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 30, 2000 - Community Partnerships
On a daily basis, Perry, my six year old son, cruises the neighborhood looking for somebody to play with. He'll talk to anybody. When he connects, which is more times than not, he's suddenly full of new enthusiasms.
So he'll walk in the door abruptly agog over Japanese action figures. Or he begins leaping around the house doing spin kicks.
Some of these enthusiasms vanish as quickly as they arrive. Most often, this coincides with a story about somebody who decides that he's too old to play with little kids. Or somebody is "mean."
But Perry doesn't mope around about it. He just finds somebody else to play with.
The same thing happens with organizations. Libraries have a good record for forming partnerships -- and what are partnerships except organizations playing with each other?
One of our longest standing partnerships is with publishers. Long before a book is published -- sometimes years before -- we've gotten the advance catalog and placed our orders. These days, add in the catalogs and previews for books on tape, videos, CDs, and more. As with all partnerships, we've worked out some procedures that make it easier for us to play together: discounts, automated order systems, favorable shipping costs, and so on.
Another long standing partner is the educational community. Yes, our local schools have their own libraries. But they usually aren't open at night, or over the weekend. So people come to us to help them do their homework.
More recently, we've expanded this support in two directions. We provide library resources for charter school students, who often don't have a school library at all. We are also a lifeline for Douglas County's many homeschoolers, who are some of our most dedicated and savviest library consumers.
Yet another partner is the local newspaper. What could be more natural? Both of us depend upon a key constituency: people who both read and are curious about the world around them. In Douglas County, that partnership includes such things as running library columns, the joint development of web-based local resources (the online version of the Douglas County Guide, for instance), and a host of services that publicize library events, promote literacy generally, and encourage the exercise of informed citizenship.
We've teamed up with Chambers of Commerce. One example is our keen interest and participation in Leadership Douglas County. Another is the series of workshops we've provided on searching the Internet. Yet another is our purchase of various electronic databases to support local small office/home office businesses.
We've formed alliances with governmental agencies, providing space for elections, meeting rooms for hot issues and subcommittees, and occasionally helping to launch a joint project, as in the Building a Generation initiative. Library staff have even moderated public debates, trading on our reputation for neutrality and balanced information.
We've partnered with developers, obtaining choice property in exchange for the guarantee of a steady flow of traffic. Public libraries make ideal anchor tenants.
We've teamed up with senior centers and daycares -- providing direct service to some of our most insightful constituents in exchange for a connection that enriches all of us.
We've partnered with hundreds of community volunteers, sometimes allowing them to do projects that fulfill their own aims (Boy Scouts earning badges), to helping our patrons discharge their debts to society (community service workers who help us keep the library surroundings tidy).
Community partnerships: just another way of getting to know your neighborhood.