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 8, 2000 - All the world's a stage
Over a year ago, I auditioned for a part in a play, "Fiddler on the Roof." As I sat in the high school auditorium, waiting for my turn, I suddenly noticed something. I was enjoying myself.
I had, in the days before the audition, spent a lot of time in various public meetings. But this was the first time I noticed the striking similarities between politics and theater. The difference was that in theater, the lines are pretty well written, and the people know they're acting.
In the months that followed, I had the deep pleasure of watching all kinds of folks grow into their roles. We had former actors, now successful business people. We had brand new actors who had always wanted to sing. We had young people who brought extraordinary freshness and vivacity to the production.
The thrill of directing must be a lot like the thrill of library administration: some people break through to startling new levels of achievement and vitality. It always makes me happy to see that.
I also learned, again, the important lesson that behind every instant you see on the stage, there are hours and hours of work. There's lighting, and sound, and costume, and props, and teams of volunteers to take reservations, procure tickets, and on and on.
Well, now my daughter, Maddy, is learning this lesson. She's 12 and she's working technical stuff on the Castle Rock Player's production of "Oklahoma." She knows everybody's lines. She comes home every night filled with astute and growing observations about character, about human potential, about the whole universe of details that add up to those moments that make people laugh, go misty-eyed, or start tapping their toes. Pure magic.
Our family has caught most of the performances, just as we caught her basketball and volleyball games. And yes, I see the parallels between theater and sports, too: practice, practice, practice, for a few moments of glory. (About the hardest workout I've had in years was watching Maddy's basketball team soar to 1st place at the end of a grueling season. For that final game, all the parents on the bleachers hit, and exceeded, their target heart rates, and we never even touched a ball.)
Both sports and theater value competence and dedication. Both can involve a fair degree of athleticism. But plays fall into the world of literary culture, which is a little closer to the library world. Hence I prefer plays to politics, and the stage to sport.
Here's a little known fact: according to the Library Research Service, last year saw far more visits to Colorado libraries and museums than visits to the all the Denver football, basketball, baseball and hockey games COMBINED. Really.
It's encouraging news. I'm also heartened by the high use of the library's videotapes of Shakespeare productions, Broadway musicals, and everything from British mystery theater to world class animation.
The library's main business, even in the 21st century, is books. But theater seems to be one of the most enduring creations of human culture. It has a place in our libraries, too.
For a taste of it locally, don't forget that "Oklahoma" has four more performances at the Douglas County High School in Castle Rock: Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11. Call 303-814-7740 for reservations. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors and students 12 and under. Wave to Maddy for me.