Quantae res vitae placent, tanto beatior eris.
These words, though not in Latin, were said to me by my father when I was 8 years old. He was taking a nap, and NASCAR was on TV. I asked him several times to change the channel because the cars were just going around and around in circles. It was boring, and besides, I wanted him to wake up and watch TV with me. He said to me half asleep, “Emmy, darling, the more things in life you like, the happier you will be.” He didn’t mean to make a philosophical statement–he was half asleep–but I thought about it for the rest of my life.
I do believe that this is the secret to success in life, in business and in relationships. If you can find something to like about a person, product, service, work, or job, you will be more engaged in it. When people are engaged, they perform better and are happier. When they are happier, they attract others to them, and become more successful.
Great artists and teachers show us how to find the beauty that is in things which we would probably otherwise overlook. Actively looking for beauty and meaning, or just actively looking for things to like, is my personal secret to happiness.
When I was in college I studied Milton (like him, I also studied Latin). When I was assigned to read Milton for class, without the benefit of any sort of background or framework, it was slow-going. I recall I had to force myself to get through my first reading assignment, and although I was an English major, I was not looking forward to a whole semester of Milton. But after attending a few lectures by my professor, Dr. Alex B. Chambers, who seemed to embody Milton in every way, including his long hoary hair and raspy voice, I couldn’t wait to read more Milton. We formed study groups and read Milton out loud in coffee shops, and each semester I saw his students doing the same. What began as drudgery turned out to be a source of joy and inspiration.
I like the period from 1880 to 1929: Art Nouveau, the Arts & Crafts Movement, the Symbolist Movement, the Aesthetic Movement, Victorian Orientalism, and all of the many “isms” associated with the Edwardian period. Chances are, if it was made or written between 1880 and 1929–or else the early 70’s–I like it. Also, like many others who studied Latin, I have a fondness for things Medieval, the intellectual history of the Church and Catholic literature (Anglo-Catholic too!). Iris Murdoch is among my favorite authors.
I believe I enjoy art more than other people, although I have no way of knowing this for certain. I like particularly pictorial art because I like to draw and paint. Wherever I am, I pay attention to what is hanging on the walls, while most people walk by appearing not to bother or care. Even in a hotel or office building or hospital, I pay attention to what’s on the walls, even though it’s not real art. I like to contemplate what works and what doesn’t, why a particular image was chosen, why the artist chose to do this instead of that. I also like knowing what other people like, or find interesting about a work of art. One motivation for me to create a site in WordPress was that I thought it would make it easier to share the things I like with others.
I have been a Museum Curator and Assistant Director for the Museum of Printing History, where the Director and I initiated Houston’s first antiquarian book and print fair, still going today; and worked as Data Standards Manager for the Museum of Fine Arts. I also collect antiquarian books and prints. I began collecting rare books and attending ABAA book shows when I was in college.
At one time I worked for a company called Groxis which developed an incredible federated search/clustering/visual navigation/discovery tool called “Grokker.” It was an amazing technology that people loved, although as with many start-ups, it was under-capitalized and didn’t last. It had sort of a cult following for several years, and many had hoped, even expected, that it would have been resurrected by now. Though not beautiful or flashy, it was capable of accurately clustering and labeling large amounts of unstructured content on the fly. As a librarian, I see federated search (“discovery”) products on the market today that are not nearly as robust as Grokker circa 2009.
Before Groxis, I had the privilege of working on another large scale library web service, one of the earliest academic digital library start-ups, Questia Media, which is still in existence today despite over the years facing fierce competition from ebrary (then Net Library), Google Books and various nonprofit sites funded by foundations with deep pockets. I was Questia’s first and only librarian for 6 months prior to launch, going back to when the company was merely “TLG.” I has the opportunity to work on some very exciting projects at Questia, including establishing the business rules for prioritizing title selection, initiating and developing a conspectus for benchmarking collection growth, assisting with meeting digitization quotas by locating stores of materials in the public domain, developing a strategy for retrospective and ongoing collection development, and most importantly, initiating and writing an RFP for a MARC-based system when they had been developing their own metadata for books (any librarian would have told them about MARC records . . . I was just in the right place at the right time).
At that time, publishers feared digitization and were uncertain how to monetize ebooks. Questia broke new ground. It is no secret that they burned bridges with many people, especially academic librarians, whom they attempted to bypass by selling their online library service directly to students; and by not hiring librarians to be title selectors–because at the end of the day, publisher agreements determined what got digitized, not whether a title was worthy. At Questia, I learned Perl and worked with a programmer on an application to generate citations (MLA, APA, etc.). I did a lot of technical writing as well. Also learned Oracle flavored SQL. I loved it, but have to say Questia hired way too many MBAs (it was almost all MBAs!) who developed a strange marketing strategy of trying to sell the service to underachieving students, who were the least likely to see any value in an online academic library.
I have been a Librarian at Texas Southern University for six years, where I get to wear many hats, have access to many wonderful scholarly databases, and get to interact with many aspiring and inspiring students and faculty. I teach Information Literacy courses, manage Primo (Discovery layer) and the website, and teach World Literature in the English Department.
I live in Houston with my husband, two boys, two dogs and a cat. If you want to know more about me, you can always email me at elibrarian [at] hotmail [dot] com.