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.
October 23, 1996 - Promises Kept
It's easy to be a little cynical in a campaign year.
Especially at the national level, candidates are out there promising things no one really believes they will, or can, deliver. Too often in America, a "campaign promise" is a little like cotton candy: sweet, but when you bite down on it, mostly air.
So I realize this is a little unusual. But this week, I'd like to remind Douglas County citizens just exactly what the first "Say Yes to Libraries" committee promised voters back in 1990. That was the year the Douglas Public Library District was formed.
Even if you weren't here then, or even if you don't exactly remember what was promised, the library DID remember.
The first thing the library said it would have the resources to do is to stay open 7 days a week. At the time, none of our branches was open more than 5 days a week. (We were closed on Fridays and Sundays.) It happened in April, 1991.
The second promise was to double the budget for books, videos, cassettes, magazines and other library materials. Back then our materials budget was $148,000 annually. Now it's $512,000 -- over 3 times larger.
The third promise was to improve children's collections and programs at all branches. Back in 1990, most libraries only had 2 or 3 children's programs a week. Now, many of our libraries host that many programs in a single day. Take a look at the library calendar elsewhere in this paper. Meanwhile, our collection of all materials has almost quadrupled.
The fourth promise was to buy a bookmobile to serve the rural areas of the county, senior citizens, and shut-ins.
Well, I confess. We didn't buy a bookmobile. How come? In 1991, we did a phone survey of rural residents and discovered that most of them drove into town once a week anyhow. By a wide margin, they preferred to have a larger selection at a place they already visited, than to have to make time for a new visit, and have even less to choose from.
Nonetheless, the library did establish 6-day-a-week courier service among all our branches, a books by mail program for Deckers residents, and some "satellite libraries" (in conjunction with Douglas County elementary schools) in Cherry Valley, Larkspur, and Roxborough. I'd say that lives up to the spirit of the promise, if not the letter.
The fifth promise was to open a new library in Highlands Ranch. As I discussed in last week's column, we not only opened a storefront library (of 4,000 square feet) in August of 1991, we managed to double it two years later.
Finally, we promised to expand and renovate existing library branches: additional shelving at Castle Rock, a meeting room to the Oakes Mill Library in Lone Tree, and at least 3,000 square feet to the Parker Library. We did the first two in 1993. Last year, we added not three thousand square feet, but THIRTEEN thousand square feet to our library space in Parker.
All of these were accomplished without once going into debt. Thanks to an aggressive savings program, the Library Board of Trustees was able to set aside enough money (and earn interest on it) to pay cash for all our capital needs these past 6 years. (Unfortunately, this strategy will not work for the capital needs of the NEXT five years -- the population and demand for service is growing faster than our revenues.)
But the next time you're feeling that you just can't trust local government, remember that your local library district not only keeps its promises -- it exceeds them.