There is a big change coming to the Thomas family in the next few months.
I’m changing day jobs. And we are moving house.
As of September 1, 2017, I will be beginning my new role as the Head, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My last day at Northern Illinois University will be August 31, 2017.
In my new role, I will be the main administrator for the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, supervising a team of curators, catalogers, and staff as they work with world-class collections and contribute directly to a world-class university experience. This is a senior administrative appointment with tenure and a named professorship: the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Professorship, to be precise.
I am very aware of how few positions like this there are, and I’m honored to have been selected from among a group of very worthy colleagues. (It’s a small field; trust me when I say we ALL KNOW EACH OTHER). I will be reporting to Tom Teper, who is the Associate University Librarian for Collections and Technical Services and Associate Dean of Libraries.
RBML is where I trained as a rare books librarian and curator in library school at UIUC; I served as a graduate assistant there 20 years ago in 1997-1999, working on the Carl Sandburg papers. I will now be taking over the role that Barbara Jones so ably demonstrated twenty years ago to me as an impressionable graduate student, putting my own spin on it.
Champaign-Urbana is where Michael and I met, and we are both pleased to have a chance to move back there. We still have friends in the local area, and are looking forward to getting Little Porgy’s on the regular again.
I have been very, very happy at NIU, and I am incredibly proud of the work that I’ve accomplished here, alongside truly excellent colleagues. It has been a really good place to work, and to raise Caitlin. The collections that I’ve built and stewarded will remain here, supported through an interim person taking over as curator (A Curator To Be Named Later, for baseball fans), with a national search to replace me in my role at NIU in the nearish future. I am confident that my successor(s) will be in a good position to keep stewarding these collections in an admirable manner. In the meantime, the rest of the RBSC staff — including Angie Schroeder and Annie Oelschlager — remain to keep things running smoothly. I will still be part of Digital POWRR in a consulting-style role, I will be part of CARLI, and I will be only a phonecall away for the “What WERE you thinking when you decided X” conversations that inevitably happen when a collection moves from one steward to another. I will also likely be more active in the CIC and in RBMS, too.
In terms of other life questions: Yes, we plan to sell our house in DeKalb. We have found a place to live in Urbana. No, we are not leaving science fiction-land. I will still be part of Verity! and Uncanny Magazine will be moving with the family; our hope is that we’ve timed everything to be as smooth as possible in terms of not disrupting our production schedules. Caitlin gets to keep her entire team of specialists at Lurie in Chicago (I will still be a state employee in the exact same insurance system), and will be attending high school in Urbana.
Thank you to everyone who has been (or has volunteered to be) supportive of us during this process, from serving as references to offering to help with moving prep. It’s a big leap, but I’ve been practicing for years, and I’m feeling ready.