April 09, 2015

Fare Thee Well and thank-you NSRC, RC, NSRT

Back in February I said I needed to reflect on the close of the grant-funded project I worked on for thirteen years. But life and work have a way of pressing on, and making reflection a priority seems to be difficult for me.

But now we are moving offices. Those thirteen years of files and resources must be discarded in preparation for the move. I should be just tossing them into the recycling pile without a glance but I can't. I'm looking at some of them, and this is what I see:

We built a first-class, multi-channel mechanism that evolved over the years to deliver amazing training and technical assistance to grantees of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

At times we grew to a staff of fourteen covering many different projects - from printed newsletters, a quaint snail mail lending library, and phone TA in the first year (1996 or '97?), to that plus listservs and a static HTML website in the ensuing years, to face-to-face trainings in the early 2000s, to multiple robust, information-rich websites, online learning systems, and online community forums in the later years.

Over the years we collected user feedback, unsolicited kudos, and usage statistics that paint a story of a very satisfied "customer" base. So it's hard, I guess, to admit that it's all gone. When an RSVP program wants to plan in-service training and gather resources for it, where do they turn now? Where do the robust discussions about frustrations with the eGrants system or the relative merit of social media for a small grantee take place now?

I can resort to the cliche: this project gave me even more than I gave it. With it, I was able to:
  • Practice special librarianship right out of school
  • Practice delivering hands-on tech training, conference sessions, and webinars on a variety of topics
  • Build my information architecture, taxonomy, and usability chops on meaty real-life projects with a great mission and realistic timelines and budgets.
  • Learn a lot about Drupal
  • Learn all about, and implement, online community building practices

So, thank-you for everything, and farewell.

(I wrote the above long ago, but for some reason never published - wasn't sure if I had said all I needed to say, I guess.)

January 28, 2015

Alone with the Books - Night Three

We all agree that the scholarly, and/or rare books, should go to Brandeis as was Gerda's wish. Surely they will be more loved and used there than just sitting on shelves at one of the kids' houses.

It's letting go of the collection as a whole that is so hard. It's why my brother so lovingly photographed them (and this is after a large chunk taken by some scholar friends). Why I made some rambling videos (one, two, three) last year after the memorial to remind myself what was here (even though yet more of the collection was down in the basement stored!). It's why sometimes I think, "why not have someone pack the whole lot up and we'll store it somewhere until I have a mansion big enough to display them all?"

Letting go to me also means letting go of my identity as the child of an East Coast intellectual family. Classical music, lots of books, lying on the oriental rug and asking my father lots of questions, listening to literary, philosophical, or scientific discussions among my parents and their friends and colleagues. I want that for my own child, but haven't given it to him. My world has changed. I read a lot online, listen to podcasts. Luckily my son gets the emphasis on oral storytelling that Waldorf school brings. But letting go of my old identity is still hard.

I don't really know how to say goodbye.

Alone with the Books - Night Two (12/10/14)

My second night alone at my mom's condo, which we are finally working in earnest on emptying, a little over a year after her passing.

There is no TV so I decided to pick up an actual book. My choices, while not infinite, are vast. I wind up having an encounter with Gerda's copy of James Gleick's Chaos. As my sister-in-law had been noting earlier that day, it is astounding how many of her books Gerda actually read, as irrefutably evidenced by her detailed underlining and margin notes.

Started becoming engrossed in it myself (even though I have read it before, I believe) and found the mention of Stanislaw Ulam and thought, "I think he worked with my Uncle Paul." Sure enough, turned to the index to find Paul Stein listed several times.

December 12, 2014

Alone With the Books - Night One (12/9/14)

I am so jealous of people who take the time to reflect.

Last year, I declared that I *would* reflect on two momentous endings in my life, one much more personal and significant than the other, but both with the potential to provide insight.

And here I am, almost a year later, without much to show for my declaration. I scribbled down a few thoughts here and there on scraps of paper that are now at undefined coordinates.

But tonight I am alone with the books.

As we pack up my mom's condo, and throughout the last year whenever we discussed the prospect of packing it up, discussion always comes around to the books.

It is kind of heart-wrenching to think of disseminating the books. There are thousands of them and so many of them have a story to tell.

My mom was a life-long scholar. Her collection spans the ebbs and flows of the tides of her interests. Romantic poetry, visual arts, philosophy, Jungian psychology, Eastern mysticism, counseling psychology, feminism, modern poetry, Buddhism, and above all William Blake. Always and forever, Blake.

And tonight, when I look at certain books, memories flood back. Many of these books were shelved in my father's study 45 years ago. I would sit on the carpet on the floor and ponder them, deciding what I might want to read. That is how I came to read, at a rather tender age, volumes such as The Bell Jar, The Turn of the Screw, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Earthsea. When I look at the color of the book jacket of The Complete Poems of Robert Frost, I am a child again.

If I allow the books to slip away, does my childhood slip away? Do I dishonor my mother and the supreme reverence she afforded her library?