As I mentioned in my weekly post yesterday, I’m working on putting together a couple of presentations on the skills, tools, and tasks of an embedded librarian. This afternoon I’ve been searching through databases, videos, the interwebs, and more, looking for some good examples and/or helpful advice for how to interview researchers (or anyone you hope to help). In doing so, I stumbled across this bit of advice from Anna Deavere Smith, one of our very best character actors (embody-ers) and brightest minds in the arts. Listen to what she says in this snippet of an interview from Big Think and then tell me if you agree or not:
I recently had an article published in the Journal of eScience Librarianship, outlining my work as an informationist on the mammography intervention study - “A Librarian by Any Other Name” by Sally A. Gore. The issue also contains brief pieces by the other informationists who were funded through the NIH/NLM Supplemental Grant program, as well as an editorial by Valerie Florance, PhD, the Director of Extramural Programs at the National Library of Medicine, in which she gives a brief history of the informationist concept and why these awards were offered.
The Journal of eScience Librarianship in an open access publication of the Lamar Soutter Library, the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
My blog post for this week is hanging out on the NAHSL blog. I hope you’ll pop over and give it a read. It’s a reflection on librarians and research. You’ll find several really interesting posts there from other colleagues reflecting on the sessions they attended at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association last week in Boston. Good stuff!
Happy Weekend, everyone!
As the current chair of North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries, Inc. (NAHSL), the local regional chapter of the Medical Library Association, I was invited to give a welcome to the attendees of One Health, the “federated international meeting incorporating the 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the Medical Library Association (MLA ’13), the 11th International Congress on Medical Librarianship (ICML), the 7th International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS), and the 6th International Clinical Librarian Conference (ICLC).” Our meeting began Saturday evening, here in Boston, and I offered the following welcome yesterday morning.
I want to thank the many, many people who have stopped me in the rooms and halls of the Hynes Convention Center to tell me how much that they enjoyed my words. I had a great time writing the poem and am happy to share it, per your request, here. Enjoy!
Listen my colleagues and you may hear
The distant call of Paul Revere
On this early morn, the first Sunday in May
His voice and mine are here to say
We bid you good welcome, good times, and good cheer.
I say to you friends, “If you have traveled
By land or sea, from towns near or away,
Hang your hats by the doorpost, take heed the gavel
And receive its clamor as a signal to stay,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
This is the rule to follow if ye
Commence to go forth and take in the charm
Of every Middlesex village and farm,
And the sites of New England within a yardarm.”
We bid you grand welcome, with no muffled roar
Enjoy good sessions ‘long the Charles River shore,
And as the moon comes over the bay,
Be sure to get out, see the ICA,
Beacon Hill and the famous Common,
And the place where they tossed the tea to the bottom
Of the Harbor deep, and the fight was on.
History abounds in this fair city
Take it all in, to not be a pity.
Meanwhile, your peers from west on the Pike
Worcester and Springfield, and places alike
We too break the silence around these parts.
And muster our greetings, as we embark;
On sessions and speakers and meetings aplenty,
And nary an excuse for your stomach be empty.
For local arrangers, they await your call,
All set to give guidance on how to reach Faneuil Hall.
And do, if you can, climb the steps of Fenway Park,
With its old creaky chairs, it’s an historic landmark.
You’ll have a fun time, no matter the cost,
It’s still early May, the season’s not lost.
But don’t startle the pigeons that make their nests,
On the hanging rafters, above all the guests.
The roof gives you cover, the roof gives you shade,
And don’t fear the loud masses, it’s a Sox-loving brigade.
Catch a glimpse of the monster, green and tall,
Homers fly highest over that wall,
Then pause to watch, as the ball sails over the crowd
To bounce on the street aptly named Landsdowne.
Yes here you can visit churchyards a plenty,
Where famous figures, now lie deep and still,
Adams and Hancock and old Preacher Mather,
Who up in Salem caused such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
(Oops… wrong poem. Sorry.)
Their watchful eyes linger, even today
Keeping us true to their Puritan way,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
But growing impatient, I feel the swell
Of my fellow NAHSL members, wishing I tell
The truth, my friends; that our region it spans
From shoreline to mountains, cross lots of farmland.
Boston’s but one place, and yes, it is louder,
Yet in Connecticut, you’ll find folks prouder
Mustering cheers for that team from the Bronx
Battle cries rising ‘tween Yankees and Sox.
From Stamford drive north, the coast you can trace,
Past Norwalk and Bridgeport, to New Haven and Yale,
Who’s hallways and dorms, a few presidents did grace.
You can stop off in Hartford and take in the site
Of the very room, very desk where Mark Twain, he did write.
See the tall ships line Old Mystic’s harbor,
It’s the same town from that movie that starred Julia Roberts.
And though it be small, the smallest of all,
Rhode Island can claim its own famous wall;
A cliff walk you wander and ogle without guilt,
Upon mansions like those that the Vanders-bilt.
Little Rhodie has beaches and islands, great jazz and folk fests,
That draw the likes of Dylan and Joni, Duke, Dave and the best.
For years they have gathered, the crowds on the lawn,
To take in the music from dusk til dawn.
But then there are those who live north of he-ah,
Where there’s moose in the mountains and lobstahs off the pie-ah,
Way up in Maine, or “down east” as we say,
They’ve got a history of women showing the way.
It started with Margaret Chase Smith back in ‘40.
Women in Congress from Maine proved no shorty.
From Olympia to Susan, the United States Senate
Knows the people of Maine through some very strong women.
And continuing right along in that vein, some 30 years almost it’s been,
With the whole world watching, we all got to see,
A small gal from Freeport break every myth,
Winning marathon gold, Joannie showed girls don’t quit.
Vermont and New Hampshire, too often it seems,
Get lumped in together, like they share the same themes.
But they’re really quite different, both equally proud
Of the unique qualities they’ve each been endowed.
Vermont has Green Mountains, good cheese and ice cream
And a strong little faction always wanting to secede.
They’ve got a good streak of tough independence,
Of “do it yourself” and “don’t be a nuisance.”
Quaint little towns and quaint covered bridges,
And people who can take it when the weather gets frigid.
New Hampshire, however, has mountains quite high,
With trails above tree lines, and peaks in the sky,
Wild rivers and bike paths, and even some beaches,
It’s got a penchant for drawing young folks in their fleeces.
It’s a place to play in the great outdoors,
It’s the first place I landed here, despite there being no Gore’s.
New Hampshire has snow like you can’t believe,
And in spring when it melts, the mud is obscene.
But despite its small size and no roads running East-West,
It’s a part of New England some claim is the best.
Now you know the rest. In the books you have read
How this country began when the British all fled.
How the Patriots showed them, no question at all
That they’d fight for their homeland, they’d answer the call.
And this spirit lives on in our region today,
New England’s quite proud of the ideals we convey.
We’re proud to be leaders in hi-tech and health,
We’re proud to have schools that embody such wealth.
We’re proud of old libraries. We’re proud of old art.
We’re proud of our nature, and being known for kind hearts.
We’re proud of FOUR champions – Sox, Pats, Celts and Bs,
We’re proud you can marry whomever you please.
And though recently shaken on a day we hold dear,
We’re most proud of those who stood up to fear.
For in that odd week, filled with hatred and terror,
The true spirit of Boston became clear as ever.
And all of New England showed all of the world,
How we still stand together, when darkness unfurls.
So throughout this week, as you visit us here,
I hope you’ll absorb every bit of our cheer.
Each bit of our history, each bit of our charm,
Each bit of our character, drawn from village and farm.
On behalf of the members of NAHSL, I say,
Welcome to Boston. Enjoy your stay!
And should you be sad when this meeting is over,
Come back and see us again in October!
Our annual conference will be on the Cape,
And I promise you now, that I will not rhyme another word.
Welcome to New England by Sally Gore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://librarianhats.net/2013/05/06/welcome/ .
Thanks to those who shared their thoughts and comments regarding this topic. It’s clear that we all feel pretty fortunate to have one or two people in our lives who inspire us, who we look to for support, who we admire despite their flaws. In fact, sometimes it’s the fact that they have flaws that make them the most appealing.
So as promised, I’ll reveal my own hero. I’m definitely no different in that I have several people – or parts of different people – that I depend upon for guidance in work, in play, in life in general. However, a few years ago I crossed paths with someone who really did change me in a bunch of ways. I don’t know if she knows this. I’m fairly certain that she didn’t set out to do such. Still, when I trace back over the time since we met, something shifted in my perspective and thinking and level of creativity that day.
My friend, Suzy Becker, is a self-described authorstrator – an author, illustrator, cartoonist, humorist, teacher, mentor, speaker, entrepreneur, all-around creative soul AND a pretty darned good person in general. I met Suzy after my spouse, Lynn, sat next to her at an open house for upcoming classes at the Worcester Art Museum (they were both teaching that term), came home, gave me Suzy’s business card, and said, “I think you should take her class. I think that you’re from the same tree.” As it turned out, Lynn and I both took Suzy’s class that fall. It was a day-long workshop on writing/drawing your illustrated memoir. I loved it. That was November 2010 and I literally have not stopped drawing pictures, thinking about creativity, and seeing how all of those things fit into my work (and life) since. I was already a writer, so I’m not giving Suzy credit for that, but she did inspire me to write more and to write differently. In a good way.
There’s something else that happened when we met, though, that has also played an integral part in how I approach work (and again, life). Suzy was/is, by far, the most accomplished person that I have ever known. In particular, she’s the most accomplished person my age that I’ve ever known. That’s different than being one who has achieved a lot. She’s done both, but I’ve known plenty of achievers and it’s not the same as being accomplished. For me, achievers follow a certain trajectory. Accomplished people complete and/or fulfill certain aspects of their lives, whether or not they set out to do such. Perhaps it’s merely semantics, but for me the subtlety is significant. For me, accomplished people make the most out of situations. They may well set personal goals for themselves, but they truly embody the idea that the journey is as important as the destination.
To me, Suzy Becker is an incredibly accomplished person and taking Daniel Coyle’s advice, I stare at her to see who I want to become. I also take Jessica Hagy’s advice, admiring the real and imperfect, and noting what Suzy does well and what she doesn’t do well. And I learn from it. As I said to a group of librarians at the University of Rochester’s medical library during a workshop I led back in January, “Whenever I start to think that I’m really good at something, I look at Suzy. It keeps me humble, because never in a million years will I be accomplished like that.”
But you know, you never get any better at anything if you always look to those you’ve already surpassed. You don’t run faster by always picking races where you’re a lot faster than anyone else. You don’t get better at playing the mandolin if you stay in the beginner’s class. Heck, you don’t even get better at answering questions, teaching classes, giving presentations, or any of the many things we do in our work unless you challenge yourself to do so. And sometimes the best place to find that challenge is in another person.
The other interesting thing that happened when I met the accomplished Suzy Becker is that I realized a really accomplished person is a pretty regular human being. She knows and/or has met a lot of people that I admire tremendously. She moves and operates in a different world than I do, yet it’s just a regular world, too. Now what this realization did for me, you might find kind of odd, but it gave me an incredible amount of confidence to contact other accomplished people (as well as a bunch of over-achievers, people that you really need to know in our work). I met Rosanne Cash and Alison Brown. I shook the shaker egg onstage with Ruth Moody. I tweet regularly with Amy Dickinson. And I’ve found a place in the departments and projects of researchers that I admire and enjoy working with.
Knowing a really accomplished person also gave me confidence to accomplish my own dreams. I joined a band. I have a piece of sculpture in an art show that opens this Saturday. I’m standing up on the big stage at the Hynes Convention Center on Sunday morning and giving a grand “howdy do!” to everyone attending the international One Health conference. I write this blog every week and a bunch of people read it. I’m taking a class on how to be a rockstar scribe.
And none of it is much about achieving anything. Not a bit of it matters much on an annual review. It’s more about making work and life something that’s fulfilling. For me. And the funny thing that I’ve noticed is that when my life came to be about fulfilling more than achieving, a lot of other people that I know (and don’t know) have enjoyed it, too. And that’s been perhaps the best part.
So big thanks to Suzy for allowing me to stare at her – whether she knew it or not. (And I sure hope she’ll still answer my email!) And check out her books. You’ll enjoy them. I guarantee.
The very first tip in Daniel Coyle’s book, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, is “Stare at who you want to become.” In her new book, How to be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps), Jessica Hagy writes, “Find yourself a hero. Seek someone who makes you smile. Someone who lives the way you want to. Someone you admire. Someone real and imperfect. Learn from them two thing: (1) What they do well, and (2) What they do not do so well.” A few years ago, when I was going through a difficult time trying to figure out who and what and how I wanted to be, a really wise person told me, “Find a mentor. Find someone who is like who you want to be.” There must be some truth to it. There must be something about mentors and mentoring, apprenticeship, and/or having someone to watch and model yourself after that helps you to become the person that you envision yourself being.
Do you have a mentor? Do you have someone that you look to – or stare at – so that you can notice those things that they do well and emulate them? When I was growing up, my hero was Billie Jean King. I loved the way she played tennis. I loved the way she spoke up for women’s tennis. I loved the way she beat Bobby Riggs. I must have checked out her autobiography from my public library dozens of times. I knew every part of her story from growing up in a middle class family, learning tennis on the public courts in California, how her brother played baseball in the major leagues. I knew about her struggles with weight, her knee surgeries, and her close companionship with another woman. When the story broke about their relationship, I remember my mom telling me that she was sorry my hero had let me down. I wasn’t of an age or mindset to understand or care about any of that stuff. I said it didn’t matter to me. She was my hero.
Years later, she still is. Whenever any magazine or network or other source attempts to generate a list of the most important sports figures in American history, I always look to see that Billie Jean King’s name is near the top. If it isn’t, then the list means little. She changed women’s sports – and sports in general – in ways few others have ever come close. She is on par with Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali – others who, simply by being themselves, changed their landscape. To me, what makes these people the most special (and the most admirable) is that while they each had flaws, they just could not be anyone other than who they were. Billie Jean King was going to be an outspoken individual who demanded fairness in her sport – equal pay for women – because she was a person who demanded fairness. The same characteristic emerged when she became a spokesperson for Title IX, for the Women’s Sports Foundation, and for the GLBTQ community. It’s always been about demanding fairness.
But how about in work? Particularly when you’re delving into a new area or just trying to survive in a profession that’s quickly changing all around you. Who do you look to for guidance and encouragement and some semblance of what “success” looks like for you? Who do you look to when the very institution that you prepared yourself to work in changes before you even get out of school?
I actually found a really good hero a couple of years ago. I want to write about it and share what I’ve learned and experienced since crossing paths with this person, but first I’d like to hear from others. I’m going to post this and wait for some comments – hoping to hear other’s stories before I tell my own. I hope you’ll share.