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.
February 19, 2003 - TV's
I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but suddenly I don't watch TV anymore. Not the news. No regular programs. Not talk shows.
I'm not being a snob about it. My family has a fair number of VHS videos, and a growing number of DVD's.
Many a night, we'll even plunk ourselves in front of the tube with TV trays and a pile of spaghetti. But we watch movies, not TV fare.
So why don't I watch regular TV?
There are two main reasons. The first is a matter of schedules. Even when I run across something I do enjoy, it's difficult to arrange my life around it. My life has a lot of evening meetings. We have children who need to be carted around to various activities. I have friends to see. There's usually something I'm tracking on the Internet. I have four or five books going.
The second is my absolute impatience over the idiocy and frequency of most commercials.
The last time I actually tried to watch something -- probably a Star Trek rerun -- I finally ran screaming from the room. First, the volume goes up when the commercial comes on. Then the thing they're selling you is ridiculous. Then the WAY they try to sell it to you borders on the insulting.
Who needs it? I thought. From now on, the only time I'll sit in front of a TV is when I have direct control of the content.
But there's the rub. Just a couple of weeks ago, my son and I stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. And we found to our initial amusement, then growing frustration, that it was impossible for us to talk to each other. Why?
Because everywhere you looked in this restaurant, there were enormous TV's. Some of them were loud (usually with sporting events in the background). The one just in my son's line of vision was a captioned news program.
Was he interested in the topics being discussed? No. But the ever-changing images, most of them chosen for splash and action and color, exerted a persistent tug on the eye. My son was incapable of carrying on a conversation, instead being reduced to a series of "look at that!"
So we switched seats, because I'm more mature, and have greater powers of concentration.
Except now I was the one who couldn't talk. "Lookee there!" I'd say.
Honestly, who goes to a restaurant so they can watch captioned news programs? I go to relish the act of eating, and to enjoy the company I keep. The TV flat out interfered with both of them.
Now I raise all this because I have agreed to allow a closed captioned TV in the new Philip S. Miller Library. It will be over by the new periodicals, turned away from the inside of the building. It is a direct request by some senior citizens in Castle Rock, who indicated their strong interest in finding, while they're at the library, how their various stocks are performing.
Frankly, for me it's hard to imagine that such second-to-second monitoring is necessary. Will I see seniors leaping to their feet, pulling out their cell phones and shouting "Sell! Sell!"? If so, those seniors will be asked to leave the library. (Don't get me started on cell phones.)
But we'll give it a try. When you ask for people's advice in focus groups, it seems to me that you ought to accommodate it when you can.
If it bothers you, too, though, don't hesitate to let me know. You'll probably find me in front of the TV. Wave your arms or something.