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.
January 17, 2001 - The Technological Leash...
I know I'm supposed to be a good consumer. I know I'm supposed to want More.
I want Less.
As a youth, I wandered the globe with a 14 pound backpack. It held everything I owned. This was, I believe, the last time I knew where everything was.
Eventually, I took on what the Hindus call the yoke (or "yoga") of the middle years, the years of family and social productivity. With that challenge came a host of new possessions. Some, I admit, would be hard to do without. Here I'm thinking: washing machine.
But there are two things lately that really bother me. The first is my e-mail address. I had the same e-mail since 1991:firstname.lastname@example.org. CSN stood for Colorado Supernet -- a company that librarians, and library dollars, significantly underwrote to establish the first telecommunications backbone in the state.
Business people take note: you may have been scrambling to get netwise these past two or three years. Librarians were working on the essential infrastructure of the World Wide Web -- laying the pipes for information traffic -- a decade ago.
Well, CSN begat SNI -- SuperNet, Inc. And SNI begat (or was swallowed by) Qwest. And Qwest begat (or acquired) US West. And on January 27, 2000, I received my first official notification that my csn address would soon be discontinued. By soon, I mean January 3, 2001. One week.
I settled on another Internet Service Provider -- Earthlink. Without too much trouble, really, I moved a bunch of library dial-in accounts over to the new company. After nine years, email@example.com became firstname.lastname@example.org. ("jlarue" was taken. "jas" is short for "james.")
I also had to move the domain name I'd registered some 4 years ago. By just spending a little more money, I realized that I could grab an e-mail address closer to what I'd had. I could redirect mail from my domain to anywhere. So here's the new e-mail: email@example.com. Theoretically, I should never have to change it again.
Of course, I now need to send out some 300 messages or so to inform all the folks who have my e-mail address that I have another nom de net. And I need new business cards. And I have to update the records of a host of search engines that point people to my personal web page, which also has moved.
The second change also involves technology. My staff has more or less foisted on me a cell phone. I've fought this off for years. People would say, "Suppose there's an emergency!" I would say, "Define a library emergency." They'd say, "A fire!" I'd say, "911."
But the truth is, the life of a library director is most intelligently spent OUTSIDE the library. My highly competent staff is more than able to provide ongoing services. My contribution (to the extent I offer one) is to understand the larger environment in which we operate, and, with luck, to position us to respond to the future.
These days, there are many legitimate reasons to track me down, if only to coordinate my schedule. It's not easy.
So now I have a cell phone. The feeling is, I imagine, much like welding a collar and leash to my neck. I did get, with the phone package, a new voice mail box. I also got a little dangly thing I can screw into my ear, with a piece I can talk into, so I don't have to hold the phone whilst I drive.
Isn't this depressing? It used to be, as I trekked from one corner of the county to another, that I had time to think. Now, I'll beep or vibrate when the call comes in. I will, I swear, struggle mightily not to become one of those souls who is oblivious to the fact that his car is occupying every available lane of a freeway.
But I now have e-mail coming to three addresses (although I'm aggregating them to one). I have two voice mail boxes to check. (And a home answering machine.) After proudly whittling my life down to a Palm Pilot, I now also have to carry a cell phone.
Technology. Putting your life on batteries. And on a leash.
I need a good book. Don't you?