Since 2005

W&L was a wonderful setting for a library career, but by 2005 I was ready to do other things, and ready to return to New England. We settled in midcoast Maine, where I was able to serve as Designated Shopper and general factotum for my sister Alice (Radcliffe 1945, PhD Harvard 1977) until her death in 2010. We both took up photography again, and became serious students of yoga. I've done a lot of walking, read mountains of books, played lots of music (though it's mostly a solitary pleasure), watched a lot of Netflix, dabbled in woodworking, and sought to bring order to various collections. We passed the Nova Scotia house to our daughter, started travelling more (trips to Mexico, Turkey, France), but continue to resist the siren call of boat ownership. Old friends come to visit, and the list of places we really ought to go seems to grow.

When I retired I thought I'd be keeping my hand in somehow with Education, but that's not how it's worked out, except in the (endlessly gratifying) personal development sense. Over the years I probably spent too much energy thinking about How Things Ought To Be, and I still fall into that trap from time to time. It's better if I just work at things that please me, and not try to involve others in my schemes. A recent example of stuff I do because of piqued interest is an exploration of chlorine that I'm still working on.

I've been an online learner for thirty years, ever since I bought my first 300 baud modem, but I have never taken or given an online course. During 13 years as a Reference Librarian, I spent most of the hours of every workday online, and taught the various skills to students and faculty colleagues. I was immersed in emerging technologies, and used them in courses I taught and in the consulting work I did as people brought me questions and problems. I'm about as computer- and web-savvy as anybody my age can be (though there's all too much that I don't grasp fully). But I'm deeply uncomfortable with much of what I see in the world of Online Learning, and especially ambivalent about the vaunted promise of online courses as a solution to current quandaries in education.

I don't doubt that one can learn elementary statistics or calculus or organic chemistry via an online course (though I'm less hopeful that poetry or anthropology or philosophy would thrive in such a container), though the details of administering such an enterprise give me the fantods. And the packaging of courses into programs to be sold, especially in a profit-making frame, is just not something I want to contemplate. Accreditation, assessment of "learning objectives", testing and grading and credentialization... all those dolorous things are what make me glad to be retired.

At the same time, I recognize that I've always been a fierce critic of the traditional ways of doing college-level teaching; my leap from disciplinary teaching into librarianship was accelerated by my own dissatisfaction with the lecture mode of instruction, and followed upon a decade of experimenting with alternatives to the standard form. As a librarian, it was such a relief to engage in 1:1 contact with people (students and professorly colleagues) who wanted to know something that I could provide, and to bask in the glow of their gratitude when I was able to engage with their interests to find and use resources they didn't know about. Showing people how to go about searching, and then using the results to build something --that was for me the most satisfying frame of teaching, and allowed me to operate as a learner myself. Fact is, it's most satisfying to continue on at my own speed, exploring wherever curiosity takes me.

I don't have a clear vision of what comes next. We'll probably travel more, and almost certainly engage more deeply with photography. We flirt with the notion of moving to the Pacific Northwest (since both kids seem likely to stay on that coast), but that would involve a major downsizing and uprooting, and there's much that's very comfortable about our life in Maine. I do begin to wonder how many more years of stacking and hauling 5 cord of firewood I have in me, and how committed I really am to following a lawnmower around and around during the summer months. And the battle with deer ticks seems to be escalating in these parts.

Perhaps it's appropriate to conclude with some thoughts on Thanatos.