionated writer who always writes too much and has trouble cutting text?

There was also the matter of naming the column. I had developed this notion (not at all original, having barely been around the library information technology block even once) that libraries dealt with technological change in a repetitive way. The thread that I saw running throughout this process was a firm grasp on the first principles of librarianship. I believe, after all, that it is passion for and devotion to libraries that sets systems librarianship apart from corporate information technology.

So, when Kathy asked me what I wanted to call the column (nearly as an afterthought for both of us), I came up with what I thought was a wise articulation of my thinking. I called it First Principles. (My second idea, which I had forgotten about until I started looking through old e-mails, focused on the relationship between libraries and their vendors. I called it Strange Bedfellows, which would become the working title of my book 3 years later.) As I recall, the title and its description were met with some skepticism, including fears of preachiness and of a focus that was too academic.

How I Found the Circle

Looking back, I can't say I blame Information Today, Inc. for its fears. Thanks to Kathy and Dave Hoffman (CIL editor, March 1995-January 2000) for finding my reference to "coming full circle" in my description of First Principles. But the theme was preachy, and I would spend the next couple of years converting my new soapbox into a sort of pulpit, hoping, in the process, that people wouldn't mind too much.

I think that the biggest reason that readers didn't seem to care was because of the careful editing and guidance that I received from top-notch editors and professionals, starting with Kathy. …

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