Monday, June 23, 2008

Goodbye Mr. Carlin

George Carlin passed away yesterday. This makes me sad. Carlin was a comedic and linguistic genius as well as a defender--or perhaps practitioner is a better word -- of free speech. Probably best known for his bit on the seven dirty words, Carlin shocked, but did not need to shock, to be funny.

His mind was brilliantly attuned to the absurdities of life, and his gift for language and physical humor allowed him to reflect those absurdities back to us in a way that both challenged and tickled our sensibilities.

George Carlin touched me. Literally. In college I was with a group that brought him to Rutgers for a performance . Before the show began I was charged with guarding his dressing room. The door opened and I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Hey Buddy".
"Yes Mr. Carlin", I replied.
"Where's the rest room?"
"Right down the hall to the left, Mr. Carlin."
"Thank buddy."

As "brush with greatness" stories go, perhaps this doesn't make the top 10, but I was touched by his gentle manner and the way he called me buddy. I remember a lot of his material that night, but one of my favorite bits was his take on license plates:
  • New Hampshire's license plates say 'Live Free ... or DIE!!' I don't think I want to live in a state that actually mentions death right on their license plates. At the other end of the spectrum is Idaho's license plates - they say 'Famous Potatoes.' I don't know, I think that somewhere between 'Famous Potatoes' and 'Live Free or Die' the truth lies. And I think it's closer to 'Famous Potatoes.'
Goodbye Mr Carlin, and thanks for all the laughs.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Michael Stephens Interview with John Blyberg

If you haven't read it already, get thee over to ALA TechSource and read Michael Stephens' interview with John Blyberg. Lots of good stuff--I'm sure I'll be returning and re-reading this piece for inspiration in the future. A points that jumped out at me (quotes are from John unless otherwise noted):
  • I’ve come to realize of late that if a change in library services, technology-based or otherwise, isn’t well grounded in our core values and mission, it just looks funny. (Michael)

  • [I]nformation use has become an expression of self--that’s not something libraries ever accounted for. When I talk about this, I refer to it as the “information experience” because, for the growing number of us who participate in the hive, we build our own network of information and interaction that accompanies us through our lives. We literally construct highly-personalized information frameworks and place a huge amount of personal reliance upon them. Ten years ago, this wasn’t the case.

  • It’s true that we are the voice of authoritative knowledge, but we can package that in ways that are not so paternalistic and present ourselves as partners in discovery. None of this requires technology, but technology has become the nexus of collaboration.
John also discusses how the Darien Library is big on Danny Meyer's book Setting the Table, which defines and makes a powerful argument for the value of hospitality. In one of those weird bloggy synchronicities, I randomly went from reading the TechSource post to Char Booth's Infomational post, "Manners v. Hospitality", in which she also references Meyer's book (which I have also blogged about in the past.) One of favorite passages is:

"In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors' offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We're looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there's rarely anything in between."

So when you're done soaking in the TechSource post, take a look Meyer's book. I'll soon have a follow-up post on hospitality and customer service based my experience with customer service training at the Trump Taj Mahal this past week.

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