Jim Duncan is a “quiet leader,” endowed with the “skills and finesse of a planner, implementer, negotiator, and communicator,” says Eugene Hainer, Colorado state librarian. As director of networking and resource sharing for the Colorado State Library, Duncan moved the entire state server system to a new home in less than two days, at minimal cost, while successfully negotiating discounted digital services for libraries.
“Being able to get people to buy into a project they may not even understand is a unique skill that is deserving of recognition,” says Hainer. Duncan “excels in being able to break down difficult concepts in lay terms in a way that not only makes the difficult seem easy but actually a joy to listen to.” Valerie Horton, executive director, Colorado Library Consortium (CLC), concurs. “He’s one of the most popular speakers we have. He knows how to grab an audience…while teaching about confusing technologies—a rare gift.”
As an administrator of various statewide services for libraries, Duncan no longer experiences the rewards of direct public service (he earlier worked in academic libraries). He now finds satisfaction in enabling others. “A lot of what I do involves encouraging others’ activities, steering, providing suggestions, carving paths of least resistance.”
One of the state library’s chief priorities has been services for small libraries. Duncan chaired a task force that ultimately, through a grant under the auspices of CLC, brought the Plinkit open source web infrastructure to more than 36 libraries. A remote patron authentication service is coming next.
In the works is a statewide digital oral history project involving multiple partners. As with the open web project, Duncan’s role is multifaceted, involving grant writing and “prepping the political and budgetary landscape.”
Also on his agenda is an upgrade for the Colorado Virtual Library, which Duncan describes as in “a world of perpetual beta.” The next generation of this product/service “will never be set in stone, never be complete, but it will always be relevant,” says Duncan.
But he isn’t intimidated. “I’m eager to see how this will be constructed, conceptually, to enable agile shifts and transformations, a service designed to grow organically (yet strategically) to meet the needs of its end users.”