04 February 2010

What would Jim Henson do

A while back I was having one of those days at work where the papers sitting in front of me and the code wasn't making sense, and I needed to do something outside my to do list. So I looked for inspiration online and I found some with Jim Henson.

Many people recognize Jim Henson as the creator of the Muppets and the gang at Sesame Street, but how many know of the innovations he wrought in storytelling, in puppetry, in educating and entertainment?  He wasn't content to let the status quo influence and dictate what he did.  He created puppets that had genuine facial expressions and had life to them.  He changed how puppets interacted with the camera and the stage.  According to Muppet Wiki:
The second innovation was to get rid of the stage that all puppets on TV hid behind, just as they did in conventional theater. He wisely realized that the TV screen itself is the stage. Freeing the puppets from the constrictions of the past, Henson found that the characters were able to move around their environment in a much more imaginative and exciting way. 
Can you imagine Sesame Street if the characters sat behind an artificial stage?  It would have been boring!  They wouldn't have last long if it were like the old "Punch and Judy show."  Instead lasting characters were created that interact with us today.  Where would the world be without Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Big Bird and the others?  I can't really say for sure, but I would imagine it would be a whole lot quieter in children's entrainment and education.

And I began to wonder...what more would he have accomplished if he hadn't died so young?  What new heights and innovations would we have seen in the puppetry world?  While his children and his group are still active Jim Henson was...well unique.  Time magazine had him on one of their top 100 lists and had this quote:

Joan Ganz Cooney, who created the show, once remarked that the group involved with it had a collective genius but that Henson was the only individual genius. "He was our era's Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, W.C. Fields and Marx Brothers," Cooney said, "and indeed he drew from all of them to create a new art form that influenced popular culture around the world." 

And so I wonder...how can I be more like Jim Henson?  How can I see the library in a new way to introduce new services to my users?  So I'm going to use Jim Henson as my inspiration for the year and see what new services I can come up with, what perceptions I can break.  Perhaps I'll introduce puppets into my information sessions. 

LibraryRoutes project

So there's been a meme going around for a while to talk about how you got into libraries. Well, I posted about it way back here in Aug. 2008. But, I've decided to copy and paste it below so that I can update it (wow are some of my sentence structures weird or what??) so that y'all can see how I've progressed and what not.

So how did I get here? I guess it was fate or destiny or the fact that I liked to read that led me to coming into libraries (and yes it is a cliche and yep it did still take a while.) My first real experience with a librarian was in High School.  I started spending spare time in the library and reading pretty much every book that I could get ahold of...and one of the librarians noticed that I kept coming in.  And that's when she started recommending books to me. She even brought books in for me that she thought I'd like that her husband was no longer interested in! So that kinda of stuck in my mind when I started looking for work study when I went to college and I applied to work at the campus library and got in.

I worked in Circulation and learned the in's and out's of access services pretty well. I was able to help with shifting, shelving, and just about anything that came across the Circulation desk. I remember my first year there pretty well, mostly because I was made to clean toner bottles. Not sure why, but that was something they made all freshman did (mostly for torture I think). But I stuck with it and I switched to working weekends and getting some extra hours outside of work study money. I struck up a friendship with the student that was my boss and learned even more about libraries (he eventually went to library school.) When he graduated I got to train the person that was my boss on the weekend and we ended up becoming pretty good friends (I was in his wedding a couple of years ago.) We supervised the student assistants on weekends, wrote their evaluations, and made sure basic tasks and duties got done, and that the building was opened and closed on time. And when he graduated I took on that job for the last semester.

I was art education in undergraduate and had a bad teaching experience so decided to go to grad school in Art History. But it never sat right. Even when I was at the college's main library I would want to show their staff and student's how to treat your patrons, providing a comfortable atmosphere, and providing excellent service (I never did, but I wanted too). A professor even asked why didn't I go into it. So I left after a year, without the degree and went to work at the library at Johns Hopkins University in a staff position.

Although my position was a bit odd, I had a boss tell me all jobs in the library were boring, I worked with a great group of people and met really cool librarians. I worked the evening/weekend shift and in stacks/building maintenance. During these hours I really had a chance to work with students and help them find materials. I got to find out what librarians really did and how tech services worked. I knew that I wanted to stay in libraries, but the questions was where? I had great ideas on how to improve services, but sadly I wasn't really listened to at Hopkins for various reasons, but mostly because I wasn't in a position of power in my department.  I decided that if I wanted to be able to really make changes, I needed to go back to school and get my MLIS.  And my friend from undergrad (the one whose wedding I was in) had just finished his MLIS at University of South Carolina and he spoke highly of the program.

So I left Hopkins, moved back to SC and attended University of South Carolina via Distane Education. I met some great people, had some interesting professors (that's another post in it's entirety!) and finished my MLIS in one year (yes one year I know its unusual to some folks.) During that time span I worked at a two libraries PT and gained experience working on the reference desk at one of them.  I decided I wanted to stay in public services and began looking for work before I graduated.  I had a few interviews and landed the position of Interlibrary Loan/Circulation Services Librarian at my current place of work a couple of weeks before I graduated.

As I wrote about previously I switched positions last summer and...well my time here has been interesting and I've learned more about myself and what I'd really like to do as a librarian.  I've enjoyed the ride and don't regret a moment of it (most days :).