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.
August 14, 2002 - Librarianship: Does it Get Any Better?
If my best friend had told me, back when I was in high school, that I would grow up to be a librarian, I would have laughed in his face.
But then, I was an idiot in high school. These days, I think I have the most fascinating job in the world. Consider just a couple of weeks in the life of your local librarian.
Shakespeare at the Rock. Some 750 people lined up to snag their free tickets to this library-sponsored cultural event. We put it on in the parking lot of an old Safeway store (soon to be a new Philip S. Miller Library). At just one performance I saw young and old, people in wheel chairs, people of color, white collar and blue collar workers. Every one of them left the performance stunned by both the sheer power of the imagination of a man who has been dead for centuries, as well as the living actors who gave this particular story such power.
Geekfest. I invited some of the key library technology staff in the state to come to our Highlands Ranch Library for a day. These six computing gurus, affectionately dubbed "geeks" (we gave them pocket protectors, geek T-shirts, and propeller hats as souvenirs) sat in front of a statewide audience of some 50 library workers, some from as far away as Montrose.
I got to ask our speakers some deceptively simple questions. What are you working on? What's on the technology horizon? How can we use technology to save money? What do you read to stay up to date?
To my utter delight, each of the six (including our own Kevin Watkins) was articulate, insightful, knowledgeable and, I swear, funny. The audience got a look at some key trends in the world of computing, not to mention some shrewd insights into the practices of important operating system developers, software vendors, and the library technology marketplace in general.
I learned all over again what an asset library staff can be, when we just take the time to ask them what they're thinking about. We also got some very specific guidance toward the development of a technology plan for the library.
Cultural Facilities planning. The great joy of aging is discovering how much there is yet to learn -- and how much fun it can be. The Douglas County Cultural Commission, in concert with several other local entities, brought in some high-powered cultural facilities consultants to talk about what people should think about before they build. Representatives of many governmental and cultural entities attended. Not only did we get treated to a history of theater architecture (about which I knew nothing), we heard some very straight talk from people who understood both the politics and the economics of the local community cultural center.
Community development. In just two weeks, I sat in on discussions with town councils, metro district planners, school district staff, chambers of commerce, county offices, developers, and appraisers in Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Roxborough, and Castle Pines North. Lone Tree and Parker are on the agenda for next week.
Communities all over the country -- but most particularly right here in Douglas County -- are starting to realize that the public library is a commercial anchor, an educational asset, an economic development fulcrum, a cultural catalyst, a quality of life indicator, a lure for the creation of a truly creative community.
Along the way, I've relearned something I first realized years ago: everything connects.
Your local public library touches the deeply private lives of each individual who uses it. It also adds extraordinary value to both the business and the civic life of our community.
In the process, it harvests from all these fields the most exciting, interesting, and challenging ideas you can imagine. It repackages them for the widest possible distribution.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you. Can any of you possibly have a job as awesome as librarianship?