March 16, 2018

Jason Griffey & Karen Coombs | Movers & Shakers 2009 – Trendspotters

Jason Griffey & Karen Coombs, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; University of Houston Libraries, TXBig Wigs

Jason Griffey is “the gadget geek, while I’m the coder grrl,” says Karen Coombs, whose collaborations with Griffey range from LITA BIGWIG’s (blogs, wikis, and social software interest group) Social Software Showcase to coauthorship. Griffey notes that they collaborate “while never being less than 800 miles apart.” Their virtual rapport, he says, is “no small lesson for libraries and librarians.”

Their commitment to sharing information about cutting-edge technology led them to LITA BIGWIG. Frustrated by the rigidity and lengthy time lines of the American Library Association’s (ALA) program planning process, Griffey, Coombs, and Michelle Boulé created the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase ( Griffey notes he’s most proud of how BIGWIG has pushed “LITA to see new ways of doing things.” Borrowing from the unconference model, it allows presenters to propose topics just a couple of weeks in advance, encourages content sharing, and allows attendees to pick and choose among presenters/topics of interest. Its planning and execution exemplify the potential of social software in action, taking place online in chat, Twitter, Google docs, and wikis; the 2008 showcase featured virtual discussions, live video feeds, and more.

Coombs and Griffey also collaborated on the book Library Blogging, which both helps libraries set up their own blogs and, as Griffey explains, gives “them some best practices and cultural expectations about the online world that they might miss if they just concentrated on the technology.”

Beyond their commitment to opening up participation in ALA, Griffey and Coombs share a commitment to open source. Griffey has moved his library’s web site to an open source CMS and “installed open source tools at every opportunity,” while Coombs similarly sees huge opportunities with open source in allowing “libraries to work collaboratively to control their own destiny.”

Griffey and Coombs also both blog, of course. Coombs’s Library Web Chic, is pronounced “library web chick”—on her first job, “the campus networking guys referred to me as the ‘web chick in the library.’” Both “endeared and offended,” Coombs started blogging as “one of a small set of women in a sea of library technology dudes” and covers library technology from the technical to the people-oriented. Griffey’s Pattern Recognition is part homage to the William Gibson novel and part “a general nod to the fact that we humans are, largely, pattern recognition machines.” It’s a fitting title, since there he finds “connections between technology, learning, organizational structures, legal issues, and libraries.”

Whatever the focus, this team’s own successful collaboration exemplifies their philosophy.


Jason Griffey

POSITION Head of Library Information Technology

DEGREE MSLS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004

BLOG Pattern Recognition,


POSITION Head of Web Services

DEGREE MSIM, 2004, MLS, 2000, Syracuse University, NY

BLOG Library Web Chic,

COAUTHORS Library Blogging (Linworth, 2008)