Chase inspiration

Our Students
Some of our students are entitled and horrible. I point you to the notorious Tape Letter for my perspectives on that. But some of our students – the majority of them – are remarkable young humans. They do inspiring, amazing, crazy, brave, silly things, and watching them work is a truly humbling and empowering experience. So go out into your libraries, onto your campus, into your community, and check ‘em out. See what they do, how they do it, where they do it, and when they do it, and see if it doesn’t give you pause, and make you think.

TED talks
I love TED talks. What’s not to love about listening to smart people talk about things they are passionate about, following a very strict Less Than 20 Minutes rule? Short, pithy, engaging, and smart. If you’ve never delved into TED talks, they have begun curating them – creating groupings of what their editors think are the best of the talks on Architecture, Techology, the Arts, Medicine, Fashion. If you find it interesting, there’s a TED talk on it. And when you open up into the TEDx conferences, the field goes wild. Take a look, and dive in.

Harvard Business Review
I feel very strongly that while we in librarianship have a professional identity and culture that has value, we also have an obligation to look beyond that culture for ideas and inspiration. The rest of the world is doing remarkable things, and we should be taking notice. One of the ways I do that is by reading the Harvard Business Review blogs. I’m an administrator; discussions of teams, decision making strategies, organizational culture, and institutional efficiency are right in my professional wheelhouse, but aren’t librarianship’s specialty. If I want to know about those things, learn more, I should go to the people whose specialty they are. Not all librarians are administrators, or care about what I care about. But whatever it is that you care about, reach out into the broader world and find the non-librarianship groups and people whose specialty it is. I guarantee you’ll find something fascinating.

My braintrust
My librarian braintrust keeps me sane. I have a social network of people I can lean on, who I can bitch to, who I can ask for help, who I can brainstorm with, who tell me when I’m full of shit and who tell me when I’m doing smart work on a hard path. Who encourage me, chide me, and inspire me to do more and be better. I wish the same for all of you, and encourage you to find your tribe. They may not be in your library, your county, your system, or your state, but they’re out there and the internet will unite you.

danah boyd
Some people really hate danah boyd, assessing that she treats teenagers like chimps in a research lab, talking dryly and academically about things that are simple realities of the world but treating them like they’re high science.

And that’s precisely why I love her. danah boyd is a Microsoft-funded researcher doing valid social science research and observation of the ways in which social computing and the new media are changing the lives of modern teenagers. As a result, she writes white papers on topics that my colleagues outside the library can appreciate – academic writing on topics of current interest, which elucidate the ways that technology is changing our incoming student body across our culture. She writes in an academic tone about things that I take as a given reality, but her voice is far more compelling than mine when I’m trying to convince a reluctant administrator of the need for change in our approach. When you need an argument from authority about social media, having an academic out there writing about it is a godsend, and her competent blending of the new media with the academic sphere is an example I would be proud to follow.

kickstarter, crowdsourcing, gaiman, afp
Kickstarter is my new favorite thing, because it’s a user-friendly and engaging platform to encourage and support crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Aside from the fact that Neil Gaiman is a favorite author, and Amanda Fucking Palmer makes music I love, I appreciate the way that both of them approach their art – authorial ownership of their processes, but with a strong sense that fans are a community to be engaged. (The fact that they’re married is just icing.) And all of these things come together in three examples:

Neil Gaiman is a part of what we consider the traditional publishing system, as an author with an agent and an editor and a publisher that distributes his work. But even so he’s embraced the new media – he has a blog, an active Twitter account, and an even more active Tumblr feed. He speaks to his fans, he has conversations, he shares of his work freely, he uses his fame to spread messages about things he cares about, and he experiments with the boundaries of the traditional publishing system, trying to expand What Is Done to include things that once were Not Done. And he succeeds.

C. E. Murphy
Catie Murphy took the idea Gaiman plays with one step further, from the standpoint of a less famous author also working within traditional publishing. She’s written a series of books called The Walker Papers, and in the midst of writing Raven Calls realized she wanted to tell the story of what Gary does while he’s off–camera in that book. Knowing or suspecting that her editor didn’t want to buy a novella about Gary, Murphy brought it to her fans online. She set up a Kickstarter, and asked for $4000 to write the novella. Fans pledged $20,000. Fans pledged enough that she promised additional short stories and the novella (which turned into a novel) and revealed that her reading public had just paid her more up front for a novel than she’d ever been paid by the traditional publishing media. How cool is that?

Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer used to be signed to a major record label – the traditional publishing media – with her band The Dresden Dolls. Now she is not. Yet she is producing a million dollar album complete with band, tour, and merchandise this year – all funded up-front by fans on Kickstarter. She explains this better than I could summarize here. It took a lot of work; she built an online fan community before she leveraged it for the Kickstarter. But she’s funding art made precisely the way she wants to make it by asking people to help her do that. I respect that immensely.

Rachel Maddow
And Rachel Maddow. You don’t have to share my politics to appreciate why I appreciate Rachel Maddow. Yes, I like her politics, and yes, I appreciate her choices of journalistic topics. More than that, I find her ability to be calmly straightforward about people she despises – to say true things without namecalling – inspiring. We need more people willing to say true things, to choose to calmly state the truth as they know it, to back it up with the evidence they have at hand, and to stand by their beliefs. I think Maddow does that, and I am continually impressed by it.

And so those are some things that inspire me, spark hope and joy and creativity in my work. What inspires you?

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