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.
July 17, 1996 - Libraries Close for District-Wide Inventory
In 1990, the Douglas Public Library District owned 65,000 items. Now we own 240,000.
Or do we? Well, our computer says we do. Of course, a certain amount of those items are checked out at any given moment. It's also true that some of them don't come back, although eventually they get deleted from our database.
But some of them also get stolen -- just walk out the door. How many? We don't know.
A great number of them get misplaced. My son Perry, who's 2 now, likes to pull titles from one bin in the children's area, exclaim over them, then carefully put them back in another bin altogether. I scoot along behind him and put things right. But I'm not always right there, kids move pretty fast, and Perry is not the only little one who enjoys this game.
Grown-ups do the same thing, selecting an item, looking it over, and sticking it back somewhere close to the right place, but not quite. Multiply this by literally tens of thousands of transactions over the course of a year, and it's hard to know what's where.
The result? You can't find the book the computer says we own. Librarians can't find the books they need to answer reference questions. Popular new materials get swallowed into little pockets of chaos.
Naturally, we do try to stay ahead of the problem with something called "shelf-reading" -- going through the shelves and putting things back in order. But more and more people come to the library these days, and they check out more and more books. To be brutally frank, it's time for us to attack this problem in a big way, with all-out concentration and force.
So the library will be doing its first ever district-wide inventory. Each of our libraries will be closed in turn as teams of computer-wand-wielding librarians handle every single item we own, then put them where they belong.
The schedule for closings looks like this:
Oakes Mill Library - August 1 and 2 Highlands Ranch Library - August 4, 5, and 6 Parker Library - August 8, 9, 10 Philip S. Miller Library - August 14, 15, 16.
We'll be moving at a pretty fast clip through all these collections, and hope to wrap it up on schedule. Emphasis on "hope." It's possible that the schedule won't hold.
We'll make sure that none of the items you check out will fall due on these days. And since we'll be closing the libraries in sequence, you'll still be able to phone or visit the other libraries. Think of it as "Reading Douglas County: a Literary and Architectural Tour." You'll find that each of our libraries has a distinct personality, reflecting the differences in its materials, its furnishings, its neighborhood, and its staff. One thing won't change: good service at each location, and lots of good things to choose from.
When we're done, we'll clean up our computer records, calculate our loss rate, replace the popular or core materials that have disappeared, and revel in the brief moment of glory that comes from knowing that all our shelves are in perfect order.
Then we'll open the doors, and you'll be able to find things again.
Thanks for your understanding.