Last week I was able to chat with Rob Wright, our new Basic Science Informationist. Rob hails from Houston, and outside of Welch he has an appreciation for Abstract Art. Whenever I interview someone new to the Library, I’m always impressed by the “renaissance person” backgrounds they bring along. Librarianship does seem to attract those with diverse interests. The last interview I did was with Carrie Price, and Carrie has played the Cello professionally, and brings a certain classical music "joie de vivre" to her everyday encounters (She's also a great outdoors-hiker/biker and you've seen her pics from our "Tour Dem Parks Ride"---but I digress---on to Rob)
Rob, what prompted you to get into library service?
I’d have to say that my interest started in a very odd way. As a kid I would play a game with the encyclopedia. I’d randomly grab a volume with one hand and flip through the pages. With my other hand, I’d just plop down my finger and see where it landed. Wherever it landed----I’d read about what was there. I’d do this all afternoon. Reading things at random, about Kafka, genetics, or the Dada Movement in Art. And in a way, well, in a way this game was making me into a sort of geek, (Rob laughs) which prepared me for librarianship (Rob laughs again as I mention the librarian stereotype). But really, in a sense as a librarian you have an appreciation for knowledge of all kinds, which I definitely think that experience gave me. And more importantly, randomly looking at entries also gave me an appreciation for how information is organized. So the fact that I had this 20 volume set of information about every part of the world fascinated me. I think the seeds of my interest in librarianship really started at this point.
What are your interests outside the library?
I do like to write, and I’ve figured out that poetry is the form I’m comfortable with. Actually, when I took this job I realized I’d have a bit of a commute, so I thought “why don’t I see if I can at least compose some poems during my commute?” And I have to say it’s been a success so far. I have composed a few things. I can have the radio off, and it’s just me and the road with some thoughtful time. I’ve also done some collage and assemblage, and I have to say that I’m so pleased when I go through the Bloomberg building and see works by Robert Rauschenberg in so many places. He’s a real inspiration. My interest in the kind of work he does started when I discovered Dada----I think partly because Dada has this “found object quality” that appealed to me because I don’t have formal training. So this style of work looked like something I could apply myself to. The juxtaposition of textures and images, and the use of objects that were already-made, made me feel as though this was the type of artistic style I could be involved in. I found that Rauschenberg’s art echoed much of what I had seen in the Dadaists’ works. (He laughs) Don’t get me started----I could talk about art for a long time.
What attracted you to our humble little abode here at Welch?
I really like the fact that the Welch Collection is so readily accessible, accessible 24/7, and online---but then---what’s built into the service model is this one-on-one, individualized, highly specialized information service. So on the one hand, you have this state of the art e-collection that’s married to this very face-to-face, organic personalized service that can help you navigate the “maze of stuff” that’s online. The technology is married to a personal model of informationist resources.
For me, working at Welch is really a kind of step up. A step up in terms of complexity, degree of difficulty---and for me it’s also about exploring and developing a certain sophisticated informationist skill set. It’s the excitement and challenge of the situation.
Another big part about working at Welch is the team. What I feel, and what I felt from my first interview was that---I’ll be working with some very bright people whom I can draw from. I’m hoping that they can push me and I’ll be able to make my own contribution in terms of all of us providing a certain quality of service. Everyone’s been super-supportive and I know I’ll be able to partner with whomever I’m working with.
In talking with Rob, what caught me by surprise was his equal passion for both the worlds of Art and Welch. Hmmmmm. In the words of someone not famous: “who’d a thunk it”. Maybe a “cloaking device” has shielded us from their unification. Next time you pass a Rauschenberg painting, maybe you’ll envision the collage we’ve assembled here at Welch.