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.
July 6, 2000 - Summer Reading
I don't know if it's allergies, heat, or a genetic predisposition to sloth, but every year about this time I have the same thoughts. It comes down to this: I want more time to lie around and read. This is, in fact, the only thing I really DO want to do, particularly when my alternatives are such things as mowing the lawn, repairing screens, or fixing the fence.
One overt sign of this is the piles of books along the wall beside my bed. Sure, there's a bookcase, but that just has enough room for my classics, my perennials, the ones I read EVERY year. Lately I've been snatching up all kinds of science fiction paperbacks, non-fiction titles, poetry, and books on religion and philosophy.
Toss in the pile of children's books my son wants to hear every night, and it works out to quite a mess. Entertaining, but a mess.
If you're a kid, the library goes out of its way to encourage you to read. For instance, there's our Summer Reading Program.
Kids from preschool to sixth grade can participate in our Book Play Reading Program, which runs from June 15 through August 31. Read 15 books, and get a certificate and a prize. We even have special events scheduled this month and next, including an audience participation dramatic program (Three Little Pigs, as you've never heard it before), and a mask-making workshop.
Teens are invited to stop by their local library to receive their Summer Scene 2000 book log. It happens to have been illustrated by a Douglas County artist, Cameron Armstrong. This programs runs from June 12 to August 7. Read six books in six weeks, and get video rental coupons, movie theater tickets, candy, discounts to Water World or free tickets to a Colorado Rapids game.
What we don't have is a reading program for adults. But, by God, we'll have one next summer. Here are some of my preliminary ideas.
* An online book log. Let's build some kind of reader's forum. You can keep a private or public list of everything you read, what you thought of the author, give a personal rating to the book, and make notes for any kind of follow-up that makes sense -- more reading on the family, the times, or the subject, for instance.
* A read-in on the library lawn. I'm imagining a big backdrop of the ocean (we can get the kids to paint it), and a bunch of lawn chairs, towels and benches. We pipe in some of those recordings of waves. People can lie in the sun, work on their tans, and dissociate from reality. We could probably broker a service where we could also serve them with lemonade -- maybe pink lemonade, in tall, cold glasses, with little umbrellas poking out of them.
* Prizes. In the past, we've had some kid prizes that really got adults interested. Our most popular were the tin, blue-and-white-spotted camp cups. Coffee mugs (or coffee shop coupons) are certainly a possibility -- or maybe you get to keep your lemonade glass and umbrella. Or how about tinted reading glasses?
I admit to a weakness for bumper stickers, which would make wonderful prizes. Here are some possibilities:
Literary: "Let us lie upon the lawn and read novels."
Patriotic: "I regret that I have only one life to give to my vices. Reading or death!"
Philosophic: "Nothing is so important that it won't wait until I finish this chapter."
Whimsical: "Read more, and you'll get little umbrellas at the Douglas Public Library District."
Time conscious: "I'd love to chat, but I've got to work on my Summer Book Log."
Health conscious: "Don't burn, learn! Read ... in the shade."
Sociable: "Ask me about my favorite book."
Athletic: "Read the Rockies!"
I could go on. But frankly (my dear), I'd rather read.