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.
June 17, 1998 - Employee Loyalty
A high school buddy of mine back east is an entrepreneur these days. After being downsized, rightsized, then discharged (and disgusted) from companies for which he did very good work -- and which posted healthy quarterly profits -- he decided that loyalty to an employer was a kind of stupidity.
So he went into business for himself. No more hierarchy. No more out-of-touch corporate big wigs. He was on the front line, and he called the shots. If something needed to change, then, by God, he changed it.
He runs a shop that employs two people. About every six months or so, he has to replace one of them. In part, he admits that it's because he doesn't pay benefits. In part, he laments that you can't find good employees anymore, people willing to put some serious effort into the company.
He doesn't seem to make any connection at all between the first and third paragraphs of this column.
Then, a couple of years ago, he stepped forward to serve on a public board -- a charter school board, as it happens. His beloved daughter just hit first grade. The school employs some 20 times as many people as my friend has ever supervised. Nonetheless, he's been bringing the fruits of his experience to bear.
His votes have a theme: If those teachers don't like it, let them push on! And if the principal of the school doesn't agree immediately to the will of the board, hey, nobody is indispensable.
Here's the history of his charter school: 5 years of operation, 4 principals. And here's the kicker: nobody's responded to the latest job ad.
No, there's another kicker. My friend finds this completely baffling. What happened to the American work ethic? he wonders.
About the time this news came in, I discovered that of the 6 charter schools in Douglas County, 5 of them fired their principals at the end of this academic year. I do wonder how many candidates they'll find for next year. (I also wonder what this means to the charter school movement, still in its infancy. Is this a kind of crib death?)
Here comes an utterly heretical statement, and I expect that many people will have trouble with it. But somebody has to say it. If I overstate the matter, it's because sometimes that's what it takes to make a point.
Business people are imposing completely erroneous management notions on the public sector. Yes, it's based on their experience. But their experience is warped.
At the same time that small business owners prattle on about the importance of customer service, they treat their own employees as inconsequential.
If an employee said to a customer, "You don't like this arrangement? Take a walk!" most employers would say that's bad service.
Yet the same employers say precisely this to their workers.
Think about that. To keep your customers, you have to pay attention to their needs. You can't just blow them off and expect to stay in business.
But you don't have to pay attention to the people who serve the customers. You're SUPPOSED to blow them off.
This is good business? This is the lesson of the private sector?
Too many employers don't seem to understand that if you don't offer loyalty, you won't get it. What's more, you don't deserve it.
I could write a book. A library wouldn't be a bad place to put it.