Chris Cormack

Today's Tuakana is someone I had the pleasure of meeting in digital fora, both online (kia ora Twitter) and offline (kia ora National Digital Forum). My impression of Chris was formed through the interactions we had through twitter where I admired his fierce advocacy for kaupapa Māori viewpoints peppered with the technological aspects of his role, which I am not ashamed to say that I have no bloody idea what they mean (most of the time anyway). An important aspect of the Tuakana / Teina relationship is that we are constantly negotiating a learning / unlearning process together and you will note Chris' comments for our final question. We've decided to discontinue asking this question out of respect for the tangata whenua of Turtle Island. Ki a koe, ka titiro au ki ngā ara whakamua i mua i a mātou o NDF me ngā mahi kei te haere. Pai ki au te noho ki tō taha, ki te mahi tahi māua mō te whānau o NDF, ngāi taua hoki.

From Chris: "I have attached a photo of me next to the Koha server for Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria. I like this photo because I never would have thought that I would end up working on an open source project that would take me to Nigeria"

From Chris: "I have attached a photo of me next to the Koha server for Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria. I like this photo because I never would have thought that I would end up working on an open source project that would take me to Nigeria"

In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

I type code on computers

What is it about the sector that you love?

I work mainly with libraries with my work on the Koha Library System project and the thing I love is the people I get to meet. Libraries is a very diverse area, most people think of Public Libraries when you talk of Libraries, but there are many other types. In fact Public Libraries
while being I guess the most visible face, are probably the smallest segment of the sector. Academic and Special/Corporate libraries are far more numerous. I like to say that any organisation over 50 people will have a library (they might call it something different, like a resource centre or a knowledge centre, but it's a library). This means I get to interact with a really broad range of people in a real broad range of organisations. Because Koha is a multinational project, I chat (on a daily basis) with people all around the globe. We speak different languages and come from different cultures, but we have shared values around the curation and dissemination of knowledge.

So a really long winded way of saying, I love the people in the sector.

What have been some challenges in your career? 

I ended up working on software for libraries by accident, it was never something I planned for, or studied for, so a challenge has always been learning as I go. As well as that, as mentioned before, Koha is a truly global project, so learning how to communicate effectively with people
from all walks of life is a constant process. Challenging your own assumptions, even realising you are making assumptions, these are neverending tasks and I think ones that we all need to be mindful of.

What challenges can you see moving forward?

Hmm the challenges for libraries?

Libraries (especially public and academic ones) are, and have been for as long as I can remember, in a constant state of redefining what/who they are. As the information landscape shifts around them, they need to shift with it. But I think we need to be careful that we put our users and their privacy first. And always remember, just because we can, doesn't always mean we should.

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

Fresh eyes/ideas are always good. I learn new things from my younger programming colleagues all the time. It is really easy to fall into habits and forget the why you doing something and just remember the how. I bump into this a lot in libraries, "The system has to do this" "Why?" "Because it always used to". 

People in the early stage of the career are great at challenging/questioning the "It's always been like this" idea of systems.

What is your spirit animal?

Ummm this is a bit of a problematic term, I'll let our first nation / native American cousins explain: 

Can we go with muse/manawakura instead?

I'm going to go with my dad for that. When I grow up I want to be just like him.