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.
December 11, 1996 - Aunt Edith, Douglas County Senior Writing, and Santa
My Great Aunt Edith was a live-in cook. She worked for a wealthy family in Lake Forest, Illinois -- Adlai Stevenson III's maternal grandmother, as it happened.
Like most children, I didn't really pay that much attention to the adults around me. Particularly this time of year, my biggest interest in Aunt Edith concerned what she might have gotten me for Christmas.
She came to see our family every Thursday and Sunday -- her days off. One cold Sunday evening, a week or two before Christmas, we were sitting around the fireplace and playing a game. We had to try to describe a whole day from the earliest day of our memories.
None of the children (there were five of us) were that old. But I notice that it doesn't seem to make much difference how many years you've lived: everybody tends to go back to about the same earliest memory. There's a snatch or two under the age of four, then a real continuity.
After a couple of us kids took a turn, we urged Aunt Edith to remember her earliest whole day for us. To our utter astonishment, she recounted a life that was straight out of the frontier: pulling water from the well, feeding chickens, washing clothes, tending the garden, looking after the small children. When we pressed, we found that there had been no internal running water in the house of her youth, no electricity, no automobiles, no radio.
From that day on, Aunt Edith always seemed like a sort of time traveler to me: transported from the hard scrabble life of an Ozark mountain girl to Chicagoland and a time when people walked on the moon. The experience opened the door for a lot of great stories. Those stories made our relationship with her far richer.
All this came back to me as I was reading through one of the library's new books. It's called. "Voices of Douglas County, Colorado," by the Douglas County Senior Friend's Writing Group. The issue I've seen is dated Spring, 1996.
Here you'll find a collection of stories that ranges from piquant detail (a doggerel poem written by an ancestor who fought in the Civil War), to the amazing story of the cow who fell down a well (and got out again), to a war time tale, to a harrowing interstate travel experience, to a touching remembrance of seasons on a southeastern South Dakota farm.
All of these stories are told by people now living in the county -- your neighbors, perhaps. I suspect that you'll find it as bemusing as I found the stories of my Aunt Edith -- giving a glimpse of a time beyond your own, and a little insight into the American story, as well. Recommended.
I'm already a little late on this one. As always, Santa is coming to the library this year. I'm sorry to say that I didn't report the dates he visited our Highlands Ranch and Oakes Mill libraries (December 9, and December 11, at 10:30 a.m., respectively).
But your children can still catch a visit on December 12, 2:30 p.m., at the Louviers Library (off U.S. 85, between Titan Road and Sedalia). Santa will be at our Parker Library on December 16, at 5:30 p.m., and at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock on December 18, at 10:30 a.m. We hope you can join us.