As I approach my birthday in August, I can’t help but think of all the changes and major life events that have happened along the way in the last twelve months: my ex-husband nearly died of a massive heart attack last October; I left The Unquiet Library and my home in Georgia to take a new job at Cleveland Public Library in January; I survived my first real winter on Lake Erie and first foray into city living as a resident of downtown Cleveland; and I embraced a significant amount of valuable but at times, challenging, cognitive dissonance as I began to learn about the world of public libraries. At some point, I would like to write more about the value of this cognitive dissonance from these experiences, but I will muse more on that at a later time in which I’ll reflect a little more deeply on the learning experiences of making the strange familiar and the familiar strange.
This summer has continued the trend of unexpected and significant changes: on a positive note, I will be returning home this weekend to Georgia for good to take a position as a media specialist with the staff of the award winning media center at the innovative and fantastic Norcross High School in Gwinnett County, a wonderful opportunity that makes my heart happy with excitement. At the same time, though, my heart is also heavy as my mother has been diagnosed this month with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer; the diagnosis was completely unexpected, and we’re all just now beginning to move beyond processing the initial shock and adjusting to the new reality of living with a diagnosis of cancer. I am incredibly close to my mom, who is my best friend—I am thankful that I not only have the chance to continue co-learning with students and teachers in the world of K12 public schools, but I also can be in Georgia to support her and my family as we help mom in her battle against cancer.
My heart also hurts today because it is my last day working at Cleveland Public Library with two of the most phenomenal colleagues I could ever hope to know: Tim Diamond and Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz of the Knowledge Office. Our collaboration has been one of the richest learning experiences of my life, and I have no doubt we will continue to think, learn, and grow together even though we may be 700 miles apart. I cannot find the words to capture the nuances of our professional and collective experiences, but it has been akin to harmonizing with people whose voices who complement yours while creating a larger sound that transcends you as an individual while making your voice even better. They have become cherished friends who have been my sage guides in a whole new world and have given me new perspectives that have deepened my understanding about our profession. I am indebted to both of them for their generosity, honesty, wisdom, grace, and support–they are both such ambassadors for this profession, and I am a better person for knowing them. I would also be remiss if I did not express my respect and admiration of our archivist Anne Marie Wieland who has imbued my life with her rather awesome knowledge and brightened many a dreary winter day with beautiful fresh flowers. Her research and work on the past work of children’s librarians at CPL has given me inspiration and insight about the work we do as contemporary librarians.
I am also thankful to each individual in Cleveland Public Library who has in some way made me feel welcome, asked thoughtful questions, and provided encouragement along the way these last seven months. In addition, I am lucky that there have been additional gracious and gentle souls throughout the city of Cleveland and in northern Ohio who have extended a hospitality that I will not forget. Of course, family and friends—both near and far—have been an anchor whenever I have felt homesick, struggled with adapting to a different climate, or struggled to be patient as I tried to connect dots and think deeply in my new learning environment. While it was not always easy, I can honestly say that the time here has been a rich and important period of learning in my life both personally and professionally; I feel incredibly lucky to have had these opportunities and to have walked this path (even when it required a heavy coat and snow boots!).
I hope the seeds I have planted about participatory learning, inquiry, critical literacy, and strategies for cultivating and supporting communities of learning within CPL and the larger communities throughout Cleveland will spur my colleagues to keep the conversation going. I believe that a culture of questioning and thoughtful dialogue about ideas are crucial to the future of the library and the city of Cleveland. I encourage each colleague to ask the questions that are sometimes difficult to contemplate but essential to help us identify our challenges and then innovate with meaningful possibilities and action. I firmly believe that CPL is brimming with people who have the creativity, capacity, and the will to do this kind of work that is so essential for providing additional and diverse points of participation for the people of Cleveland and to ground our work in the needs of our communities.
I now look homeward to my native Georgia with a heartfelt commitment to supporting my family and to contributing as a co-learner in meaningful ways to my new learning community at Norcross High School. Like Emily Dickinson, I will continue to strive to dwell in the possibilities and will do so with hope, faith, love, and humility knowing that indeed there is a time and purpose in all things.