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Insider Article [September 2012] [08/27/12] (President's Message)
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President’s Message

Be Productive, Be Useful, and Make a Difference!

Photo of Wayne DisherIn this month’s newsletter, you’ll be reading about some pretty fantastic people—this year’s California Library Association award and scholarship winners.

Each year we honor outstanding accomplishments in literature, literacy, and professionalism, and I am so proud of this year’s group of talent and service. Some of these amazing people may be recognizable names to you, but I’ll just bet that this is the first time you've heard of some of them. That’s because many of these folks work tirelessly in the background, lifting up others and promoting someone else. They quietly leap giant chasms making it look effortless. But what inspires me so much about these folks is that they do it NOT because they expect recognition, or because they want personal gain, they do it because they want to make a difference. They find happiness in their productivity and their service to our profession. Their accomplishments are heroic and we should all be proud to count them as our colleagues.

Many years ago I read a very humorous book called The Education of Hyman Kaplan by Leo Rosten. The book—dealing with a recent immigrant at an adult night school and his personal war with the English language—won many literary and humor awards and is one I often turn to when I need a good honest laugh. It was a surprise to learn that Mr. Rosten based much of his book on his own personal experiences teaching English to immigrants during the Great Depression. Here was a Polish immigrant, dealing with the challenges of economic crisis, who used his skills to teach others while he himself looked for work. You’d expect such a man to write a very serious and very sad book about this experience. Instead, you find what is a clever, often hilarious, book about human character. Why am I bringing this story up? I was recently flipping through old magazines—what else does one do in a doctor’s waiting room? —and came across an interview with Leo Rosten. The interviewer questioned Mr. Rosten about his hard life and how it was that Mr. Rosten was able to accomplish so much. Leo Rosten replied with a great lesson that I have since put in my proverbial toolbox and I hope you’ll put it in yours. He said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy—but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.”

This is certainly something this year’s CLA award winners have done quite successfully!

Wayne Disher, President
California Library Association