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.
June 19, 1996 - Useful Facts
It's not that I never write anything useful in this column. Letting people know about library doings is, I trust, a public service.
But lately, I've had a powerful need to document a few things that are REALLY useful. For instance, here's one that I got from reading a kid's book about a Jewish grandmother: when you break an egg, and a piece of the eggshell falls in, the best way to get it out is with the rest of the eggshell. Spoons, knives, fingers just don't work. An eggshell does.
I can't tell you how much aggravation this has saved me.
Here's one that my wife ran across in a book: if you get some kind of berry stain on a shirt, pour scalding water through it. The stain comes right out.
Here's another one that didn't come from a book. It's culled from watching a lot of relationships go sour. It's something every engaged couple should incorporate into their wedding vows, and every married person should give some thought to: don't speak ill of your spouse, especially in public. Some smart remark may get a laugh, but it really isn't funny. What it is, is unattractive, fundamentally discourteous, and destructive. More often than you might imagine, the heart and mind follow the mouth.
Since this is, after all, a library column, here are two library- related tips:
(1) The best way to use the library's computer to find books on a particular subject is first do a title keyword search for the topic -- "Dalmatians," for instance. When the computer displays the list of titles that match whatever word or phrase you entered, look on the middle column of the screen, headed "CALL#" (for "call number" -- the number on the spine of the book). Usually, the books with likely titles have the same general number. Then go to that part of the library and see what's on the shelf. There are, of course, other ways to track down really comprehensive listings of library materials, and just because it isn't on the shelf at a particular library doesn't mean you have to do without. We have a 6 day a week courier system that gets most materials to you the day after you request them. Beyond that, we're connected to a truly international network of libraries.
But most of the time, people are just looking for something, anything, on a topic for that particular day. This method is the simplest, fastest way to do that.
(2) You don't have to finish books you don't like. Really. There's no way anyone else (librarians, for instance) can find out about it. And even if we could, not finishing a book isn't a crime. It's not even a character flaw.
There are a lot of poorly written books out there -- even the ones on the bestseller list. If you're not enjoying something, and you don't HAVE to read it for some other purpose, just stop. There are plenty of books in the world that you WILL enjoy.
Finally, here's one more general life tip, passed on to me by my father-in-law and attributed to the stand-up comic, Jeff Foxworthy: you know how diaper packages are labeled with, say, "5-7 pounds," or "15 pounds?" That's just about the most they'll hold. Don't overload them.