Exit, Pursued By A Legacy: Celebrating Tim Logan’s Stageworthy Career (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Adapting a piece of William Shakespeare’s stage direction from The Winter’s Tale as the headline for a library staffer’s retrospective may seem unusual, but it is perfectly fitting for an article about Tim Logan. As he ends a stellar 38-year career with Baylor, Logan sat down with us to discuss the twists, turns, and lessons learned from his early days with the Theater Department to his final position as Associate Vice President for Library and Academic Technology Services.

Logan began his career at Baylor in the Theater Department as a technical director, and he credits the lessons he learned there for informing his later approach to IT and computer systems. “You learn to use materials in ways they weren’t originally designed to be used,” he said, along with an appreciation for creativity, flexibility, and the temporary nature of a production. “A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into a public performance,” he said. And while people may never see the countless hours that go into making it happen, they always appreciate the finished product, a theme that would come to define his post-Theater Department career.

Logan’s fascination with technology led to enrolling in computer classes, and his aptitude there grabbed the attention of Dr. Don Hardcastle, who led the university’s Computation Center, along with Dr. Alan Hargrave in Academic Technology. Hardcastle approached Logan about joining the group and after years of long hours and weekends spent in a control booth at the theater, Logan agreed. In the end, he cites Hardcastle and Hargrave as two of the people who made the biggest impact on his career. The Computation Center’s environment of experimentation and the support of high-level administrators would inform his approach to tackling projects for the next 33 years.

That approach involved looking at problems – how to provide access to centralized computer records, for example – and evaluating the possible options through a matrix of choices including technical feasibility, length of time required to achieve success, staffing, and budgetary constraints. Then, Logan and his team would start experimenting, often taking inspiration from his mindset in the Theater Department as a guide. “When we needed to make columns for a production of Hamlet, we used giant forms used to make concrete supports for highways,” Logan said. “It wasn’t what people expected but it worked and no one knew the difference.”

That tinkerer’s mindset led to a series of increasingly ambitious and successful projects: converting the Library’s card catalog from paper records to multiLIS (first campus-wide online library system); creating a CD-ROM-based campus network for retrieving databases; spearheading an early campus videoconferencing system; overseeing the creation of a website-based system for Baylor’s decennial accreditation report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). That series of projects involved addressing complex challenges crossing multiple departmental barriers over a series of multiple years, and each time, Logan’s dexterous approach led to successful implementations and problems solved.

In addition to a litany of successful projects, Logan says he’s most proud of the number of people he hired and trained who have gone on to successful careers in IT or other computer-related fields, and he derives great pleasure from listing their names, as well as projects carried out by his colleagues and people he’s supervised, like Carl Bell’s portable docent system (created for the Armstrong Browning Library) or the groundbreaking work done by Darryl Stuhr’s team in the Riley Digitization Center. Over his 38-year career, Logan has encouraged his subordinates to take risks, invested in their success, and seen the Electronic Library grow from a few employees to a large group whose scope of work includes digitization, classroom technology, learning spaces, creative labs, and more.

It becomes obvious in conversations with Logan that his capacity for retaining data on the history of computer technology is boundless. He is a veritable encyclopedia of formats obscure and obsolete, referencing products and systems like AppleTalk, the DEC Rainbow, and ZIP disks. But when pressed for details on plans for his future, he has only one topic in mind. “I will spend my time with Corrie, my wife of 44 years,” he says without hesitation.

When asked if he would miss the work he’s done for the better part of four decades, Logan gave a typically “Tim-esque” answer: “I’ve only been to one play since I left the theater, and that was because one of the people I’d trained was doing the lighting for it.” It’s as fitting an allegory as one can imagine for a man at the end of a distinguished career spent looking for the next challenge, the next opening night, or the next milestone with no need to look back with regret.

(Incidentally, and in true Tim fashion, he completely undersells the fact that that play was a Baylor Theater production of Othello starring a then only moderately-famous Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson was hired because of his professional experience and due to the fact that the role of Othello was seen as requiring “a total devotion of time which a student could not give,” according to an article in the September 9, 1987 edition of the “Baylor Lariat.”)

Asked to sum up how he’s seen academic libraries change in the time he’s worked for seven different library directors, Logan paused. Then, when the timing was just right, he replied, “It’s been a long 38 years and, boy, have we been a long way.”

This story originally appeared in the 2019 Baylor University ITS & Libraries Magazine. To join our mailing list for future editions, email us at university_libraries@baylor.edu.

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