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 24, 1998 - Commencement Address: Intertia
I have never been asked to give a high school (or college, or, for that matter, an elementary school) commencement address. For all I know, I never will be.
But just in case, I have prepared the following remarks.
Dear Graduating Class of [fill in the blank],
The whole idea of historical lessons probably sounds tedious to you right now. The golden days of summer beckon. School is ended.
But before you go, let me tell you about one of history's lessons I find inspiring.
By the age of 19, an Englishman named Isaac Newton came up with something called the Law of Inertia. It had two parts. The first part was that an object at rest tends to stay at rest.
There's no surprise there. Picture yourself on the couch, watching TV. Inertia.
But the second part was completely contrary to common sense. He said that an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
Ridiculous! Push a ball downhill, and the one thing we can be sure of is that it stops. How long that takes may vary with the height of the hill, but the ball stops. Always.
What kind of madman was this guy?
But he wasn't. The genius of Newton was that he said things didn't stop all by themselves. Something stopped them. That thing, that force, was friction, an independent force operating against motion.
The whole understanding of the human race changed at that moment.
The key lesson I want to convey to you today is that when your mind is engaged, when you're alive and alert and paying attention, when you are learning (quite apart from what other people may think they are teaching) you are an object in motion. You\'re moving. And you're going to keep moving.
Engagement with life is a force that endures.
But you may also find that sometimes that marvelous sense of growth and learning suddenly seems to give out. You stop.
Trust me. This will happen.
What you need to hear now, what you need to remember for later, is that this doesn't necessarily mean that YOU have pooped out. It may mean that something outside of you, an independent force, has blocked you. When you get stymied in life, maybe it's not you.
It may also be useful to remember that more profoundly than ever, our society urgently requires your energy, your insight, your tolerance, your kindness, your eventual wisdom. Never doubt it.
Meanwhile, you have an incomparable opportunity to think deeper and wider, to feel farther, than any generation before you. And you only have to do one thing.
You might also talk to each other about what you've read. Then read some more.
I believe in you. Even when your parents forget to say it, or honestly don't know how to say it, know in your bones that all of us believe in you.
It's the whole secret of the human race.
You are alive. You are objects in motion. Fight the friction.
Meanwhile, right here in the summer of 1998, the Douglas Public Library District is again offering a Young Adult Reading Program. It runs from June 15th through July 27th. We're encouraging you to read 6 books in 6 weeks.
Do that, and we'll put your name in a drawing for free movie tickets and videos rentals. (Is this ironic, or what?)
You can also write book reviews, some of which will be published in the local paper. There are more prizes.
Check all this out at our web site.
I realize that you may have other things on your mind. But humor us. Swing by the library, sign up, read some stuff.
You know what? We'd be pleased to see you.