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 17, 2000 - Science Fiction
When I was in library school, I took a class called "Genre Fiction." Through the semester, we read and analyzed representative works of popular reading genres. At the end of the semester, we had to write a final paper.
Mine was ambitious. I wrote a novelette, and I believe it may be the only one of its kind. It was a nurse-romance-gothic-science-fiction-western-mystery. Its title: "Nurse Unbridled."
It got me an "A" for the course. And I realize this is immodest, but I also gave the world what I consider one of the great lines in American literature: "He had the strong, deeply tanned hands of a man who'd done a lot of heavy reading outdoors."
Every genre has its stereotypes, and I used them all. My heroine, a nurse who inherited a crumbling Victorian mansion that had been inexplicably transported to Arizona, got to run through the night in a diaphanous gown. My hero, "150 pounds of fighting librarian," could twirl big novels around his fingers before slipping them back into his oversize holsters. The story had an evil alien, a great confrontation scene to reveal the murderer, and I think, a touching love story. I had fun.
But despite my slaphappy approach to the subject, I have a deep respect for genre writing. My heart, though, belongs to science fiction.
This past weekend I came down with some kind of intestinal bug, and was confined to bed for a day. In between dozing, I read three books.
The first was "The Positronic Man," by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. I've been rereading a lot of the late Asimov lately, mostly the Foundation and robot books), and find his writing marvelously clear. "The Positronic Man" is the story of a Andrew Martin, a robot who longs to become human, and if it doesn't pull at least one tear out of you, you have artificial eyes.
The next book was "Have Space Suit, Will Travel," one of the juvenile science fiction novels of Robert Heinlein. This was the first science fiction book I ever read, and I still find it wonderful. The story, in brief, is about a young man who decides he wants to go to the moon. So he competes in a jingle writing contest (whose first prize is a trip to the moon). As a result, he stumbles across an alien invasion, and finally, must speak on behalf of the entire human race in an inter-galactic court.
Like all of Heinlein's work, the science (interplanetary travel) is meticulously worked out. And like all of Heinlein's stories, the heroes and heroines are smart, funny, have profound integrity, and make you proud to be a human being.
My last book of the day was by Connie Willis. It's called "Bellwether." It is about an interesting question: where do fads come from? It is set in Boulder, which is sort of fad-Central. She takes some potshots at everything: coffee shops, management exercises, even public library procedures. Willis is a funny and incisive writer.
Any genre has fine writing. But science fiction remains my favorite because of its focus on ideas -- its ability to stand outside a culture or time and pose questions that most kinds of fiction just don't tackle. All of the books I've mentioned strive to nurture the spirit of speculation, of exploration. They keep the mind nimble and the spirit young.
Incidentally, all of these books had something to say about libraries. Here's a quote from "Have Space Suit, Will Travel" that jumped out at me: "... library science is the foundation of all sciences just as math is the key -- and ... we will survive or founder, depending on how well the librarians do their jobs."