Patrick Jones, Mr. Inspiration AND Agents v. Gatekeepers

December 6, 2006 at 7:36 pm 4 comments

MPOW just had it’s 20th anniversary membership meeting at the lovely Seaview Marriott in Absecon, NJ. We were pleased to have YA author Patrick Jones on hand to deliver a morning program for SJRLC youth librarians AND a crazy brilliant afternoon keynote.

I’ve blogged about Patrick’s presentations over at SJRLC’s blog, and I invite you to check it out. Here, I’ll just add one “takeaway” that I forgot to mention in my other post: Patrick’s insight that, good as the YALSA Quick Picks list is, “The single most important list is the books that got stolen last year. Start your year by buying replacements. They have a track record!”

I’ll add one more thing. As I noted in a previous post, I’m currently enjoying Setting the Table , by Danny Meyer. I’d like to share a passage that I found myself thinking about during Patrick’s talk. Meyer writes,

In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors’ offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.

I love Meyer’s agent/gatekeeper concept. It’s a simple idea, but perhaps for that very reason it lends itself to practical use. I found myself easily using it today as a gut-check while answering the phone and responding to emails. Was I making things happen for others, or was I erecting barriers to keep people out. (In fact, I did have to tell someone that they couldn’t attend a program–but then I put on my agent hat and offered three alternative options.)

I guess Patrick got me thinking about this because maybe, just maybe, we tend to be a little more gatekeeperish with the teens. But whomever we’re serving — kid, teen, adult, genealogist — I like the idea of making things happen for... Anyway, that’s what gets me out of bed in morning!


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  • 1. K.G. Schneider  |  December 7, 2006 at 7:32 am

    A good dichotomy, though I still like the idea of never saying no. I told someone at the new MPOW that I was changing my middle name from Gertrude to Collaboration.

  • 2. Peter Bromberg  |  December 7, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    Update: One of the three options I gave to the person who wanted to come to the program today (that was filled — and we’re in a tight space) was just to show up, and if we had a no-show we’d fit her it.

    Well, she showed up, we had a no-show, and I’m sitting here at the program and she’s sitting here in front of me. Yeah!

    I’m very pleased that she was able to attend, and I’m feeling quite agenty right now 🙂

  • 3. Karen Topham  |  December 7, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    I agree with Peter. Patrick Jones was also a presenter at the CJRLC Fall meeting. His ideas of connecting to teens are really relevant to working with community college students, community members, anyone coming into the library–or anyone who won’t because she doesn’t find us relevant.

  • […] 1, 2010 It’s been a while since I blogged about the difference between Agents and Gatekeepers, wherein I quoted one of my favorite passages from Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table (the […]

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