Filing an extension on my fifteen minutes

I was reading Brian’s appeal for more Emerils in the library world (bam!), noticed Steven Bell’s comment (his blog posting was a response to one by Steven in the first place) and it got me thinking.

First off, I don’t necessarily buy into Brian’s argument.  Maybe it’s due to the fact that he’s younger than me, but my noisy, unwanted opinions aren’t because I didn’t get a pretty enough pony for my sixteenth birthday or because I saw Jason Kidd’s house on Cribs ™ and want to see my slam dunk highlights on SportsCenter on my 40″ flat screens in every bathroom.  It’s because I feel I have something to offer libraries and I genuinely want to help affect change.  Really, I know this is what motivates Brian, too, despite his E! Network thesis, because we worked together and I know his ideas.

Brian doesn’t have to worry about his fifteen minutes coming to a close anytime soon.  Although at first blush it would appear that the niche he has carved out for himself is potentially flash-in-the-pan-y (Facebook, Second Life, library gaming, other Library 2.0 conceits), the motivation for why he does what he does is anything but.  He is really just trying to meet users where they are, on their terms, to help them with their library experience.

Technologies will change and so, too, will Brian, but that’s not the point.  He’ll adapt and adjust his methods to best suit what comes down the pike, as it comes down the pike (proactively, rather than reactively) and continue to be a vanguard in engaging users on their own turf.  More importantly, though, I think he can continue to be a voice in libraries because he works in a library and if you have some creative initiative it’s very easy to stand out and make yourself heard.

Brian and I used joke about the library rock star lifestyle:  articles, accolades, speaking gigs, etc.  A lot of this comes prettily easily, however.  If you can articulate some rational ideas and show a little something to back those ideas up, you can quickly make a name for yourself.  Information science wants visionary people (regardless of whether or not they follow that leader) and librarians want to hear new ideas for how to solve old problems.  Being a rock star is pretty easy, being a revolutionary is considerably harder.

I made the jump from library to vendor because I wanted to see my ideas affect a larger radius than what I could do at a single node.  It has been an interesting adjustment and I’m definitely still trying to find my footing.  It has been much, much more difficult to stand out because I am suddenly surrounded by a bunch of people that much are smarter than me, much better developers than me, and have more experience applying technology on a large scale.  This is not to say that I haven’t worked with brilliant people in libraries (certainly I have, Brian among them), but the ratio has never been quite like this.  Add to the fact that being a noisy, opinionated voice within a vendor has its immediate share of skeptics and cynics (who are the ‘rock stars’ in the vendor community?  Stephen Abram?  Shoot me.), I may find myself falling into Steven Bell’s dustbin.  Then again, I might be able to eventually influence the sorts of changes that inspired me to make the leap in the first place.  I can do without the stardom in that case.

  1. Career advice? Always work with people who are smarter or who have more energy than you have. They make you look good 😉

  2. Ross said:

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of you 🙂

  3. brian said:

    I really enjoyed our whiteboard discussions– afternoons about were all about ideas. Oh those good old days.

    Anyway, I hope that you are enjoying the vendor lifestyle and that the family life is going well too.

  4. dsa said:

    Good thoughts on librarian rock stars.

    I understand your feelings about being in an environment where everyone is smarter and better at doing the work, having once had a job like that (outside of libraries, sadly). Lorcan’s comment is also spot on. The problems for me, however, are twofold: the shallow talent pool in librarianship, and the incredibly large number of librarians who are not technophobic, but technoblind. Once you’ve left the upper ring of libraries, it’s very hard to attract people with serious technical skills to work in libraries. And as far as the technoblind go, if your leadership doesn’t even understand the difference between a sys admin, programmer, and a designer, you are really sunk. We spend all of our time scrambling for bits and pieces of skill and support for our systems, and very little on development.

  5. Ross said:

    How true, although I think the “top ring” has problems getting and keeping talent, too.

    The technoblindness is certainly a problem in many places, one I attribute mainly to internal promotions to people that weren’t overly qualified to manage technology. I once remarked that position openings for systems librarian positions queue up the clown parade of “reference librarians who have used DreamWeaver”.

    There’s talent out there, but it’s a thin (hopefully growing?) pool, and an even smaller number that have any desire to get into management or administration (and I can’t say that I blame them).

  6. brian said:

    I rediscovered this post via someone visiting my site linked via yours. Time flies huh? Hope all is well on your side of the profession. It looks like you stopped blogging though??? Anyway, that rock star stuff was great, but that’s for the younger folks– I can’t keep up– these days I am trying to think more in line of being a statesman.

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