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.
June 20, 2001 - Philip S. Miller Library It Remains
Several weeks ago I asked for some public advice about the name of the new library in Castle Rock, to be located at the site of the old Safeway. I got it.
Let me say right off the bat that the overwhelming sentiment (about 4 to 1, by the end) was to retain the Philip S. Miller name. Some of the advice was firm, but respectful. "Thank you so much for asking, instead of making this decision in secret. I believe that Mr. Miller's contributions to this town were so many and so outstanding..."
Others were a little less polite. "What kind of idiot would confuse the Miller LIBRARY with the Miller BUILDING?" (Answer: all kinds. I remain befuddled by the name of the street I've lived on for 8 years. I reside at Johnson Court, which is off of Johnson Drive, which is adjacent to Johnson Place. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder how often the fire department gets a panicked call that says, "Fire at 212 Johnson!" Click.)
One gentleman wrote me of the time he secured a loan from Mr. Miller, whom he had never met until then. He got the loan after only 15 minutes of conversation. There was no loan application form, no collateral, and no formal contract. This is what is known as a character loan, and Phil Miller seems to have made a lot of them.
My correspondent was definitely a character. Maybe, he jabbed, if I were so selfish as to ignore the remarkable generosity of this remarkable man, we should just call the new building the "Haime LaRue Memorial Library." (Good Lord, I thought, is this a death threat? Then I decided, Nah; a lot of people mistake sarcasm for wit.)
Some people did make the case for the "Castle Rock Library." Why? Because they felt it was simply less confusing. But even these people believed that the library should establish a "Miller Room."
Most, although not all, of the people supporting the Miller name have lived here a while. They remember other slights to Phil Miller's past -- for instance, what is now Plum Creek Parkway once bore the name of Miller. That still rankles.
Castle Rock, like Douglas County generally, has experienced truly phenomenal growth. Unlike some towns, it does try to balance its opposing strains. On the one hand, we have the convenience and modernity of typical suburban development: the King Soopers shopping center, the Outlet Malls, the Meadows, Founders Village.
On the other hand, we have a concerted attempt to preserve a sense of unique place: the new front of the county building, the Perry Street development. These attempts swim against the current, and are not guaranteed. I can't help but notice that despite the thriving new businesses along Perry Street, some long time Wilcox folks are slipping away to the mall.
What makes Castle Rock different from other Front Range communities? In part, it is our history. No history of Castle Rock is complete without a conscious celebration and honoring of the contributions of Philip S. Miller. His personal character was a formative influence on our civic character. It deserves to be remembered in more than the name of just one building, particularly as important as the library was to him.
So after my exploration of the issue, I'm inclined to retain the name of the Philip S. Miller Library. We have reason to be proud of it.
And speaking of history, I want to join my voice to the hearty endorsement of fellow Douglas County News-Press columnist, James O'Hern. Susie Appleby, a Highlands Ranch resident, recently published her superb history of Douglas County, "Fading Fast." Appleby not only wrote an intelligent and interesting tome, she also cleared up and corrected many mysteries and myths about our common past.
The book is available from selected area bookstores. Like Debbie Buboltz's "Philip Simon Miller: Butcher, Banker, Benefactor," it is one of the essential additions to the bookshelf of any Douglas County citizen with an interest in how we got to where we are today.