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 31, 2001 - Colorado Council for Library Development
Librarianship has at least four dimensions. The first is the local level: this is the heart of library service.
The second is the regional level. Colorado, it happens, has 7 regional "systems." These small offices help libraries move materials around among themselves, and focus on various kinds of professional development and training.
Then there's the state level, where policies are made, cooperative strategies assembled, and money invested. Finally, there's the federal level.
I have to admit that I've done almost nothing at the federal level (a sprinkling of articles, a few talks). There's always enough happening closer to home to hold my interest.
For instance, I have recently had the privilege of being appointed to a body called the Colorado Council for Library Development.
Established in 1962, CCLD is "the principal advisory body to the State Board of Education, the State Librarian (Commissioner of Education), and the Assistant Commissioner... on library matters."
CCLD has a lot of members, drawn from public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, library education institutions, regional library systems, special (or institutional) libraries, Trustees, and a smattering of general citizenry.
At my first meeting with this group, we focused on a variety of funding issues. The federal government, through a program called the Library Services and Technology Act, distributes a lot of money around the country. The State of Colorado, with advise from the Council, has the responsibility of divvying it up.
Much of the money is directed to people who submit competitive grants. This year, there are two rounds of these grants: one that addressed local needs (up to $10,000 each, for a total of $170,000), and ones that addressed statewide needs (up to a little over $600,000 together). I try to serve on grant-reading teams about every three or four years.
It's a crash course in what's going on in the state. The "little grants" gave me a good sense of the issues now facing Colorado's library and education communities. It also gives me a chance to find out what our own library ought to be working on.
One overwhelming statewide trend is the push for student achievement. Many school libraries are exploring the idea of various programmed reading approaches: methods that link selected readings with sequenced tests.
The same push also embraces the offerings of public libraries. Such longstanding staples as Summer Reading Programs have a distinct link to the maintenance of reading ability between grades. And the academic libraries are in on the act, too: who trains the teachers, and with what?
Another trend is the rising awareness of Colorado's increasing linguistic and cultural diversity. Many schools and libraries are finding the need to reach out to as many as 20 different language groups.
The "big grants" give another look at library issues. Once again, there's a marked focus on educational achievement. Several projects focused on helping school libraries build on the demonstrated effect of strong library programs on high student achievement.
But there were other projects, most having something to do with technology. There were programs focused on getting the new wealth of digital data (historic photographs, for instance) into the classrooms. Some programs centered on using wireless connections to get other digital content on the web.
At this moment, the final decisions about the grants have not been made, so I won't announce any winners here.
But here's the good news: your tax dollars, at both the statewide and federal level, go to fund a variety of programs that can have a powerful effect on people's lives. These grants, almost without exception, are predicated on the transformational power of reading and research.
Here's some more good news: the staff of the Douglas Public Library District are definitely keeping up with some of the most progressive ideas in the country. But then, I'd be surprised if they weren't.