I trace my addiction to biographies back to the 3rd grade when I discovered Molly Pitcher: Girl Patriot, by Augusta Stevenson (Bobbs-Merrill, 1960) in my elementary school library. This book and others in the classic Childhood of Famous Americans series introduced me to a genre that continues to fascinate and inspire. I’m still intrigued by the early lives of heroic women and historic figures, but I’m truly thrilled when I discover biographies about innovators in the fields of art, dance, literature, comedy, and music — especially those of jazz musicians. And when Tony Bennett published his collection of autobiographical essays in Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett (Harper, 2012), I knew that I would be be-bopped-blown away.
In his chapter entitled “Proper Involvement,” Mr. Bennett celebrates the friendships in his life and emphasizes that his friends taught him not only how to be a better person, but how to be a better performer. He especially celebrates his friendship with Duke Ellington who was his mentor and lifelong friend. Says Bennett of his relationship with Ellington, “It was what he would call ‘proper involvement’ – a warm friendship based on mutual respect” (20).
Proper Involvement is a key characteristic of our field. Friends in other professions are continually impressed by the professional relationships we create and the ways that librarians respect, share ideas and work with one another. Examples of proper involvement include:
- Actively listening to colleagues when they describe new projects, ideas or services that they’re proud of and congratulating them on their success.
- Working with colleagues who have similar interests to develop new initiatives.
- Working with community partners to reach shared goals.
- Working with colleagues to present conference sessions and workshops.
- Joining professional organizations.
- Nominating colleagues for committee work or professional awards.
- Helping colleagues solve problems.
- Being a protege.
- Being a mentor.
How have you been properly involved throughout your career? Unlike Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington, few of us have shared the spotlight on The Ed Sullivan Show, but we all have worked with colleagues whose inspiration encourages professional growth. Each of us is responsible for proper involvement and by connecting with each other we reach goals and have a little fun.
Photo credit: “Tony Bennett Portrait of Duke Ellington Dedicated, Displayed.” Face-to-Face: A Blog from the National Portrait Gallery, April 29, 2009.