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.
January 1, 1997 - New Year!
On Christmas Day, at 2 o'clock in the morning, my 9-year-old daughter woke me up to say "Merry Christmas!" I had at that point been in bed for a solid, restful stretch of almost 45 minutes. But with true Christmas spirit, I responded, "Go back to sleep!"
Maddy vibrated with anticipation for another four hours. (We could feel her bed shake through the floor boards.) Eventually, she did get us all assembled before the glittering tree with its mounds of gifts.
Then came another great moment. I pointed out a present for Perry, our 2-1/2 year-old. "For me?" he asked. "From Santa," I told him. Together, we plucked off the bow, and peeled back all the wrapping paper.
In a voice of total rapture and awe, he said, "It's a BOX!"
I've been bemused ever since. My children defined for me the two characteristics of all that's best about childhood: "eagerness" and "wonder."
When was the last time you got so excited by something that you couldn't wait till morning? When was the last time you looked at something ordinary and found it miraculous?
Wouldn't both of those attitudes be just the right way to start a New Year?
As far as the library is concerned, there is certainly a lot for ME to look forward to. For instance:
* New technology. In addition to what we've set aside from our 1997 budget to purchase new computer equipment, I've also been working on three different grants for technology.
The first grant -- the biggest -- is with the Douglas County School District. (District staff, particularly Gary Murphy and Barb Kimball, have done most of the work. And very good work it is, too.) If successful, this will link all Douglas County schools, public libraries, senior centers, and the CSU Extension office to a single, high speed network: DCEdNet. The network would provide access to a "virtual library," as well as the Internet, and a wealth of locally developed information. It's an exciting prospect.
My second grant teams up the Douglas Public Library District with the Colorado Historical Society. It would enable us to provide topnotch educational content to the school district -- and indeed, the whole state -- through a World Wide Web server, maintained by the public library.
My third grant I just got the check for: it pays to install something I call a LUI (pronounced "looey") -- a "Library Universal Interface." The LUI, like the Graphic User Interface (pronounced "gooey") that sits on most of today's desktop computers, will help to make library computer catalogs easier to use. More on this in weeks to come.
* New reference services. In 1997, we will be establishing new collections and staff at each of our libraries. We think better reference services -- the answering of questions, the identification of a broader range of information resources -- is emerging as a strong public expectation of our growing system. In 1997, we'll begin to make some real progress here.
* New buildings. Thanks to the support of Douglas County voters, 1997 will see the beginning of plans for some expanded library buildings. First up: Oakes Mill, in Lone Tree. New (or renovated) buildings are always fun, giving the community a chance to help create the "Great Good Place."
* New materials. With more space comes more materials. And here I feel just like my son: it's a BOOK! There could be ANYTHING in there.
In addition to the above, there will be the continuing surprises, challenges, and occasional moments of pure delight that attend public service.
May your year be as richly promising as 1997 looks to be for us.