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.
November 6, 2002 - Faces
Some people have open faces. Others have closed.
It's the sort of thing you don't even notice until you have kids. You feel it for the first time right there in the birthing room, when all of a sudden you smile the way you probably haven't smiled in decades.
When they're infants, you see all the untrained grimaces and toothless grins. When babies are unhappy, their faces screw up and they wail. When they're happy, it's ear to ear and top of the head to the toes.
I remember noticing with surprise the glittering awe in my sister's eyes when she looked at her daughter. A few years later, I wasn't wondering anymore. I was living it, on the inside.
All this stuff loosens up your face. You realize how tight it used to be, how you put on a public face that was supposed to show that you were cool, or professional, or somehow in control.
But when you're trying to beam encouragement to a toddler, send it with every pore of your body, you have to move some of those facial muscles around. After that, it's harder to get them to settle down again. (Facial muscles, I mean, not the toddlers. Well, toddlers, too.)
Along about now, you begin to notice changes in your own children's faces. It gets worse when they go to school, when they have to mask, to some extent, their fears or insecurity, lest someone else take advantage.
This is a little like living alongside a summer stream, quick and changeable. Before you are quite aware of it, winter comes, and the water stiffens and slows. It becomes a face like too many of the faces in the world, cold and hard.
Then come the phony faces. The faces put on for show, for attitude, for sheer resentment. This can last, in whole populations, from adolescence through retirement.
It's enough to make you look at really old people's faces, for comfort, for the faces of people who don't play status games anymore, and start to have real faces again.
It's enough to make you read, because I've noticed that people forget about their faces when they're reading. They're living again, and feeling and dreaming without feeling like THEY are being watched. This time, they're doing the watching.
Face it, sometimes the only way to keep yourself limbered up is to step outside of your own skin, and imagine yourself inside someone else's. Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to respond to someone else's situation -- their loves, their passions, their horrors, their sorrow -- just to feel again the marvelous mobility of skin.
Face it, in order to have a face that's open, you may have to open a book.