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.
September 11, 2002 - Spellbinders Storytelling
Today is a day of remembrance. Today is a day when we tell stories, and try to understand the meaning of events both large and small.
The story of 9/11 is well known now, a defining memory for all who witnessed it, like the assassination of JFK, or the moon walk.
The meaning of the events of Sept. 11 is still clouded, however, in part because the story isn't finished.
According to the provocative writings of William Strauss and Neil Howe ("Generations," and "The Fourth Turning: an American Prophecy (What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with History)," there are moments of secular crisis when the whole national character changes, realigning almost overnight to a new configuration of focus and effort. Pearl Harbor was one example of that.
I thought 9/11 would be another one. For various reasons, it wasn't. There is, I think, a deeper sense of national identity. I know that in the past year I have thought long and hard about what it means to be an American, and discovered in myself a surprising depth of patriotism.
But according to Strauss and Howe, the generational line-up isn't quite right yet for truly unified action. We're still caught in the culture wars, the partisanship, the squabbling among ourselves.
That may be a good thing. Once before in American history a configuration of generational types very much like what we have today went to war. But we fought each other. And the Civil War, while it preserved the Union, was also a period of great tragedy, with an aftermath quite different from that of World War II.
But back to storytelling. I'm pleased to announce a collaborative effort of the Douglas County School District and the Douglas Public Library District. We're forming a chapter of Spellbinders.
What's that? Spellbinders are volunteer storytellers. The idea of the program is to identify seniors (ages 55 or older) who want to learn how to tell stories to children.
To teach some of the skills of storytelling, humankind's oldest art form, volunteers will attend an eight-hour workshop this fall, right here in Douglas County. The teacher is the library's own Priscilla Queen, a storyteller of some renown, and a certified Spellbinder trainer.
The training will focus on techniques, practice exercises, and resources for folk tales and fairy tales. Priscilla will also help participants learn how to turn their own life stories into "tellable" tales.
After the training, we'll send out our Spellbinders to school rooms, libraries, and other settings where we can bring together two generations who have a lot to give each other.
For more information, or to request a Spellbinders volunteer application, call Debby Novotny, coordinator for School/Community Partnerships for Douglas County School District, at 303-814-5272.
Why? Storytelling is not only a way to build community, it's a way to make a difference in young people's lives by discovering how many great stories are inside you to tell.