Since March 14, life for Josh Chilcott, senior network analyst for the Washington County Cooperative Library Services, has been … interesting.
Prior to the state-mandated COVID-19 shutdown, only a few of Josh’s WCCLS colleagues were regularly teleworking. By March 23 the entire staff was working remotely. Successfully executing that massive transition, on top of working to complete an already-in-progress switch to a new Microsoft platform and getting two brand-new employee connected from afar -- is akin to pulling a white rabbit out of a hat.
WCCLS Manager Lisa Tattersall describes the team’s accomplishment as, “A blinding display of competence and grace.”
Chilcott has been with WCCLS’ IT department since 2007 and has been instrumental in updating its infrastructure from home-grown and patchwork, to best practices that better address library patrons’ ever-increasing technological needs. He led the project to introduce the public Wi-Fi network for the cooperative’s 13 member libraries in 2009, new server infrastructure the next year, and several other large IT upgrades over the last several years.
“In the past,” Josh recalls, “the question was always ‘are we able to do it?’ We had a lot of systems that were difficult to manage, maintain, and scale. Now, when we want to innovate, many of those barriers are gone.”
About his team’s post-shutdown accomplishment, he says, “I’m lucky to work with folks who are flexible, talented and committed. We knew it was critical to have everything work right out of the gate.”
It meant a lot of long hours and round-the-clock attention, since WCCLS staff were scrambling to quickly attend to patrons’ and libraries’ needs and questions while trying to assemble their own offices at home. “Help tickets were coming in at all hours of the day,” he recalls.
Libraries were not on Chilcott’s radar before coming to WCCLS. “Library was not a word I would speak more than twice a year,” he says. Although his current team now has a professional librarian as a member. “I have learned so much from my experience working with libraries. I love their focus on creating approachable and relevant programming, being early adopters of technology, and their unwavering work to ensure that library services are available to everyone.”
He and his wife, Sarah, have three children. (How you can spot a highly engaged dad? On the day of this story interview, he not only knew that his college-age daughter had a 4:30 history exam – he also knew it was open-notes format.) They enjoy frequent trips to California to see family and visit Disneyland, and they hold season tickets to the Portland Thorns.
Hiking is another pastime. “The Columbia Gorge is my favorite place on the planet,” Josh says.
Although it’s (we hope) doubtful another crisis akin to COVID-19 will happen again anytime in the near future … patrons can be assured that the critical online connection to their library’s resources is in good hands.