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 12, 1998 - Family Friendly Library
I gave a speech last week at a conference of "paraprofessionals" -- folks who work in libraries, but don't happen to have library degrees. After my talk was over, I got a private tour of the recently refurbished Regis University Library. The Dean, Andrew Scrimgeour, was my tour guide. He was a good one, too.
University libraries are different than public libraries. Or they used to be. This one had a lot of great touches I wouldn't mind having in our libraries. There were lots of group study rooms -- devoted to anywhere from just two people up to as many as 8. There were some very interesting study carrels: custom furniture fancifully arranged into tiered towers climbing toward slices of windows and mountain views.
My favorite was a "family study area." One part of it was designed for adults. But an attached room was for the toddler children of the students. It had a hobby horse, a couple of small tables and chairs, some carpeted benches carved right into the wall, and windows just at kid height.
All of this was close on one side to the bathrooms (with changing tables), and on the other side to the university's children's collection (used to support the curriculum of the education department).
I was reminded all over again how much I just plain LIKE libraries. They're swell buildings, great places to be.
Of course, part of the Regis University library space was devoted to computers. They hummed away from several areas on every floor. In most other places (study tables), you could plug your laptop right into the university network.
But you could also see just by percentage of square footage that the real business of libraries is still mostly about books, then about spaces to sit and consider them, then about places to meet and talk about them. Only then do we get space for machines.
I think that's just about right.
It's good for me to see other institution's libraries. In accordance with past campaign promises, virtually every library building in Douglas County will be getting some attention over the next several years.
The Lone Tree Library -- an altogether striking building -- will open this September (if rain doesn't wash away the reading garden's retaining wall again!). The library has a surprising openness, nestled into the bank of an arroyo and reaching north to the sky. I think people will be particularly pleased by the kiva -- our public meeting space.
Next up is the Philip S. Miller Library. We'll be moving some "back room" functions to a new, ultra-functional new space just south of the current building. What happens to the existing building? It gets more public space, and an expanded Local History area.
Then we're back in the northern part of county, building the first civic structure in the Highlands Ranch Town Center. The proposed building draws a little bit from the Prairie school of architecture, and features a keen awareness of the civic green just south of it.
Then it's over to Parker, where we hope to finish out some space "banked" several years ago.
Somewhere along the way, we hope to come up with new library space for Roxborough. A potential public/private partnership with area builders may save the library some money and help us to get a facility to this community even faster.
Is there a guiding vision behind all these libraries?
We have good continuity on our Library Board of Trustees. (Trustee terms last 5 years.) I've been involved in all the buildings. The architectural firm of Humphries Poli will be doing the design work on all the projects I've mentioned.
But beyond that, every one of these buildings is unique. The truth is, the community of Lone Tree is not like the community of Castle Rock is not like the community of Highlands Ranch is not like the community of Parker is not like the community of Roxborough. Each library site is likewise unique, with its own challenge of orientation to sky and ground and street.
So what DOES endure? -- The belief that libraries welcome the public. We offer sanctuary. We celebrate the core value of literacy, whether for newborn or senior citizen.
And one other thing: behind all of these projects is the idea that every one of these buildings should be a place that our patrons come to love.
We think they will, too.