A Carousel of Progress

Revisiting Disneyland

San Diego welcomed sun-starved library workers for the American Library Association’s Midwinter meetings in January, 2004. Having planned in advance for a special day of fun, my Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT) colleague, Jim Hill, and I motored north to reclaim our lost youth in Disneyland. It was Jim’s first visit and twenty-five years since my last trip to the self-proclaimed “happiest place on earth.”

Only Dick Clark hasn’t aged over the last quarter of a century, so I was curious to observe the changes at Disney’s theme park. Many of my favorite attractions were still operating and Pirates of the Caribbean seemed to be enjoying renewed interest, perhaps from the recent movie. It was about the time we approached the new Indiana Jones Adventure that I really began to see the changes, or should I say, feelthe changes. Guests boarding the Indiana Jones jungle transports are promised an unforgettable adventure across a rickety bridge with pools of flaming lava! The mandatory seat belts were buckled and we lurched off into the jungle. As the land rover jerked violently back and forth, we were tossed, we were jostled, and we were nearly smashed by a gigantic boulder. Next we tried Splash Mountain and took advantage of a brief respite while floating in a hollowed-out log humming “Songs of the South” melodies. Dramatically, we ascended a gigantic incline into a vista of endless blue sky then plummeted 52 feet (5 stories) into a backwoods bayou pool. With knees still knocking, we set off for Star Tours where our “one-of-a-kind intergalactic expedition quickly turned into a heart-pounding warp speed odyssey.” The space orbiter’s movements and visual effects were so sensational that I got the motion-sickness of a lifetime. We dodged asteroids and narrowly escaped the death star. When we accelerated to light speed, my purse shot from between my feet and headed for Mars!

By now, I was convinced that the gentle-floating, slow-moving attractions of the past were just that, all in the past. Even a theatre attraction called “Honey, I shrunk the audience!” used 3-D goggles so we could experience overgrown dogs, menacing mice and vicious vipers, all up-close and personal. But no attraction summed up the change better than Innovations, the reinvented Carousel of Progress. As a teenager visiting the New York World’s Fair in 1964, I marveled at the rotating scenes of a typical American family (all robotic) dramatizing in a musical montage how improvements have come to everyday life through the use of electrical power and appliances. Walking into Innovations, I saw more changes than just the name. “Play with near-future technologies in 5 zones of shows, virtual reality and multi-media games,” read the literature. Gone was all audience seating and in its place were open areas filled with computers, music synthesizers, virtual reality exhibits and even SegwayT Human Transporter (HT) vehicles. We were encouraged to make music, enter VR, and try our hand at piloting a Segway. We were touching, creating, interacting and participating, not just passively sitting in a seat and watching events unfold.

In the civic-minded culture of the 1950s (when Disneyland opened), Americans joined organizations at an astronomical rate. The so-called G.I. (Government Issue) generation (born between 1901–1926 and growing up during the Depression and World War I) believed banding together would insure the future success of the nation. Being a “card-carrying” member of most anything was proof enough of your support for that group. Fast-forward to 2004 and now we meet the maturing members of Generation Jones (1954–1964) and Generation X (1965–1981). The Jones’ missed out on the revolutionary 60’s but still want to make their mark. The X’ers grew up smart, but isolated. They are independent, entrepreneurial, and extremely computer savvy. If you assume that belonging to an organization just to carry the card is not enough for them, you’re on the right track. These citizens, many of them library workers, want to retain their individuality but still give back. They find energy in participation and celebration in having a say in the mission of an organization. They make their contribution not merely by joining, but by becoming actively involved.

Several times during the Midwinter meetings, my fellow support staff colleagues observed how our presence in ALA was increasing due to appointments on committees, task forces and round table executive boards. We passed each other on the streets rushing to our next appointment. “Support staff are indeed now more ‘visible’ than invisible in the library field,” wrote Ed Martinez, editor of Library Mosaics. Library staff can become card-carrying ALA members at a reduced price ($59), but the next step will depend on both new members and a growing awareness of our issues among ALA officers.

The Carousel of Progress was created by the Disney team to carry the spirit and ideals of Walt himself. With abundant mid-’60s optimism, hope in the promise of the future was reinforced with each turn. Today, the reinvented Innovations proves that progress is also made by changing to appeal to your audience. Organizations like ALA who are planning with an eye to the future already see the wisdom in evolving. Just as Disneyland evolves to offer attractions that shake, jostle, plunge and interact to increase visitors, ALA is seeking new members (some from the Gen-Jones and Gen-X population) by offering them full participation. Organizations must be ever mindful of the truism that brought many of our ancestors to this country. As a pilgrim in America, I can choose to go elsewhere. What will convince me and my fellow library employees to join and stay members of ALA? For many support staff, it will be an activecontribution in advancing the mission and goals of our major professional organization. Our next thrilling ride is boarding now.

Jennifer S. Kutzik is an Information Technology Technician II at Colorado State University Libraries, Fort Collins. She is currently serving as the ALA LSSIRT Secretary and Webmaster, www.ala.org/lssirt.