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.
November 7, 2001 - Breakthroughs Benefits Leadership & Libraries
As a people, Americans have a peculiar fascination with work. Ask folks in other cultures what they "do," and they may tell you, "I paint." Or, "I carve." Or, "I spend time with my kids." Or, "I whistle."
Americans ask, "You do this for a living?"
And the answer baffles us: "No. I do this for a life."
Clearly, we all have animal needs: for air, for food, for shelter. We all have human needs: for human contact, for growth of mind and spirit, for productivity. For joy.
But in our culture, many of these things get subsumed in our jobs. Our work becomes a dominant metaphor for our lives. It's not sufficient to get enough money to pay the mortgage and grocery bills. It's not enough to be glad to work beside people we like.
Before long, the simple affirmation of living, of delighting in drawing a breath, becomes a series of calculations and comparisons. "I want to be creative," is translated into, "I need to increase my sales performance." "I want to get better at seeing, thinking, making," becomes, "I need that promotion."
Often, our place within the business becomes a statement of self, the objective confirmation of our inner worth.
In much the same way, Americans have a fascination with leadership. Leadership is that quality of people who really succeed in business, right? So leadership becomes the buzzword, the 21st century equivalent of "enlightened." It is our culture's metaphor for significant achievement. The Buddha becomes Bill Gates.
So more and more of our time moves from the private realm to the world of work.
In my profession, too, we have the workshops, the conferences, the coaching, the motivational books and audiotapes. The purpose: to move to the front of the field, to be leaders.
(And of course, there's the other purpose: to make a lot of money for the people who run the workshops, host the conferences, market the books and audiotapes.)
But what keeps me coming to work isn't just the fun of trying to steer the institutional ship through occasionally weird waters. I believe that what libraries do gets at some of those deep issues. We equip people not just to make a living, but to make a life.
Now, in a unique partnership among several sectors of our society, I'm pleased to announce an interesting workshop put on by a local business coaching and development group. They're called Breakthroughs. The name of the workshop is "Breakthroughs in Attitudes: Building a No Limit 'Can Do' Attitude." Participants will learn how to remove barriers that block personal performance. They will learn how to stay focused, and concentrate on what's important. They will learn how to "transform possibilities into realities."
The workshop will be held on November 9, at the Douglas County Events Centers at the Fairgrounds in Castle Rock. The cost is $50 per participant. The program lasts from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Checks should go to either of the Rotary Clubs of Castle Rock, or to the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. They need to be in by Thursday, November 8 at the latest.
I've heard a Breakthroughs presentation before, and have to say that it's well worth the money. A comparable workshop would ordinarily run ten times this amount.
But Breakthroughs is donating their time and materials. So the proceeds will go to two local causes: the Leadership Douglas County program, and a contribution toward a sculpture for the new Philip S. Miller Library.
So there you have it, an opportunity to learn more about the most personal side of your job, improve the leadership in your community, and contribute to something that nourishes the soul.
I haven't heard of such a good deal since, well, since the last time I went to the library.