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 29, 2000 - Falling
When I was in Kindergarten, I got mono (infectious mononucleosis). Twice. This meant that I missed a lot of school. It also meant that I was "sickly."
In my neighborhood, a rough and tumble collection of blue collar families, it was not a good idea to be puny. When I was finally fit enough to go back to school, things were hard twice.
First, when I'd been sick, my mother had taught me to read. My school wanted to make me repeat kindergarten, because I'd missed so much. My mother refused. So my kindergarten teacher felt that my family didn't value the program. Then I showed up in first grade already knowing how to read. It was clear that my teacher resented it.
Second, the neighborhood roughnecks resented me -- a puny kid who "showed off" in school. So for about three years, I got beat up, daily, sometimes twice (on the way in, and on the way home).
This, as you can imagine, got old in a hurry. But things started to change as a result of ... reading.
The first was comic books. Mike, a big kid down the street, was my one buddy. We read comic books together. Inspired by Batman's regimen of self-discipline, we began training ourselves to be crime-fighters. We'd do a thousand push-ups over a weekend, for instance. I started to be not so puny.
The second was the library. I checked out a couple of books on judo. I remember being particularly fascinated by the emphasis on falling. Given all my practice being thrown around, you'd think I'd have been an expert. But I'd been doing it all wrong. I studied the chapters on falling until I thought I sort of got it.
Then, one day after school I was running on the sidewalk (maybe away from somebody, maybe as part of my conditioning) and I tripped. In that flash of a second, I remembered the judo book. I slapped the concrete. And, amazingly, I got up completely unhurt.
The next day, I was talking to some kids during recess about my progress with judo. I was bragging about the throws I had learned. I didn't mention that I'd only practiced them on such dangerous opponents as pillows and couch cushions. Just then I noticed my shoe was untied. I leaned over to tie it. At that precise second, one of the young bullies lunged at my back.
It couldn't have been timed better. He went flailing over my shoulder, landing on his face. He got up, crying, and slunk off. I shrugged my shoulders at the group of astonished onlookers. "Judo," I said.
After that, the kids left me alone.
Later on, I did in fact take judo classes at the local YMCA. Later still, I took some other martial arts, although when it came right down to it, I didn't have the strength of will of, for instance, Bruce Wayne. I was more interested in reading about that stuff than in dedicating my life to it.
But I never had to defend myself again, physically. It was usually enough to be mentally prepared.
I like to think that it all goes back to knowing how to fall, even if it was just falling for reading.