My grandfather had a sizable library when he passed away, and his son (my father) would wind up with roughly half of it. I remember shelves and shelves of books of quotations. He was a criminal lawyer with a love of quotes. I either inherited this love or caught it through the osmosis of being surrounded by these books throughout my childhood.
Most of the books were ruined over the years by mold and silverfish and a dose of neglect. But I managed to save a few handfuls of eclectic titles. Their smell still transports me to the basement of my childhood home. Here’s a picture of one of my favorites.
President Coolidge and Senator Spencer of Missouri were talking together one evening. They passed the White House.
“I wonder who lives there?” joked the Senator.
“Nobody,” said the President. “They just come and go.”
from Calvin Coolidge: Wit and Wisdom, 1933.
I consider myself a history buff, but even I fall victim to cliché and popular notions, so I’m willing to admit that my first impression of President Coolidge is “Silent Cal.” Who among my contemporaries would have imagined that Calvin Coolidge would have been remembered for his wit? Silent and dour, his own contemporary, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, said, “When he wished he were elsewhere, he pursed his lips, folded his arms, and said nothing. He looked then precisely as though he had been weaned on a pickle.”
It got me thinking about how I remember people and how I will remember people. It also made me curious about how people might remember me. I used to worry that I would be remembered as “The OPAC sucks” guy. Many of you will remember that meme which I will take credit for starting, but for the record, what I actually said at that 2005 ALA Midwinter LITA Top Tech Trends session was: “There’s so much talk about portals, metasearch, learning objects—the list goes on—that we have been distracted from the fact that the OPAC still sucks.” It was a throw-away line that I actually wrote in the taxi on the way to the event. Others got mileage from my bluntness. And while there’s even a song still on YouTube to go with the meme, dare I say it’s not a story my mother tells about her son’s great achievements in library technology. “He’s well known for his potty mouth,” Andrew’s mother said proudly to her Bridge club.
I’d rather be remembered for helping to build things that didn’t suck. One of the first ERMs, “Next-gen” OPACs, the WorldShare platform, the OCLC Community Center. Or, more importantly, for building and leading the teams that actually built those things. God willing, I’ll be remembered for something that happens in the next 20 years because that’s how much longer I need to get out of this gig. If I’m as lucky as Cal, I’ll be remembered for wit and wisdom.
What do you want to be remembered for? Will someone remember you for something the world wasn’t expecting, like John Hiram McKee remembered Coolidge? I invite you to post here and tell the world how you want to be remembered. Or how you remember someone for something we wouldn’t expect.