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.
May 29, 1996 - YAPP Program
I freely admit it. There are lots of things going on at the library that I don't know anything about. Mostly, I'm ok with that.
I finally figured out that it's impossible for one person to keep track of all the activities of 100 others -- especially when they're as creative as our staff. It's more important that the environment is lively than that I know all about it ahead of time.
Besides, I like surprises. (Usually.)
Here's an example. One of our staff people, Carolyn LaPerriere, dreamed up a reading program for Young Adults. It's called "Y.A.P.P." When I asked her what it stands for, she said, "Young Adult Program at Philip S. Miller Library." I'll bite, I said. Shouldn't that be, Y.A.P.a.P.S.M.L.? She just laughed.
The acronym may be complex, but the Y.A.P.P. program is pretty simple. If you're 12-17 years old, you need to fill out a green registration card for the program. This qualifies you for the drawing, held twice a week for the duration of the program, to win a $15 gift certificate at Bogey's West (a music store). If you complete the program -- which requires you to read 6 books of your own choice between June 10 and July 15 -- then you go into the big drawing. Win that, and you win a $35 gift certificate at Bogey's.
"Why should a Young Adult sign up for such a program?" I asked. Carolyn allowed that she thinks the odds are better than they were last year that you'll win something. (More prizes.) Then she laughed again.
There's another benefit, of course. Carolyn also walked me over to the Philip S. Miller Library's Young Adult collection. (We have over 4,000 young adult books and paperbacks in the district's collection these days.) She showed me the Young Adult Reader's Advisory Notebook -- something else I didn't know about. This notebook included various book lists staff have produced over the past year or so. But it also included book reviews written by the intended audience -- teenagers.
Here are a few samples.
"Chorus Skating," by Alan Dean Foster: "It is a witty fantasy with a strange sort of humor. Definitely a book that would produce at least a short grin." Then the phrase "a short grin" was crossed out and replaced with "a violent fit of hysteria."
"Johnny Mnemonic": "It was a depressing and violent book in an even more depressing and violent future. Definitely not your cozy- up-with-a-hot-cup-of-cocoa kind of book." That's one of the best short book reviews I've seen, concise and informative.
"Journey to the Center of the Earth," by Jules Verne: "This book was boring and hard to understand." And my favorite: "The Plant that Ate Dirty Socks," by Nancy McArthur: "...it's a strange book. It is also a funny book. The plants eat socks, some dirty ... and some clean."
I have to end this with a great story I heard from the Philip S. Miller Library's branch manager, Holly Deni. Holly says that a recent study about how people interpret street signs yielded an interesting observation. You've probably seen the library sign. It features a sort of international bald-headed kid, holding an book.
How did people interpret it? "People reading as they cross the street." A Readers Crossing.
Hey, it could happen. Who knows? Some of them might even be young adults.