Of Rivers and RLG

The past seven days have been interesting, if not momentous, for me. I participated in my first RLG Annual Meeting (more details soon), during which we engaged more people and the institutions they represent with our collective work agenda than I ever would have expected possible. A few days later I took some of my work colleagues down the South Fork of the American River in a paddle boat and managed to not lose a single one. (The picture is of the same river but not us, I hope to have some pictures before long; photo Creative Commons licensed by dizznan).

I mean, not a single person ended up out of the boat, although a number of us were flung into the bottom of the boat on more than one occasion. That isn’t to say there weren’t consequences. Guiding the “Gorge” section of the river twice after guiding nothing more difficult than a cursor I felt a little pounded (did I say a little?), and my paddlers felt similarly. But I was gratified that we had many good runs through the Class II-III+ rapids despite not having guided a paddleboat for probably over 20 years (I usually take an oarboat which handles quite differently).

It’s worth noting that making good runs with a paddleboat is all about teamwork. If your passengers don’t follow your orders, or don’t paddle at the same time, or decide to take a rest when you need them the most, there isn’t a lot a guide can do to save the day. You can hang together, in other words, or hang separately. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to join OCLC and the Programs and Research part of it specifically. I immediately got it.

Libraries, archives, and museums are having to run some pretty heavy rapids these days, which means we all have to be paddling like our lives depend upon it (because, strangely enough, they do), and more importantly, in sync. Only by working together can we successfully navigate the dangers ahead. This is why this week has been so important to me. It brought home to me and some of my colleagues through two entirely different avenues how important it is to work together. Not that we needed reminding, since we live this all the time, but I think it doesn’t hurt every now and then to be reminded of the importance of what it is you do, and why you need to tackle that pile of work with renewed vigor.

So as I write this with more sore places than I recall having places to be sore, I have a big smile on my face. I’m in the right spot, at the right time, doing the right thing. And after this week I know for certain that I have an engaged and committed crew ready to work together to navigate the rapids that libraries, museums, and archives face. As a commercial whitewater river guide celebrating his 30th year, that’s all I need to know.

Roy Tennant works on projects related to improving the technological infrastructure of libraries, museums, and archives.