The Essential Questions
What is your role and how long have you been working at Biddle?
My role has largely circled around the ILS and other digital technologies. I did troubleshooting, record maintenance, and analytics on the Innovative Interfaces system in all its incarnations from telnet/character-based to web-based, and I’ve begun taking on similar work with WMS. Since 2014 I’ve also created metadata for and added content to SSRN and to the Law School repository, a digital commons that currently contains faculty scholarship, archives of Penn Law journals, podcasts, oral history interviews, and other products of the Law School’s intellectual life.
I’m also an officer in the union that represents Penn Libraries support staff (AFSCME Local 590). I’ve been a shop steward, executive board member, treasurer, and currently vice president. My official responsibilities are entirely covered by “other duties as assigned,” which is nice.
Where did you work before your time at Biddle?
While I was engaged in not finishing a Ph.D. in Penn’s English department, I worked occasionally as a student assistant in what was then Van Pelt Reference (and briefly in what was then Acquisitions). I started full time in the Van Pelt stacks in 1988, transferred to Shared Cataloging, and then settled in Biddle. Before all that I was a proofreader/copy editor for the National Council of Teachers of English and a part-time grunt in a newspaper mail room.
What book/s are you reading right now?
(It’s usually “books.”) Lately I’ve been bingeing Russia. I just tracked down a Free Library copy of The Twelve Chairs, a satirical novel from the 1920s about a hunt for a former aristocrat’s lost jewels somewhere in post-revolutionary Russia. (The former aristocrat works in a registry office under a sign that reads “Finish Your Business and Leave,” which I think would look great over the circulation desk.) I also have Gogol’s Taras Bulba queued up on my reader, and I’m gathering some of his early folktale-type stories from Ukraine. For bedtime it’s usually short stories (ghosts, horror, humor), collections of Pogo comic strips, or my favorite comfort food, Sir Terry Pratchett.
Cats or dogs?
Lately cats, but we’re exploring dogs for our next phase.
Fiction or non-fiction?
Stories, either way. (One of my grad school difficulties was that I can’t concentrate on non-narrative prose for any length of time. If I had it to do over again, I’d choose history.)
Comedy or horror?
Both at once if I can get it. (I’m a both/and kind of person.)
Sweet or savory?
Savory. My sweet tooth is a sometime thing. (Not entirely a both/and kind of person.)
Coffee or tea?
Team Coffee all the way. Herbal tea very occasionally (cardamom, chamomile, peppermint).
Do you have a favorite food truck on campus?
Nafi Food Express, 34th and Market. Can’t get enough Indian.
What is the last television series you binged?
Long-form, we’re working our way through The Rockford Files (six seasons, and that’s back when a season actually meant something). Short-form, we just finished Inventing Anna.
Finally, my wife Katie and I regularly listen to “Tig and Cheryl: True Story” in the background when we’re doing chores or working on jigsaw puzzles. This is ostensibly a podcast where comedians Tig Notaro and Cheryl Hines review documentaries, but they have a hard time staying on topic so you really just tune in for the banter.
If you could have any super-power, what would it be and why?
Invisibility. Make of that what you will.
Where did you grow up?
Champaign-Urbana, home of the world’s finest library school. (LAS ’78, myself. Go Illini!)
What is your educational background?
I started out as a poli sci major, then switched to English (less quant please). I came close to a Ph.D. at Penn, but teaching activated my impostor syndrome, my performance anxiety (Sting once said being a rock star was a lot like being a teacher—you entertain hoodlums for fifty minutes), and my reluctance to offer criticism. Fortunately Penn Libraries offered me a soft landing. (Dissertation chapters available on request—at least the one I have typed or printed out; who knows where that “floppy” disk ended up.)