Is There A Steve Jobs of Libraries?

One of the comments in the long MetaFilter thread about Steve Jobs’ passing stuck out for me:

He made people try their hardest, and that’s the most important quality a leader can ever have.

I really like how this definition of leadership is more about the impact the leader has on other people rather than some internal quality that the leader  excels at (although these two factors – internal quality that impacts external staff – are obviously very closely connected.)

Jobs’ death also had me wondering if there is anyone who could be said to have revolutionized the world of libraries, even on our much smaller, more local scale?  I mean,  Steve Jobs is being compared to the titans of history – Einstein, Edison, Ford, etc. – so the most obvious historical figure in libraries would have to be Dewey.

But in terms of contemporary librarians?  I can’t find a list of all previous winners but probably some of the people who won Library Journal’s “Librarian of the Year” award would be potential contenders as would many who are on (what I think of as) the more techie, youth-oriented (and therefore more Jobsian?) “Movers & Shakers” list.

I looked over the Movers & Shakers list and although there are lots of people who’ve done lots of cool things, no one jumped out at me as someone who’s totally changed the nature of libraries in a seismic fashion like Jobs.

I don’t know – maybe it’s not fair to try to draw parallels between a private technology company which was briefly the most valuable in the world earlier this year against, as I said before, the hyper-local, taxpayer-funded institution that is the public library?  Or maybe Jobs is a once-in-a-lifetime figure and the library world just hasn’t had that person emerge yet?

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