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.