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 9, 2002 - New Years Resolution
A dozen years or so ago, I made some money on the side by writing software reviews. Once a month, I'd install some 5 or 6 programs on my computer, and put them through their paces. Then I'd crank out 2,500 words about them, and delete the software from my machine.
I formed a prejudice for something that rarely characterizes software anymore. I liked software that was small, fast, and did one thing well. In the DOS world, I liked programs that were 64K or less in memory. Often, such programs took up about the same amount of disk space.
Even these days, just as a hobby, I'll roam around the Internet seeking classic software. Just recently, I found a program called WordEdit for the Macintosh. This little gem uses 606K memory, and about 503K storage space. What does it do? Well, it's a little word processor. It does fonts, justification, tabs, rulers, and so on. It also has a built-in word count, dictionary, does headers and footers, performs alphabetic sorts, and switches the case of letters. Cost: absolutely free.
At that price, of course, it's doomed. A free product that does just about 90% of what anybody who uses a word processor needs simply can't compete with, let's say, Microsoft Word, an expensive program with so many features most people can't even find them. When I installed WordEdit, it made one tidy little folder on my hard drive. When I recently installed Microsoft Word on a Macintosh, it all but forced me out of my house.
But I'm not writing about computer software, not really. I'm writing about attitude. I'm thinking about my New Year's resolutions. This coming year, I resolve to want less.
An example: I resolve to take the 8 or 10 piles of books next to my bed and give them to the library. The library will do one of two things: either accept them, catalog them, and keep them in good order on their shelves; or pass them along to community booksales. In either case, the books will no longer be in my house. I will have fewer things to dust, shuffle through, and otherwise look after.
What will I do with the space and time thereby freed up? Well, I could spend more time reading. But the more generic answer is: Focus on the things I do well. It ISN'T (alas) dusting, shuffling through and looking after lots of objects.
What do I do well? That's an excellent question. It may be time to find out.
We can still learn a lesson or two from those old software programs: low cost, less memory, less storage space, more focus.
Happy New Year.