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 19, 2000 - Highlands Ranch is Open
Last Saturday, July 15, marked the opening of the new Highlands Ranch Library.
I don't know if it's just that this building marks a big jump in the level of our services, or if it's that I always get intensely introspective around my birthday, but I find myself truly awed.
One of the big lessons of life is that some accomplishments take the talents of many people. As I wandered through the new building Saturday, I saw plenty of evidence of that.
One of our key players has been Pam Nissler, manager of the Highlands Ranch Lbrary. She wrote the original "program" for the building. But that program, in turn, included the dreams of the many people who attended our focus groups.
Pam's hand is everywhere obvious in the building, from her selections -- with our interior designer Pegi Culbreth Dougherty -- for fabrics and chairs ("I sat in every one of those chairs," Pam says), to the placement of tables and the angling of terminal workstations.
Then there were our architects, Humphries Poli, of Denver. Joe Poli crafted a vision of a truly civic building, a place of substance and style. Jon Koenigburg, project architect, oversaw the countless details that went into fleshing out that vision.
Our Owner's Representative, Kevin Gibbs, brought an eagle-eye to the financial matters of the project. Ed Diefendorf, Construction Superintendent, held his subcontractors to the highest possible standards of craftsmanship.
The staff of the library -- from the many people at Highlands Ranch who worked timetables for shelving installation or planned our opening events, to our Technical Services staff who filled the new space with new materials -- all brought (as usual) great enthusiasm and intelligence to all their tasks.
I'm impressed by the generosity of our public, too. The amenities of the building -- two fireplaces, reading deck furniture, various art pieces -- didn't cost taxpayers a penny. They were private donations, and they show just how valuable this building truly is to its users.
I was moved by all the volunteer support we found, too. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints provided countless free hours of helpful assistance, to name just one of the many groups that came to our aid.
I can now report with some pride that we've got a $6.7 million building that was constructed utterly without debt, paid for with cash; this money was carefully set aside over the course of four years. And barring any drastic change in public finance (more about Doug Bruce's latest proposal for a constitutional amendment next week), we have sufficient funds to operate the greatly expanded library district as well.
The project came in $300,000 under budget and on time. Even US West, at the end, did right by us, jumping in to get our connections wired before we opened. (A thanks to Kevin Watkins and Kim McCann, our technical staff, for the many miles of wiring INSIDE the building, too.)
Of course, most of the above is what we SAID we would do. We knew we had the ability to pull it off.
Nonetheless, one of the things that awed me was the sheer breadth and depth of all that human talent, culminating in a new public library. Competence is alive in the world.
The other thing that got to me was that the combined civic benevolence of Douglas County citizens has now offered to Highlands Ranch, as it did to Castle Rock, Parker, and Lone Tree, a place where its citizens, of all ages, can gather to dream, to seek solace, to build both community and individual character.
For a moment, walking through the library last Saturday and its estimated crowd of 5,000 souls, I could see the human face of the future. It looked good