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Movers and Shakers and Candlestick Makers

(Sorry, I just had to rhyme.)

Library Journal has announced its annual Movers and Shakers, and it’s a very good batch. Unfortunately, LJ’s website is so kabobbled that you’re best off exploring M&S 2008 through Jessamyn’s short list or Connie Crosby’s longer list.

I was the “second” on the nomination for Tim Spalding, so I’m passing out cigars over his selection to M&S. I think some librarians are embarrassed by that old-tyme books-‘n’-reading religion, as if their bumper stickers say I’D RATHER BE GAMING. Yet I haven’t worked in a traditional library-with-books since 2001, and every year I am a little more in love with reading. Of all the personae I inhabit, my reading self is the kindest, most interesting, and most unpredictable. The radical, transformative heart of librarianship is to take society’s pre-programmed thinkers — the products of our educational systems and our TV culture — and turn them into lifelong readers.

Many other good folk got the nod this year, including Pete Bromberg. Pete, has it really been a decade since we worked in the same library? Marshall Shore’s nomination tickled me, since “saying no to Dewey” seemed to irritate many librarians by its very success.

I see many other good, deserving names, too many to list. It’s a good crop. The list pushed me toward two meditations.

First, I know of many “movers and shakers” who haven’t been on any of these lists. That would include the Evergreen crew, the four Karens (Coyle, Markey, and Calhoun — Coombs was last year, if I’m not mistaken), Jeremy Frumkin of OSU’s LibraryFind project, and a few more who are either very code-focused or a bit long in the tooth. (When I raised the age issue, one person said his director was a M&S last year, and she’s all of fifty years old. I suppose he had to drive to her nursing home to shout the nomination into her ear trumpet.) So some of us need to nominate the coders and the grizzled mavericks and other people who are like, you know, reinventing the organization of information for cryin’ out loud.

Second, when I raised this issue on Twitter, predictably, some people thought I was fishing. I am not. That’s because right now, there’s very little M&S in my professional life. The time for me to be an M&S was in the late 1990s, before LJ dreamed up Movers and Shakers and I was hot on the filtering issue (and also migrating databases from CD to Web, introducing wifi, etc.), or earlier in this decade, when with a team of ace librarians I ramped up a state-funded informational website. In retrospect, we did some rad stuff, we did. And I liked being in charge. It’s Nice To Be The Queen.

I’m not complaining. (Trust me: it’s a joy to walk into My Place Of Work and be greeted by smiles. Every. Single. Day.) It’s just how cycles of life and work go. I do interesting and I hope valuable work, but then, I’m in a building overflowing with many people who do the same.

The fact is that LibraryLand brims with talented people doing a great job every single day. If you are not among them, buff up your c.v. and start hunting. As a smart fellow said to me recently, for his next job he’s thinking less about what he will do than about who he will work with. You spend too much time at work (and these days to be “present” at work extends far beyond the 8×5 week) to not be surrounded by talent and passion.

I do have an idea I’m going to write about soon. It may strike a chord with librarians, or it may not — or more likely, I’ll need to build a following (if one is even needed within LibraryLand). Sometimes I forget that when I started investigating Internet filtering, I received a chilly reception from many quarters. I even had a post removed from a library discussion list after a filter vendor spooked a silly rabbit of a list moderator. In those days, such resistance only piqued my interest in the issue. (And I remained persona non grata among the intellectual-freedom absolutists for insisting that access for children was a separate issue from access for adults. My take? Reluctance to admit that killed our chances with CIPA, turning it from something we fought to something we “implement.”)

But I digress. I have an idea. It’s a good one. Last night in our writing workshop we talked about being generous with manuscripts — a group of five writers is a pretty dang good witness to ownership, should any of us ever have a problem, which we will not — but careful with ideas. So I’m thinking through how and when; I’m mulling over funding, leadership, marketing, etc. It’s spring — a good season for germinating ideas.

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