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.
December 21, 2000 - Christmas
Now this is a curious thing. I do, of course, remember my childhood Christmases. But strain though I might, I can't think of a single childhood Christmas gift.
No, I take that back. No sooner did I write that than I remembered three of them. The first one was a football. The only reason I remember that is that I was responsible for gathering up all the wrapping paper and trash that year. I threw out my football.
The second gift I remember came from my Aunt Edith, who loved wrapping presents in unusual ways. One year she set under the tree a box that was 6 feet long, but very narrow, and very shallow. I shook it. It was light, but it was quiet. I gave a lot of thought to that, and couldn't figure it out at all.
On Christmas Day, I opened that present first, to Aunt Edith's obvious delight. It was a six foot scarf that she knitted herself. I loved that scarf, although I finally wore it away to nothing, wrapping and re-wrapping it around my neck until the scarf at last unraveled. (Chicago winters are COLD.)
The third gift was a painting: Rembrandt's "Old Man Praying." I was again 16 or 17. One day I was walking through one of the chain discount stores in the Chicago area. I looked up and saw this painting. In the midst of all the noise and bustle, it was like a thunderclap -- but of absolute stillness and calm.
I mentioned this to my mother. To my utter astonishment and gratitude, she got it for me. I still have that painting. I still love it.
Obviously, though, it really wasn't the gifts that mattered at Christmas. It was the anticipation. It was the truly magical moment of finding the tree, all lit up, with the mounds underneath. It was the discovery that the world was good, was benevolent, was filled with thoughtfulness and often unmerited reward.
It was also the Christmas dinner. In my family, that meant another turkey dinner. There can't be too many turkey dinners. (Unless, I suppose, you're a turkey.)
But I do remember something else about all those Christmases. And that was that sometime during the day, I always found time to lie down and read.
Sure, the neighborhood kids always got together some time to compare their loot. But, mostly, everybody had to spend time with their families. And at some point, there was a lull in the day. The presents had been opened. The meal had been eaten. The rest of the family had wandered off to watch TV, chat in the dining room, or to nap.
And I always found the time to sneak back up to bed, prop myself up with a couple of pillows, and spend some time reading. In those days, I mostly read biographies and science fiction short stories. The house was warm and happy. Cozy.
So, even if your children won't remember it, I recommend taking them down to the library for a pre-Christmas visit. Stock up. Sometime during the holidays -- whatever holiday you celebrate -- your kids will be bored, or quiet, or in the mood for something different. They just might pick up a library book, and build another holiday memory.
Happy holidays from all of us at the Douglas Public Library District. And remember: all our libraries will be closed on December 24 and 25, as well as December 31 and January 1, 2001.