For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
February 5, 2009 - library adopts new mission and vision
On January 10, the library Board of Trustees and senior staff met to set a course for the future. In three hours, we adopted a refocused mission and vision statement, reviewed our financial status and goals, and finally, adopted some specific plans for the next three to five years.
Over the next three weeks, I'd like to cover those issues in more detail.
First (this week), what does the library stand for?
Second (next week), what is our financial status in these troubled times?
Third (two weeks from now), what does our mission direct us to do to respond to our budget issues? To put it more positively: what are our plans?
The mission and vision of the Douglas County Libraries can be mostly captured in three phrases:
* our librarians are passionate advocates for literacy and lifelong learning.
* libraries change lives.
* libraries build community.
Almost all the people who work here read more books, watch more movies, listen to more music or other recorded sound, or visit more websites than most people. They not only have the requisite skills of literacy, but they also use them, avidly and often. They pay attention to the world around them, and are eager to share the riches.
We hire such people deliberately. We need their enthusiasm and skills to do something no other institution in America can do: fan the flames of lifelong learning for every age group. We offer programs for children still too young to sit up -- but more than ready to start soaking up language skills. When those children show up at kindergarten, they are raring to read.
We follow them through any and every level of school. We're there for them when they hit the job market. We're prepared to help them tackle the big life issues: planning a wedding, ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery, raising children, managing finances.
And we help them find and revel in their own passionate interests: reading mysteries or science fiction, boat-building, knitting, cooking, anime, drawing, poetry, music, foreign films.
Recreational reading, listening, and viewing is not only fun -- it's good for you. Literacy and lifelong learning together mean building a better brain, living a multi-layered and ever-more fascinating life from infancy through advanced old age.
Over the years, I've talked to thousands of people who have a Library Story. It was the moment when something clicked, something came into focus. Something changed.
Often, it was the comment of just one library worker, some spotlight shining on a book. Or it was the one meaningful piece of information supplied at precisely the right moment. Or it was the discovery that there are places in our society that are open to everybody, of any age, any financial status, any viewpoint.
It is a moment of transformation. Those moments make life worthwhile.
And finally, through this connection to place and people, something wonderful is forged: true communities. The new mother finds friends at a storytime. The new homeowner meets up with neighbors at a library meeting. The newly awakened citizen attends a civic debate, then researches local history or newspapers.
Mostly, what happens at libraries is that people check out materials, bring them back, and talk to other people. That's the "what" of libraries.
Our mission and vision is "why:" to develop and exercise our minds and spirits to our fullest capacity, to learn, to grow, to create and contribute to a vital society.
LaRue's Views are his own.