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 3, 1997 - Still Oakes Mill
Last week's front page headline was "Oakes Mill Library to be renamed." The first sentence of the story, written by Kathie Metcalf, declared that a new name was decided at a public input meeting on November 19.
Um, no. It wasn't. The sole purpose of the meeting was to gather public input to present to the Library Board of Trustees, in combination with other e-mail messages, phone calls and letters I've received on the topic. Only the Board of Trustees can change the name of the library, and they have not yet voted to do so. I not only made this point several times verbally at the meeting, I also wrote in big letters on a flip chart: "no decision tonight."
Further, I hope I made my own position clear: I will recommend to the Board that they hold off on a name change until just before the new library opens. With luck, the quality of the building will inspire someone to want to pay for the privilege of having it named after him or her. Such a "naming opportunity" (bidding begins at $100,000!) would enable us to make significant upgrades to the library at no taxpayer expense.
On November 19, after going through each of the options -- Oakes Mill, Oakes Mill at Lone Tree, Lone Tree, and a naming opportunity -- I did ask for a show of hands for the various options, a straw poll to give each person in attendance the opportunity to indicate support. This poll clearly split along neighborhoods. Lone Tree residents supported "Lone Tree Library." Acres Green residents supported the name "Oakes Mill Library at Lone Tree" rather than just "Oakes Mill Library."
I've been thinking about that. From other avenues of public comment, I know that many Acres Green residents were strongly opposed to "Lone Tree Library." But the meeting on November 19 was about more than the name of a library. It was about the building of community. I stated there, and pointedly restate here, that the library seeks to be a bridge, not a wall, between the communities of Acres Green and Lone Tree. The library has taken great pains to be scrupulously fair to the viewpoints of our patrons, and to give reasoned deliberation to our alternatives. Everyone is welcome at the library.
I believe those Acres Green participants in the meeting offered the compromise name as something of an olive branch, a genuine attempt at reconciliation. That's very much to their credit. But it still doesn't constitute a "decision." Again, until the Library Board decides otherwise, the name of the new library is the same as the old one: Oakes Mill.
I was encouraged by the fact that residents of both communities made it a point to say how much they valued the library. Historically, both Acres Green and Lone Tree are still young. It takes time to build a set of shared values. It also takes time to work out a process by which people can speak their minds and come to consensus. That process begins with people sitting down together to discuss things.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees, I'd like to express my thanks to all the people who have taken the time to talk to us -- and to each other.