Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Vacation inspirations from the content saloon

The best thing about vacation is the pleasure of thinking and getting beyond my normal activities of un-ending meetings, hashing out details to make something happen, and the petty politics of organizations. It's all about perspective. And getting some.

As I traveled to the Adams birthplaces/homes, to New Bedford, to the JFK library, to the North End of Boston, and all along the coast, I was constantly reminded of good things and all the reasons why we do what we do .

Public service is a good thing, and public service in pursuit of public knowledge is necessary for our democracy
Birthplace of John Adams"If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?"
~John Adams

"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people." ~John Adams

Calm discussions of philosophies don't win revolutions. Act.
"We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them." ~Abigail Adams

"I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life....Man was made for action and for bustle too, I believe." ~Abigail Adams

Literature and people who love literature changes lives
Me in the pew where Melville sat in the Seamen's Bethel, New Bedford A number of people have been a bit amazed that I went all the way to New Bedford and planned an entire vacation around my love of Moby-Dick. (And even more are amazed that my husband thought all this was a good idea--there are reasons, of course, why we are married ;)

It seemed completely normal to me that I would go to New Bedford. Stroll the streets Melville and his fictional characters strolled. Sit in the same pew, and think about our relationship with the natural and supernatural worlds, about the ephemeral nature of everything, about context, the terrible sacrifices we have made for American industry, and the importance of not taking anything (particularly yourself) too seriously. I'm enthralled and appalled by the beauty, goriness, greed, and glory of it all. And all of this is because of a book--and a person who loved the book enough to inspire others to love it too. Oh, and the same person told me to go to library school. So, of course, I did. Literature, and people who love it can change and shape someone's life forever.

Each new media is a new opportunity to change the political landscape
One of the cameras used in the Nixon/Kennedy debatesAt the JFK museum, much attention was paid to the Nixon/Kennedy debates and the roll television played in the campaign. Kennedy himself said, "It was television more than anything else that turned the tide."

Even after the election, Kennedy stunned the press by having live, un-delayed press conferences. Open, intelligent conversations and public engagement were paramount. How can public libraries utilize the media of the day (the Web and other Internet tech) to encourage more public engagement and political interest? How (and when) will we turn the tide?

Flag at the JFK LibraryWhen you look at everything JFK accomplished or at least got off the ground in such a short time (civil rights, the peace corps, the space program, etc), you know that he wasn't acting alone. He had a lot of incredible people working with him. Great leaders don't accomplish everything themselves. They find smart people (or more likely they already know them), they inspire them to work toward common goals, and they let them fly.

Great revolutions were born and nourished in bars and taverns
Memorial to revolutionaries and beerThis is a photo of a memorial in the Paul Revere mall, commemorating the Salutation Tavern and the Green Dragon Tavern--places where a lot of cool people with energy and brains hung out, drank beer, plotted revolution, and planned a country.

Isn't it true that many of our most rewarding experiences at conferences weren't in the keynotes or the formal sessions but in the bars with colleagues in the evening?

Want to start a revolution? Get out of your library, grab some colleagues, go to a pub, and get to work.

If you need to think, get yourself to the sea
BuzzardsFrom the first chapter of Moby-Dick, "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, our sweat, and in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came." ~ John F. Kenendy

"...and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago." ~Herman Melville (last line of Moby-Dick, save the Epilogue ;)


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