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.
September 27, 2000 - Quotations
I have a weakness. I love quotations. Along with dictionaries, collections of quotes are the most seductive books I know.
Start, for instance, with the magnificent "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" (16th edition, edited by Justin Kaplan). I consider this an absolutely essential contribution to any home library.
As Winston Churchill put it, "It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's 'Familiar Quotations' is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more."
But there are many quotations, even those of famous people, that don't wind up in authorized collections. They abound on the Internet. Take another Churchill quote: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Here's another: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
Quotations are one of the dangers of the public life. People remember what you said. This leads to such awkward moments as as that of Clinton aide George Stephanopolous, speaking on Larry King Live, "The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep." One imagines our President to believe, as Tom Stoppard said, that "It is better to be quotable than to be honest."
As another, extremely quotable politician from another era observed, "Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them (Adlai Stevenson). Or (to get in an inning for the other team) one J. Danforth Quayle has been justly immortalized for his pithy remark in an address to the United Negro College Fund, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind or not to have a mind is very wasteful."
As a librarian, I am, naturally enough, interested in quotes about books. Moses Hadas, a reviewer, wryly noted about one title that, "This book fills a much-needed gap."
The always subversive Ambrose Bierce once said, "The covers of this book are too far apart."
But not only writers have opinions about other writers. I like the comment of heavyweight boxer Tony Galento, when asked what he thought of William Shakespeare: "I'll moider da bum."
The great philosopher, Marx (I mean, of course, Groucho Marx), has two of my favorite quotes: "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it." The second: "I've had a wonderful time, but this wasn't it."
I admit to a fondness for the unexpected response. There's this one, attributed to a Quaker who had been slapped on one cheek, turned the other one, and got slapped again: "Now that the scriptures have been fulfilled, I shall proceed to beat the hell out of thee."
And there's the irrepressible Voltaire. On his death bed, a priest implored him to renounce Satan. Voltaire responded, "Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies."
Quotations can offer sage advice. Consider Jimmy Durante's, "Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down." They can be provocative, as in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
But finally, my favorite quotations are the ones that make you laugh. I leave you with Will Rogers: "If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?"