Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 3: The Speakers

David Isay
I love StoryCorps. A lot. I discovered it when one semester during grad school when I had a Friday morning class, and listened to StoryCorps on NPR as I drove in. I loved it. I love hearing regular people's stories. I love getting to hear stories from all sorts of different people, and I love the fact that the stories are archived and housed at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress so people can listen to them for years to come. After that semester, I subscribed to the podcast so I could listen to it every week.

So I was very excited when I saw that David Isay, founder of StoryCorps was going to be speaking as part of the Auditorium Speakers Series. And it was wonderful. So far, StoryCorps has recorded about 30,000 stories from over 60,000 participates. It was founded only seven years ago, and started in Grand Central Station in New York City. Isay played a number of stories for us throughout his talk.

The first story he played was from one of the first stories they ever recorded, a couple, Danny and Annie who came to record their memories of their first date, 25 years after they got married. It was a very nice story. I may have gotten a little teary. I liked the part about Danny writing Annie a love letter every morning. Something like, "It's raining out. I love you." Danny described being married as " having a color television. You never go back to black and white." Danny and Annie came back to record stories with StoryCorps many times over the years, and they were able to record a last story before Danny died of cancer. The StoryCorps booth in Grand Central was renamed after them.

Isay played a number of different stories, 10-year-old Catiline asks her mother questions about being a lesbian; two cousin remembering their formidable Sunday school teacher, Ms. Divine, which was recorded on the StoryCrops mobile tour; a couple from Memphis remembering the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Then he played some library related stories. There was a great one from a librarian in Buffalo named Sharon, who knew she was going to be a librarian from a very young age. She cataloged her comic books, and made her friends check them out when they wanted to read one. If they were late, she charged them a ten cent fine. Ali, a judge in Arkansan, remembers stealing a book from a library because he couldn't let anyone know he was reading. When he brought it back, another one he was interested in was in its place. So he took that one. He found out later that the librarians knew he was taking them, but understood and wanted to encourage him to read.

Some of the stories I had already heard, since I listen to the podcast, but I certainly didn't mind hearing them again. I definitely recommend subscribing, it's really beautiful.

Isay ended by telling us we were doing God's work, and to carry on.

PLA President's Program with Keynote Speaker Will Shortz
Jamie is going to go into more detail on Will Shortz. It was lots of fun though, we got to play some games with him. My favorite was the one where he gave a sentence with a blank, and the word had to be a U.S. city that also completed the sentence. For example, "Playboy is putting out a movie with an all ______ cast." The answer being Albany. Hee.

Eppo van Nispen tot Sevender: Libraries Wanted: Dead or Alive
Eppo van Nispen tot Sevender is a motivational speaker and one of the founders of DOK Library Concepts Center. I had some mixed feelings about this one. There was some good stuff in it, but well, I didn't leave feeling all that motivated. I left feeling like I'd heard it all before, but still wasn't sure how to make it actually happen.

van Nispen did his speech kind of like a stand-up comic. He started off showing video of walking about D.C. asking people if they'd like to be a librarian. Everyone said no. A couple of girls said they really liked books, but no, they did not want to be a librarian. So are libraries wanted?

van Nispen said that one of the main problems is that as librarians, we've done ourselves a disservice. We're not fun. There are too many rules. We seem obsolete. We don't need to be serious 24 hours a day. Funny is important, and so is having fun. Right now, Google is seen as the #1 reputable source of information. It should be librarians and libraries. We need to change that.

A major problem that Van Nispen sees is rules. Libraries have lots of rules, and it's no fun. Maybe we don't need all those rules. The one he decided as the stupidest rule ever was no eating around the books. Because the books get checked out. And taken home. And probably are exposed to food and drinks and who knows what else. So why can't people eat in the library?

He spoke a bit about creating DOK, with the modest mission of being the most modern library in the world. And it looks like it has been a success. I would like to go to the Netherlands just to see this library. It's amazing. Has anyone been? Is it as amazing as it looks?

van Nispen concluded by saying that it's up to us as to what the future of libraries is going to look like, and if there are going to be libraries at all. We need creativity. We need to f&#k the system, we need more male librarians and we need to make connections. We need for people to not roll their eyes and looked pained when asked if they'd like to be a librarian.

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