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.
May 21, 1997 - The LaRue Companion (tm) Time Management System
I don't remember the name of the story or who wrote it. (This guy is a librarian?) But it was a science fiction yarn about people who could travel in time, all by themselves, without any machinery. This ability was a rare but persistent human mutation, like being born with six fingers on one hand.
Most of these time travelers, when they became adults, eventually went back to the period when they were children. Their purpose was to teach themselves to master their gift at the earliest possible age.
I thought of this story recently because at the age of 42, I finally have something I deeply wish I could go back in time to teach myself when I was, oh, 13 or so.
You'll have to bear with me on this one for a few paragraphs. I realize it sounds a little anal, and possibly pathetic. But I suspect I'm not alone in the need that prompted me to such desperate activity.
I'm a very intuitive person. I work on things I sense I ought to be working on. Mostly, this works pretty well, and sometimes spectacularly so. But over the years, I got more and more frustrated at the things I forgot to do -- deadlines I missed, appointments I spaced, obligations I just plain lost track of.
So over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I actually work. I perused my datebooks for the past five years, figuring out what I wrote in each book, and why. I combed through examples of how other people managed their time (both at the library and in business supply stores).
One weekend, I started doodling. Then I went up to my personal computer and started some serious page design. By the time I was done, I put in some 40 or 50 hours designing various forms. I made a form for taking notes at meetings. I made a form for tracking and managing projects. I made a form for keeping track of appointments. I made my own daily "to do" list.
Then I went back to the business supply stores. I bought a 3-ring binder, an insert for punching three holes in a half-size sheet, some dividers, and a clear plastic pouch. Total cost: about $5. Everything else I ran off my home computer at less than a penny a page.
To buy a similar time management tool would have cost me between $30-60 dollars, with another $20 a year in inserts. But I've been testing this for over a month now. It works. The others didn't, at least not for me.
I call it, only half-jokingly, "the LaRue Companion (tm)."
If I could just go back in time, bearing the LaRue Companion (tm) with me, I could have saved myself scores of humiliating moments. Better, I could have gotten more done in the areas that mattered to me then, and matter to me now.
If you'd like to see this wonderful gimmick, by all means stop by. I'd be glad to show it to you. And by way of balancing my message this week, I also recommend The Tao of Time by Diana Scharf-Hunt. Available from the Douglas Public Library District, it's a book that argues convincingly that time management systems, by themselves, won't solve your life's problems. Those of us who live in the Western world, generally speaking, feel that time uses us, rather than the other way around.
Thinking about that is worth some time, too.