Welcome, folks, to Gadgetechnica’s first-ever post in the series “Spotlighting the Awesome”! Some of you may recall that I got the idea for this series when NN/LM SE/A interviewed me for its “Inspiring People in Our Region” series. Even though I spent an entire day curled up like a threatened caterpillar because of embarrassment, I felt equally honored- especially when congratulations began pouring in via Twitter. Receiving all of those good wishes made me reflect on the awesome (personal and professional) attributes of my colleagues in the #medlibs community and I thought, “Somebody should focus on the important work that these folks are doing! And while Somebody’s at it, Somebody should also point out what cool people they are!”. Well, I decided that Somebody is me, and here we are
I am very pleased to introduce (for those who don’t know him) Alonzo LaMont, the presence behind Johns Hopkins’ Welch Library’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. With no further ado, I’ll allow Alonzo to speak for himself. Enjoy!
Alonzo, looking all casual on the front porch
What is your title?
How well does your title reflect your actual job?
I believe it very accurately reflects my job.
Is this the job for which you were originally hired at Welch? If not, what was? How did this current role evolve?
Originally, I was hired at the Welch Library to work the circulation/reference desk. I did that for a number of years (about 12). About 3 years ago a Welch Informationist asked if I wanted to contribute to the Communications Committee. Actually, what she really wanted was for me to start a library blog, twitter, and facebook page. Aside from those three, what I eventually created was the library YouTube channel (and I made the first videos), podcasting, a Welch Tip of the Day, the Latest News, a monthly newsletter and videos we now make in one of the Hopkins TV studios.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I’d say having a certain amount of flexibility. I can somewhat craft how my days will go. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any oversight, I do. But with the creation of those various aspects, I believe, in the eyes of others, the general thinking regarding my job is that whatever I’m doing on any given day—it usually involves working on some aspect of library promotion.
What is your biggest professional challenge right now?
I would say it’s juggling all the social media pieces and keeping them “in the air” at the same time. Also, I don’t want anything to feel stale—whether that’s in my writing or in the stories I choose to highlight. The medical community sees the library as fitting a particular category that’s perhaps more strict with regards to traditional perceptions. This is Johns Hopkins, and they’re about the business of saving lives. You can’t play around with life and death too much. There’s a certain standard that people expect in anything “Hopkins-related,” and you need to keep close to that. However, I’d like to think what I can bring is an element of social or cultural engagement. Whether through special projects or whatever comes along. I’ve had the opportunity to develop one project that had a performance element. I have a playwriting/directing background so I thoroughly enjoyed that process from start to finish. It was very exciting and ultimately showed something that I believe hadn’t been revealed before to a Hopkins community. Other than that, my biggest challenge is probably bridging that “happy medium” between my own creative style with my work environment.
What’s the thing that has surprised you most about working in the library world?
(Laughter!) The most surprising thing about working in the library world is that I’m working in it. I don’t have a library degree and didn’t study library science. Like many artists with degrees, we’re all basically just gypsies who find our way in fields that are pretty foreign to us. But we somehow find our way.
I know that you’re a playwright; can you describe how this informs your worldview? Does it inform your work life at all?
I think it does, shall we say, “feed into” my worklife. I think having an artistic background works to enliven what can be a very black and white medical environment. It’s a little like teaching. You almost naturally develop a persona in front of a classroom. Not everyone does this, but I know (in another lifetime when I was teaching) that I did. Having even a small reservoir of little writing doo-dads and creative writing gizmos comes in handy. You sort of let your audience in on the character you’re assuming to play. Perhaps it’s the clown, perhaps it’s the “innocent” seeking to be informed. You insert a little “everyman” into whatever you’re writing. Also, in playwriting you seek to present and shine a light on moments of humanity you’re choosing to shape and illustrate into your own version. You’re providing your own account of THE BIG HUMAN MOMENT, as it occurs in the story you’re telling. I think with writing, from an imaginative standpoint, you’re able to walk in the shoes of people who have a passion, a love, or a compassionate relationship with their life’s work. You’re not actually walking in those shoes, but on some level you can feel the weight.
So many of us struggle with work/life balance; do you? If you do, what steps do you take to stay balanced?
Gosh gee, I have a few. I’d say that I’m an avid bicycle riding enthusiast. I commute everyday and do organized rides. I ride year round, and it’s positively 100% uplifting. I always remember two phrases: Any time on a bike is a good time. And, “there’s no such thing as a ride that’s too short”. I don’t have to, as they say, “costume up” just to ride my bike. I love seeing neighborhoods and nature and all points in-between. Sometimes I just feel so damn fortunate just to be able to feel the sun on my face. Also, as mentioned, I’ve been a playwright all my adult life and I don’t see that love affair subsiding anytime soon. Now, right up there with those two is a completely addictive relationship to TCM, Turner Classic Movies. I have a mental database of sooooo many movies, movie stars and “movie moments”. I attended the TCM Film Festival two years ago, and it blew me away. Such a diversity of people. There’s a wealth of movies to see and you find yourself surrounded by people who love movies so much that when all those special moments come up they cheer! And a cell phone NEVER goes off! You kinda feel like you’re in Paris in the 20’s. You hang out, drink fancy cocktails and coffee, then take in the cinema. Having the festival right on Hollywood Blvd. is like having the Algonquin Round Table in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Ok, the Zombie Apocalypse has occurred; tell us the following: 1) Which three people do you choose to have with you, and why? 2) You can have an unending supply of ONE food; what is it? 3) You can have one creature to help you; which do you choose: dragon, unicorn, or basilisk?
My wife Nicole, Elia Kazan and Miles Davis. My wife! Because why on earth would I take a trip through a Zombie Apocalypse without her? (“You went without me?!”) I love her too much for that to happen. Eliz Kazan because his autobiography is mind-blowing. He’s such a paradox (politically he’s been demonized for his testimony at the House Committee for Un-American Activities), but I don’t think there’s a director who can top his film or theatre work. Miles Davis because he created cool. Not just musician cool, but music cool and style cool. Years ago when “Entertainment Tonight” came to him for an interview he said point blank, “what took you so long?” Oh, let me add one more—Robert Evans. A film producer, who came in off the streets and worked his mojo all over the place. (Read “The Kid Stays In The Picture”)
My unending supply of one food?
Tofu egg salad OR Hebrew National hot dogs with a soft roll and lotsa condiments!
One creature to help me?
Dragon. Cause I think having a dragon by your side gives you a lot more street cred than say a unicorn. Rolling up anyplace in the world with a dragon by your side does all your talking for you. Robbers, Highwaymen, Thugs or commonplace Evildoers would back off, or be toast.
What else should we know about you?
Jackie Evancho singing brings me to tears.