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. 

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