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.
February 19, 1997 - Philip S. Miller Library Gets New Lighting
I've held a lot of odd jobs in my life. But I realize, looking back, that they have always had something in common. I have almost always worked in beautiful buildings.
One of my first jobs was in an architect's office. I ran errands, did tracings, answered the phone, and ran prints around. I was fascinated by the process of designing buildings.
But, alas, I soon learned that I would never design them myself. Perry, my three-year-old son, can slap 24 piece puzzles together in just a few minutes. I still can't.
Nonetheless, I recognize a good building when I see it. I probably wound up in libraries because so many of them are lovely places. I volunteered in the catwalked library of my youth. In college, I worked at a "modern" library, carpeted with a lovely rust, overshadowed by the heavy rust of the metal roof. Later, I worked in a university library, with interior stairs of marble, high ceilings, and two-story windows.
When I first interviewed for the director position in Douglas County, I was utterly captivated by the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock.
As I pulled in to the parking lot, a train rolled by. In the quiet afterward, I could hear the wind through the tall grass. When I stepped inside, I thought, "This feels like a church." It had such a high ceiling, with such warm, dark wood. The small, high, southwestern windows lent a sense of calm and detachment. The building has a kind of pristine elegance.
Some years back now, we remodeled the building, and to my mind, improved it, opening it up even further, clarifying the functions of its spaces.
I still love this jewel of a building, every day I work there.
Of course (like most buildings), it has its problems. It reverberates. Like a church, it is built to carry speech, not to swallow it. That's annoying when you have come to study, come to read in peace, and the sound of children's (and librarians) voices seems altogether brassy and intrusive.
But more bothersome to me is the fact that (at night in particular) the bookstacks are towering canyons of shadow. Holly Deni, the library's manager, once suggested that we should issue our patrons miner's hats, with built-in lanterns. I seriously considered it.
But thanks to the continuing generosity of Philip S. Miller, we've got a better solution. Over the next several weeks, we'll be shuffling around our shelves, and pulling new wiring. Soon, our central area will have shelving of a more uniform height and hue. Shortly thereafter, weíll have something called "Unistruts" -- suspended over every-other-one of our tall shelves.
Attached to the Unistruts will be lights, lights that instead of glaring uncertainly from 40 feet, will beam softly just above the center of each aisle, enabling those folks who (like me) angle their bifocals toward the call numbers with something approaching hope. Soon, this hope shall be rewarded.
The Philip S. Miller Library will continue to be a beautiful building. But thanks to Mr. Miller's final bequest, you'll be able to see it even better.