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 27, 2000 - The Search for Peace
Yes, yes, it's good to spend time with family. And there are many magical moments around the holidays. There's the sound of Christmas carols, possibly the best music in the world. There's the moment when the last present is assembled, boxed, wrapped, and placed under the tree. There's the excited screech of the children, stampeding down the steps. There's that moment when all the opened presents are stacked, all the trash has been picked up, and that glazed look of satiation appears on every face.
But what's missing too often in our holiday season is something you see on all the holiday cards: peace.
There's just too much to do. Race up to this store, place that order on the phone, pick out the cards, purge the mailing list -- and all while maintaining the other business of life. In America, the Land of Plenty, we have plenty of everything. Except peace.
Well, I've given this a lot of thought, and I've come up with a simple, one word solution. (And it's not the word I bet you think it will be.)
It started when I took a business trip back to the Midwest. I got put up in a funky little hotel downtown. I set my things in the closet, and wandered into the bathroom to set out my toothbrush and other travel necessities.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear but ... possibly the biggest bathtub I have ever seen. A big, magnificent, curving bathtub. It had those puffy white handles for the waterspout that always remind me of the gloved hands of Mickey Mouse. I love those.
Well, I had all sorts of things I was going to do. Hit the streets. Call friends. Follow up on some of the business of the day. Busy, busy, busy. Instead, I ran a hot bath.
The water came up almost to my neck. I was able to lie back and have the water slosh around my chin.
So I sat in a bathtub for about an hour.
And I knew peace.
It happens that for many years, the Philip S. Miller Library had a bathtub in the children's room. It was piled up with various stuffed animals.
It was very popular. Children crawled into the big tub and played with the toys, or read. A couple of times, local seamstresses donated huge bathtub cushions, custom made to protect little heads from cracking against the enameled iron. (And it's not easy to get a cushion to fit the interior curves of an old-timey bathtub.)
One day, a three year old girl found the bathtub irresistible. As her father poked around the best sellers, this sweet little girl demonstrated her good breeding. She had been taught, you see, that one removed one's clothes before getting into the bathtub. When the father came around the corner a few minutes later, he found his daughter in the library's bathtub -- stark naked.
She had a big grin on her face. His expression was more ... complex.
A combination of various factors -- more comfortable furniture, more bookshelves, those cracked heads -- finally led us to remove the bathtub. It now sits, forlorn and overturned, exposed to the elements, right behind the administrative offices on the south side of the building.
But I'm thinking of turning it over, and maybe slipping out there every now and then during the day.
I am thinking of peace.