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 23, 2000 - Presidential Portraits at Highlands Ranch
Our new Highlands Ranch Library is intended to be the first public building in the new downtown of a city. But what does it mean to be a "public building?"
The most obvious definition is that it was funded by, and opens it doors to, everybody. In the case of a library, that means it also provides access to a collection of materials, purchased cooperatively, and accessible to all.
But there's more than that. A public building serves a public purpose -- a goal that to a previous generation fell under the heading of "civic."
One of the overt signs of this civic connection is the flagpole, proudly flying the American flag.
Another way that the public library celebrates its civic roots is to host programs and exhibits that explore our local, historic, political, or artistic heritage.
So I am pleased to announce that from August 24 to September 3, the Highlands Ranch Library will be housing an exhibit called "American Presidents: Life Portraits." This exhibit, sponsored by C-SPAN and AT&T Broadband (which is handling all local arrangements), features 41 oil paintings of our Presidents. The artist, Chas Fagan, will be on hand during our kickoff of the exhibit (August 24, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) to answer questions. A media reception is planned -- as well as some corresponding activities for our younger citizens, fresh out of story time (9:30 a.m.).
These paintings were commissioned by C-SPAN to complement their recent television series (concluding in December of last year) of the same name. The exhibit has since showed up at both the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions. During the Presidential campaign, the exhibit will continue to travel around the country, although Colorado and California are the only two western states that will be visited this year.
The Douglas Public Library District is pleased to be one of the hosts for this fascinating and highly accomplished retrospective on American leadership, and is grateful to AT&T Broadband for bringing this exhibit to our patrons.
More information about American presidents can be found at C-SPAN's website at www.americanpresidents.org -- and, of course, your local library.
A second district event occurs the day after the Presidential Portraits kickoff. On August 25, all Douglas Public Library District branches will be closed while we have our annual Staff Day. On this day, we gather in our 200 employees for a day of continuing education workshops.
The format of these days varies some from year to year. What doesn't change is the need to touch base with one another, to put faces to the voices we talk to on the phone each day.
This year we will be talking to some of the "competition" -- leaders from other Colorado libraries. We'll ask what we can learn from their experiences.
We'll also do something I think is crucial: asking our own staff what issues most need to be addressed in the coming year. I have my own ideas, but I know that sometimes the folks at the front line of library services have knowledge and insights that I don't. This is one of my best opportunities to gather those insights.
The other side of being a public institution is what happens behind the scenes. In libraries, that means a continuous commitment to service. In turn, that sometimes calls for a series of adjustments to better reflect the times we live in.
As it is with the American electorate, so it is for library staff: this is the beginning of the season for decisions about our future.