August 21, 2016 - 6:00 AM
TORONTO - Blue Rodeo's pedal steel player Bob Egan is leaving the band for a job with the Kitchener Public Library.
The 60-year-old says it wasn't an easy decision but that he couldn't refuse an offer to help build up the community in his southern Ontario home.
The rocker's new role involves fundraising, expanding library services and overseeing a new digital media studio planned for the library.
Egan — also a new dad with a 14-month-old son — jokes that he's "clean-shaven and wearing slacks for the first time in 25 years."
The Minnesota-born transplant has been with Blue Rodeo for more than 17 years and, before that, with the band Wilco.
Egan's last gig with Blue Rodeo is set for Saturday in Toronto, but he doesn't rule out performing with them again one day.
"It takes a lot for somebody to leave Rodeo," Egan says Friday from his new office at the Kitchener library.
"As you can imagine, it's the dream job and after 17 1/2 years it's almost impossible to leave. It's almost like the mob — this is your second family. But I got an offer I couldn't refuse."
Egan says the library gig is a natural extension of his charity work. That has included providing guitars to kids in need and efforts to liaise with the local musical and cultural community.
But he admits it is a bit of a shift: "I've had to learn how to set an alarm clock."
Egan, who has a master's degree in industrial organizational psychology, used to have a desk job decades ago.
He says back in the '80s and early '90s he was a corporate consultant in Chicago who specialized in "employee attitude research."
"I loved that job, but I left all that behind to go on the road with Wilco on the cusp of turning 40. So I've had a 22-year musical career and now I can come back at this part of my life to be of service to the community.
"And I'm really excited about it."
His new title will be: Manager of Community Connections and Development.
Egan says it's an exciting time to join the Kitchener library, which he calls an "architectural jewel" after undergoing a $40-million renovation.
"Libraries are in transition and they're on the cusp of a revolution, believe it or not. We're seeing in communities across Canada they are becoming the valued cultural institution," he says.
"They're morphing from just a place to get books into community centres, into certainly resource centres for immigrants and refugees here in Canada, and also cultural hubs."
His first job will be to build and find financing for a digital media studio where visitors can record audio and video, broadcast and podcast, as well as use a virtual reality booth and 3D printers.
"We intend to use it to help close the digital literacy divide," he says.
"Digital literacy is the new reading and writing. And if you can't afford to work in this realm you're going to be left out of the economy and of society."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016