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.
August 14, 1996 - Library Growth in Income, Population, Demand
I remember the day I proudly informed an old college friend that I was going to be a father. He said, "I'm really sorry to hear that."
Surprised, I asked him, "Why?"
"Mark my words," he said darkly. "Right now, there might be two or three years between our visits. When we do get together, it doesn't really seem like that much time has passed. We look and feel about like we did the last time we saw each other. But now -- one visit your daughter will be in diapers, and the next time she'll be graduating from college. There's only one way to interpret that: I'm getting old. Kids are responsible for it."
I laughed. I'm not laughing now.
Three months ago, I carefully marked the spot on the wall that equaled my daughter's height. Now she's two inches taller. Three months. As I often say to my wife, they don't make a year like they used to.
But kids just make it personal. I've been reviewing some library statistics lately, and my business life echoes my personal life.
For instance, I've been looking at library revenue, the library's budget since 1991, which was our first year as a library district. In 1991, our income was $2,181,868. In 1995, it had risen to $2,818,905. That's an increase of 29 percent, which seems very healthy.
But consider the population growth in Douglas County. In 1991, 64,857 people lived here. At the end of 1995, there were 99,091. That's an increase of 53 percent.
Now consider the jump in library business. In 1991, we checked out 510,211 items. Last year, we checked out 1,038,322 -- an increase of 104 percent. That's almost twice the rate of population growth, and three and a half times greater than the growth of library revenues.
But to anybody with children, this is downright familiar. It doesn't matter what kind of growth you see in your income. At some point, it occurs to you that what you need for the future is intelligent investment -- setting aside for a purpose. These days, I think that the real, tangible manifestation of love is the will to plan. If you don't have that, you may have affection -- but you don't have love that is alive and conscious.
Your children will need adequate funds to go to college. Your libraries will require adequate structures to house the broad curriculum of new library materials. Responsible parents plan for the well-being of their children. Responsible citizens plan for the well-being of their public institutions.
It's a hard thing, discovering that those marks on the wall not only add up to the bewildering growth of our offspring, but to deep new obligations, our sweat for their future. But mark my words, the right time for planning is yesterday. If not then, then today.
Two inches in three months. Astonishing.