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.
March 7, 2001 - Let's Put on a Political Musical!
Over the past couple of weeks, I attended a couple of events. They belong to completely separate worlds, but somehow I can't stop thinking about them together.
The first was a political event. The speakers were State Senator John Evans and State Representative Joe Nunez. They both wore good suits. They talked about legislative efforts: both their own (which were worthy of support) and those of others (which needed to be resisted). Then the officials took questions, which tended to fall into the "why doesn't somebody DO something about" variety. Many of the political movers and shakers of the county were there.
I found the session most informative. I appreciate it when elected people take the time to directly answer the concerns of their constituents. And I also respect the 60 or so folks who showed up for the event.
Then, last Saturday night, I took my kids to a performance of the Douglas County High School's "Once Upon a Mattress." It was wonderful. They had rotating leads: I caught Kerri Driscoll as Princess Winifred, and she was utterly delightful, a natural comic with an irresistible smile and a great set of pipes ("Shy," and "Happily Ever After"). Sir Harry was Brady Young, another solid performance. I hear their alternate leads - Erin Griffith as Princess Winifred, and Devon Fanning as Harry - were great, too. I'll take the kids back to catch the other cast next weekend.
There were so many fine and funny performances (Chalon Myers was a stitch as the Queen, Zane Cooper as Prince Dauntless) - including the behind the scenes folks who did lighting, costumes, and sets - that my failure to mention names is a tribute in itself. There were simply too many people doing a great job.
Incidentally, on the popularity scale, I'd have to say the play pulled in more people than the political event. DCHS has about 250 seats. They were all taken, and I assume that's close to the case for all six of the scheduled performances.
Now, libraries tend to divide their collections into two distinct worlds, too. And the difference is not "kids versus adults," or even "print versus electronic." The difference is fiction and non-fiction.
Non-fiction corresponds to the world of politics. Few non-fiction books are neutral. They make an argument, adopt a position. Some of the better ones even marshal a little evidence in support of their positions. And when you finish such a book you say, "I agree with this," or "I don't agree," or "I agree in part, disagree in part."
Non-fiction accounts for more than half of our business. That's unusually high, by the way, in the world of libraries. That says something about the people who live in Douglas County.
Fiction, on the other hand, is no slouch. Kid's picture books all by themselves make up over a quarter of all our checkouts. Toss in the bestsellers, the genres of mystery, science fiction, western, and romance, and we're talking about nearly a million items a year.
Fiction is entertainment. Its purpose isn't so much to persuade, but to engage. And although good fiction also has an element of conflict (I challenge anyone to think of a great book that does NOT have some profound struggle at the heart of it), generally speaking people don't read fiction for detailed political analysis. They read fiction (or watch it on video, or listen to it on tape or CD) to enter into a human story.
Since the days of Ronald Reagan, the worlds of entertainment and politics do seem to be merging. However, it occurs to me that nobody has yet fused the drama of politics with the lyrics and choreography of the musical.
So my point this week is to publicly announce my candidacy. I haven't yet decided on which election, or even, to be frank, on which office.
But it'll take time to write the music, design the costumes, put together a catchy set of lyrics, and audition for the backup singers. I figure at least a month for the dance steps alone.
What this nation needs is a political party that sets your toes to tapping, and campaign financing that guarantees you a front row seat. Or wait, maybe we've already got that last one.
At any rate, if elected, I promise three musicals a years, and possibly a cabaret show. Think about it: can you count on that from my competitors?
Thank you for your support. (Curtain.)