Jefferson Smith, Billy Beane and a Fond Farewell

Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Change isn’t easy when the establishment doesn’t want to listen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying. (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hey there Hackers, it’s been a while.  The last semester has been a whirlwind of activity, and it’s been hard to string two thoughts together to share with you all.  Not that you’ve missed me, as the rest of the HLS team has been doing a bang up job during my absence.  And now I’m back, just in time to say good bye.  I’ve finally graduated, and so it’s time for me to give way to the next rabble rouser.

But you won’t get rid of me that easy.  This is just one of many changes I’ve been engaged in lately, and it’s got me thinking.  In introducing our site refresh, Anna-Sophia talked about the urgency of change and how us Hackers, writers and readers alike, must be the vanguard.  And I couldn’t agree more.  This space gives us permission to be the change agents our profession needs us to be. To raise the tough questions and have uncomfortable conversations, right or wrong.  It has to start somewhere, so why not here?

I’m giving my brain a well-deserved rest after graduation, so I’ve been immersing myself in the movies.  On my way out the door, I’d like to give you some Hacker homework.  Don’t worry, it’s easy.  There are two movies that I think perfectly encapsulate the role of the Hacker in our profession.  The first is Moneyball, the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane and his attempts to shake up baseball.  The second is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Frank Capra’s 1939 masterwork on the promise and reality of democracy, starring Jimmy Stewart as the intrepid Jefferson Smith.

If you’ve already seen them both, go back and watch them again.  And as you watch, think about the role of the change agent.  Beane and Smith are both faced with systems that are clearly broken, but no one has the guts to try anything new.  Instead of business as usual, and against the advice of all the supposedly wise voices who suggest otherwise, both men endeavor to break the system and try something new.  They use the specter of failure as fuel, finding a way to at least make sure their visions are heard.  If you haven’t got the four hours to watch both, just watch the last half hour of Mr. Smith (just make sure you’ve got the hankies handy).

And this, dear Hackers, is what I charge you with.  We students and new professionals and old hats- we are the change agents that the library, archives, and information management field needs.  Our ideas are valuable no matter how quixotic they seem.  Use this platform as the first step to action- you’ll find out you’re not as alone as you might think.  And your ember of an idea shall grow into flames and then the fire that finally brings about change.  You can do it. I’ve got faith in you.

I’d be remiss to step aside without some words of thanks.  To all of the editors and writers here at Hack Library School, thanks for your support and energy and enthusiasm.  I can’t say I’ve ever been part of a group that was so collegial and friendly, despite that fact that most of us have never met in person.  And big thanks to those who have read my writings and engaged with me both here and privately.  You all have kept me going and kept my fires burning, and I’m grateful for that.

Remember- change is good, and necessary. And it won’t happen without us.

-Steve Ammidown

I’ll still be around, by the way- you can find me @stegan and at The Unexpected Archivist


Categories: Hellos & Goodbyes

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1 reply

  1. Now this is some homework I can get into…

    Thanks so much for your strong voice, here and elsewhere, Steve. You’ll be missed, but I hope you keep up The Unexpected Archivist (there are some great posts up there already, guys, GO READ THEM).

    Here’s to staying fired up and ready to go.


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