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.
August 5, 1998 - Making Democracy Work
Let's face it, most political information isn't so much presented as sprinkled: a road sign, a sound bite, a phone call, a card.
Newspapers do the best job of reporting on campaign issues and the stands of various candidates -- certainly in greater depth than TV or radio.
But newspapers come out in various editions. It could take a month or so to cover all the questions and races. Even for the diligent voter, it takes a lot of digging and sorting to assemble all of the relevant data.
This task is compounded by the fact that more than one newspaper carries good articles you might want to review before voting. If you're like me, you sometimes remember to set that article aside. About as often, you don't.
That's me talking as a private citizen. But if there is anything librarians are particularly good at, it's identifying topics, gathering significant information about them, and organizing that information for public inspection.
Last year, the library teamed up with the Douglas County League of Women Voters to launch what it called the Making Democracy Work project. Much of the information -- how to register, how the caucus system works, and a list of credible sources of political summary and analysis -- we put on our web site. This year, our web site will again help you take a look at a variety of ballot issues.
But we also gather information about candidates. This one is a little harder -- there is no single web site that does a dispassionate summary of candidate views. So we have established a second approach: notebooks.
The Douglas Public Library District sent a letter to all of the people you'll see on your Douglas County ballot. We asked for a copy of their campaign literature. These pieces have been assembled into notebooks available at the reference desks at the Highlands Ranch, Parker, and Philip S. Miller libraries.
The library, it goes without saying, does not endorse any candidate. We present the information provided to us, utterly without commentary. On occasion, candidates have not sent us anything, in which case that fact will be so noted.
Voting is a self-selecting privilege. The victories belong to the ones who bother to show up.
But it's not enough to walk into a ballot booth. Successful democracy depends upon not just an involved, but an INFORMED electorate.
Balancing your life's responsibilities is tough enough. So look at the Making Democracy Work project as a simple citizen convenience: a way to get up to speed about the issues and the people in a single sitting, just by strolling into your local library.
As library programs goes, it gets my vote.