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 21, 2002 - The No Collar Worker
First we had blue collar workers. Then we had white collar. And now we have ... no collar.
The no collar or "creative class," according to author Richard Florida, "includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, and designers and architects, as well as the thought leadership of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers. The creative class also includes 'creative professionals' who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries such as high-tech sectors, financial services, the legal and health care professions, and business management. The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to create meaningful new forms."
There are a lot of them -- an estimated 38.3 million Americans, roughly 30 percent of the US work force. They also tend to make better than average incomes.
These people aren't just fun to be around. Recent studies have shown that their presence in a community is a key factor in economic vitality.
The creative class isn't bound by place. When conditions don't suit them, they move. This is turning traditional ideas of economic development on its ear: where once it was thought that creative people moved to the company, now the company is moving to the people it needs.
Professor Florida cites the case of Lycos (an Internet search engine company), which one day picked up its roots from Pittsburgh and moved to Boston.
Interestingly, the creative class has focused around a relatively small number of regions, leaving, as Florida says, "many older industrial regions - and many Sun Belt cities (once lauded as models of economic growth) - behind."
Florida writes that there are three T's of this "new economic geography:" technology, talent, and tolerance. Technology speaks to infrastructure, talent (at least in part) to the presence of universities, but the tolerance one, in Florida's words, is a "real stunner."
He says, "One of the best indicators of regional innovation, high-tech industry and growth, is a measure I call the 'gay index.' " In brief, Florida found that his research on the movement of the creative class closely correlated with someone else's study on the location patterns of gay people. This also closely matched the "bohemian" index -- a count of artists, writers and performers in a region.
The point isn't that all creative people are gay, or even that all gay people are creative. The point is that the extent to which gay people are tolerated in a community speaks to how open a place might be to non-ordinary thinking and behavior.
Members of the creative class use the word "diversity" a lot -- but not in the sense of a political agenda. They just like lots of choices: music, performance, art scenes, restaurants, "authentic" neighborhoods with some flavor.
Which cities come out on top in this new ranking?
Here are the top five: the San Francisco Bay area, Greater Boston, Washington, Austin, and Seattle.
The title of the book is "The Rise of the Creative Class: How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life." The author, again, is Richard Florida. The book is available from our libraries. It's creating a buzz in the community planning community.
And it may contain a tip or two about how a growing community can position itself to attract and hang onto interesting people.