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.
February 21, 2001 - An Evening in Bulgaria with Our Sister Library
It all started when Nancy Bolt, the State Librarian of Colorado, sent out an electronic call, back in May of last year. It went like this: "HELP! I have four Bulgarian libraries looking for Colorado library partners."
Through a series of improbable events, Nancy wound up visiting Bulgaria some years ago, after the breakup of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. She came back not only with some interesting connections to people, but also with some samples of truly stunning Bulgarian jewelry.
She also brought back something else: a willingness to serve as a dual diplomat, both for the courageous and talented people of that country, and the librarians of Colorado.
Bulgarian libraries are grappling with the same issue our libraries face: how to acquire useful materials for the public. But that effort is complicated by various factors. With the USSR break up, the Bulgarian economy has been stressed. Librarians there are also grappling with something else: the whole idea of the library as a primary access point for information by and about the government.
The partnership, or "sister library" relationship, is one of Nancy's approaches to that end.
Well, the Douglas Public Library District, along with several other public libraries (Aurora, Boulder, Littleton's Bemis Public Library, Eagle Valley, and Jefferson County) responded. DPLD got paired with the "Dora Gabe" Library, in Dobrich, a tourist town on the Black Sea in northern Bulgaria. (Dora Gabe is the name of a renowned local poet.)
Not long afterward, I got a message, via e-mail, from the Director of the library, one Elena Koeva-Yurchenko.
She wrote, "I take the chance to beg you for help. Probably you know in Bulgaria we speak one of the Slavonic languages - Bulgarian. We write in the Cyrillic alphabet. Bulgarian people are learning 2-3 foreign languages, and particularly English, French, and Russian. Our readers need:
1. Books about USA - History, Geography, Culture and Art, Tourism.
2. American belles lettres - poetry, novels, short stories.
3. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference books.
4. Literature for children.
5. CD and audiotapes - traditional and modern American music.
7. Traditional and modern applied arts.
"We wish you good health and a success in the New Millennium."
Nancy Bolt then told me, "You can send the books directly to the Bulgarian library partner and be reimbursed or send them to me at the State Library and I'll mail them for you. In return, your Bulgarian Library Partner will send you books, pamphlets, and brochures about Bulgaria (in English), CD's of Bulgarian music, and other resources."
Or, we can mail things direct to:
LIBRARY "DORA GABE"
7, Nezavisimost St.,
Elena Angelova Koeva-Jurchenko
But aside from the appeal for materials, libraries on both sides of the globe are interested in fostering understanding of our own and each other's cultures. To that end, on Tuesday, February 27, the Douglas Public Library District will be hosting "An Evening in Bulgaria," at our Lone Tree Library (just south of the Park Meadows Mall, on the corner of Yosemite and Lone Tree Parkway).
Our flyer says it well: "History and Culture buffs! Our speakers will take you on a cultural journey through the past and present of Bulgaria. Learn about their transitions from communism to democracy, and how they are working to preserve ancient books. Afterwards, treat yourself to a delicious sampling of traditional Bulgarian food."
We hope to see you there. Incidentally, you might want to bring any spare books you have lying around.