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 20, 2002 - A Continuing Education
I am not the man in the picture. Jamie LaRue is out of town and offered me his column space this week. I accepted happily seeing it as an opportunity to share an insider's glimpse into the library world.
Nine months ago something life altering happened to me. I can hear my daughters' voices, ringing in the momma conscience in my ear, "Oh! Yuck! Mom, don't write about that in the newspaper." Girls, rest at ease, my life-altering episode has nothing to do with procreation, but it does have a great deal to do with growth. Mine. Nine months ago I started a new job as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Douglas Public Library District, a period of time I refer to as "The education of Patti."
My education - the learning of the library - has been both broad and minute. In the broad sense, I have had the pleasure of working with the Library District Board of Trustees. This group of seven, volunteer citizens governs the District. I can personally attest to their great depth of community knowledge and business sense. There is also an influx of "new blood" and vision that blends remarkably with the "old blood" of historical perspective and experience. They give of their time, their knowledge, and their expertise because they have a great sense of community and of the importance of libraries in that community.
One of my first jobs with the District has been a review of the Bylaws and Policies. I have had the opportunity, rare in a new position, to see what went before me. In reviewing the Board minutes for the last twelve years I gained a respect for what the District has accomplished and how responsibly they have accomplished it. In a decade of massive county growth the District has been visionary in its services, cutting edge in its approach and fiscally sound.
Honing my education more, I have started to learn about the day-to-day operations of the library. When I was first hired I excitedly told a young friend that I was looking forward to the new challenge. She looked at me with that "duh?" look only teenagers can perfect and said, "What's so hard about checking out books!" I explained that I wouldn't be checking out books. (They didn't trust me enough yet to let me do that!) Since that conversation I have been let loose on the patrons of the Philip S. Miller Library and I am happy to be able to say I have successfully checked out a few books. I am a quick study, but I am here to testify that being a librarian is a job of great complex, detail, knowledge and professionalism.
At least monthly I tell my boss, Jamie LaRue (You wondered when he came into the picture, didn't you?) that I still love this job. Everyday I get to do a job where I am encouraged to learn, be inventive, be successful, be respected and to show respect, be in awe of what others accomplish and occasionally to allow some awe to come my way. I am learning about libraries on a whole greater level than I knew as a book-borrowing patron. I am learning that the Douglas Public Library District is an organization that I am proud to be part of. This is not a statement you can always make about an organization once you get to know it.
So what have I learned? I have learned that this job will be a continuing education. I will never come full term. I like that.
Patti Owen-DeLay is the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Douglas Public Library District.