be kind. think big. laugh.

amy posted this September 15th, 2012 | filed under: moi | no comments »

today is the memorial service for Lee and Judy Dirks, so i thought i’d do some remembering myself (though i have thought of Lee daily since waking up august 30th to a fb message from a good friend asking if i had heard the news about Lee).

i was introduced to Lee by Peter Brantley after, well, yelling on the internet. (social media can be your friend, kids. if you’re willing to own your words, and listen to what others are saying, you’d be surprised at who lets you join the conversation.) the twitter convo stemmed from Peter’s post about the frustrating state of affairs in academic libraryland. i don’t have the whole back n’forth, but ultimately it led to this tweet:

lots and back n’forth happened after that. me with my crazy ideas, finding out that there are lots (LOTS) of others out there willing to take risks on crazy ideas in order to make things better. the first being Peter, the second being Lee.

i finally got to meet-meet (as opposed to Skype/email-meet) Lee when a road trip took me through Seattle in April 2011. he hosted us (moi, Kendra & Meg) at Microsoft Research for an afternoon of talking about academic libraryland and offering us sneak peeks of fun tools including chronozoom. i spent the afternoon in awe of how friendly and warm Lee was (we had only chatted a few times before this) and how open he was to working with librarians to just make things better.


remembering a friend

(i have zero pix of Lee and i together, but my visitor pass is still stuck to the bottom of my Mac, where i put it after leaving MSR. later at SXSW, many many jokes were made about “tightening security” before i arrived, and that normally they just let anyone in but because i was coming suddenly everyone needed to be signed in and out.)

the academic revolution plans were put on hold (though Lee’s passing has lit a fire under many asses to get this going, so watch this space) but we kept in touch. shared some Lone Star together in Austin at Open Repositories 2011 (my gawd, THE HEAT), repeatedly heckled each other on fb, and tried to always meet up at conferences.

we were both in Austin again for SXSWi 2012. before i even got there, i was involved in many planning emails from Lee for bbq, beers, and bat-watching. i had only met one other person on the email list, but almost all of the names were familiar – familiar in the ZOMG I GET TO MEET HIM/HER!?!? way. i have since learned that this was Lee’s way of building community – get everyone he knows and likes together for fun, and watch the relationships grow. so there i was, still a babybrarian, sharing the plans for SXSWi with folks that i had professional-crushes on. (and please don’t think i was all smooth’n savvy or anything. i got some pretty hilarious blowback for telling Lee to “just Google it”. hey buckland, he works at MSR and is inviting you to crazy stuff you’d never normally go to. the least you can do is remember it’s Bing, you monkey.)

SXSWi arrived. two memories that i will have forever:
1. organizing and speaking on a pretty successful panel with awesome librarylanders.
2. what i now refer to as “The Broken Spoke Night”. the tl; dr version is:

Lee’s friends + texmex + honky tonk + two-stepping + Johnny Knoxville + eleventyfour people in a minivan = one of my favourite nights of all time.

so so very fun.

Lee may not have realized it, but he had become  a mentor. whenever work was getting me down, or i was seeing things happening in libraryland that just made me want to permanently become Rambina, he would remind me that i can change it – that i should change it – especially if it makes me want to smash things.

he encouraged me to think big. and that when i failed at something (“which you will, and hopefully in a spectacular fashion!”) that meant i was doing it right.

he taught me that seeking out people interested in moving forward (and not wallowing in what is wrong) is the way to build a community. it would be hard work, but imagine what could be done if i was surrounded by folks who liked laughing, honky tonk, and fixing broken things?

it goes without saying that i will miss Lee, so i’m going to do my best to channel his kindess, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and community-building in my libraryland travels. i challenge all of you to do the same.

cheers, Lee. you truly rock.


Lee and Judy left behind two daughters. if you are so inclined, a support fund has been setup for them. please consider giving.


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