Big news!

(I almost titled this post something about “branching,” as a GitHub joke, but then I didn’t.)

cos_center_logo_smallI have big news: I will be joining the Center for Open Science (COS) in Charlottesville, VA, as a Developer. COS’s mission is compelling: fix science! (Seriously. And I think they’re positioned to do it, certainly more than anyone else. Their Strategic Plan is amazing. There’s some snark there. I love it.)

While I’m a little sad to leave Alaska, web librarianship, and what has been a really good first post-MLIS position, I am very excited about this opportunity. I would work there just for the mission, but COS has several other great attributes: high-energy, helpful, smart people all working toward a shared vision, an inclusive and pro-diversity mindset among both the founders and the current employees (I won’t be the only female developer!), and a really pleasant office space—lots of natural light, comfortable furniture, and an open design. (Which, honestly, I thought I would hate, because I love my current office. But I didn’t hate it when I was there. It makes it easier to give and get help, and it helps one to feel like part of the team.) The dress is casual, even compared to a Systems Department in Alaska(!), so I’ll be able to build my stash of geeky t-shirts without guilt. ;) And, of course, I’ll be developing open source software, in Python, and they’re OK with me being a little bit of a newer developer, as long as I learn quickly (which, duh, of course I will).

So, all in all, this is pretty much my dream job.

Still a librarian

In truth, my title will no longer be “Librarian,” and my employer won’t be a library. Some people will probably feel like I’m leaving the profession, by taking this job, but I contend the opposite: in working with COS, I will finally get to work on some of those hard/interesting problems that drew me—and others, I know—into librarianship. COS’s goal is to bring reproducing research and sharing data and being open back into scientific practice (maybe not in that order). We have a whole passel of developers (and we’re hiring more), but we also have scientists and community managers and people who award grants; we’re working on the tricky problems around science as an external third party, who can help nudge all of the pieces together in a way that each of the groups that are involved—scientists, universities/tenure committees, academic libraries, publishers, and funders—couldn’t do alone.

And we’re collaborating closely with libraries. We’re a partner, with the Association of Research Libraries, in SHARE. (My evaluation was writing a very small piece of that.) And I wasn’t hired for my fully-formed Python expertise; they know I’m mostly self taught, at this point, but my library domain knowledge is valuable to them. They know I’ll learn what Python I don’t know, but it’s hard to teach developers how libraries work. (Metadata, yes, the devs can learn. But if you have someone with more formal knowledge and experience with metadata on your staff, that’s better.)

As developers, our goal is to build a tool that will help make the entire scientific research cycle—from the literature review through data gathering and storage (and sharing!), collaborating on a draft, and finally sharing the final copy of each paper and data set—easier; in the process, the tool makes open research practices easy and rewards them, but it allows everything to be locked down, as needed, too, so nobody is forced to share. It’s like the GitHub of science, but with way better diversity practices. Also, it’s open source, so anybody who wants to can work on it. The tool is called the Open Science Framework (OSF). Check it out.

But I’m not doing all the library-stuff, for a while

I am hopeful that COS will send me to Code4Lib this year, to talk about the OSF with librarians who will no doubt want to participate. Maybe they’ll even send me to LITA Forum next year. (I hear we all go to PyCon, so I am super psyched about that!) But, realistically, I can’t ask them to send me to ALA Annual and Midwinter for the next couple of years, especially if I’m not speaking. And I’m not willing to spend a couple thousand dollars and half of my vacation time, attending on my own. If ALA Council offered a distance participation option for its meetings, I would make up the hours of work time I’d miss, attending those online; but they don’t. So I have had to step down from Council. I regret making that commitment, knowing there was a chance I would leave my Alaskan job, and I hope that my ALA member friends and colleagues will be able to forgive me.

I have also stepped out of all my ALA committees, my Alaska Library Association committees (of course), and, although it’s not library-related, Anchorage Programming Workshop. (That last one hurts extra; I put a lot of work into co-founding it, and I’m sorry to leave it behind, even though I know it’s in great hands.) I have a lot of learning to do, in this new job, and I anticipate being mentally exhausted at the end of each day, possibly for quite a while. It seems better to step down and let someone with a service component to their job, or a job they’re familiar enough with to have spare brain cycles, take my spot, you know? Also, it frees me up to attend some local tech and maker things, plus maybe have a social life. :) I feel like a slacker for dropping all of these things, but I know that not dropping them would be a recipe for some kind of disaster.

I can always step back in to one thing at a time, as I have time.

I will stay with In the Library With the Lead Pipe, as their webmaster, at least until the end of the year. At that point, I’ll re-evaluate. (Why ItLwtLP and not some of these other things? Some of it is the open access and open peer review charge, which feels like it’s relevant to my work; some of it is the excuse to keep my finger on the pulse of forward-thinking librarianship; and some of it is that it’s my newest commitment, so the hardest to justify dropping. But most of it is that I’m just really proud to be involved with this group and can’t bring myself to step down. #fangirl)


The exact schedule is being nailed down. My last day in the building at my current job is August 8, though I’ll do a little remote work when I get to VA. (I predict I’ll be filling in any unintentional gaps in the documentation I’m creating, to make the transition easier.) I’ll be driving back across the country, since that’s the easiest way to move birds, breakables, and a vehicle. And I’ll start … I’m saying September 8, though they might convince me to start as early as the 4th.

Dale might end up working with COS, too, in which case I’m guessing they’ll figure out how he can be there by November. (They want developers yesterday.) We work fine together, so I think that would be cool. Or he might end up working elsewhere in C’ville; they have a good tech sector. Worst case, he’ll do remote work.

This blog’s future

I have two pretty library-centric posts almost ready to go (and safe to go, now that I’m not applying to jobs ;)), and I predict there will be more about codes of conduct, geek feminism, and the like. I hope to also blog about my development as a developer and about open science.

And it isn’t like I’ll keep my nose out of the library community; you know me better than that. I guarantee there will be more libraryland posts in the future, too, quite possibly of the “rabble rousing” variety. :D

So, basically, more of the same, but maybe with more tech flavoring.

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About Coral Sheldon-Hess

Python dev, librarian, engineer, feminist, maker, bird nerd
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3 Responses to Big news!

  1. Ayla says:

    YAY Coral! Congratulations :)

  2. This ALA and AkLA colleague says “Right on!” and “Good luck!”

    This sounds like a great opportunity for you. I share the idea that the learning curve of a completely new job means you don’t have a lot of brain cells left over for much else.

  3. Lisa Kurt says:

    Congrats Coral! It sounds like you found a really cool and exciting gig!

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