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.
March 5, 2003 - Mr. Rogers
My family moved to Douglas County 13 years ago. Our daughter, Maddy, was a little over three years old at the time.
We lived kind of far out in the country, and had only one car, which I drove to work every day. My wife, Suzanne, says as she watched me drive off down the hill she would think, "I am Rapunzel."
Perhaps in part because of her early exposure to country quiet, Maddy has always had a rich interior life. She's a watcher: deep and observant.
At about this time, one of the few TV programs she watched was Mr. Rogers. She would sit, in her serious and thoughtful way, and watch the slow-moving, quiet show daily.
One day, she said to Suzanne, "Mama, I want to write a letter to Mr. Rogers." So Suzanne wrote it for her, exactly as Maddy dictated.
The gist of the letter was this: every day, Mr. Rogers would step into his house, swap his sneakers for slippers, and put on his cardigan. At the end of the show, he'd hang up his cardigan, put on his coat, and walk out the door.
In his slippers!
Well, Maddy got a letter back from Mr. Rogers. He said she was pretty sharp to notice that. But he said he really did change back into his street shoes. The people who did the TV show thought that showing him changing his shoes
again was kind of boring, so they just left that part out.
Maddy was perfectly satisfied. And it did not seem at all strange to her that she could both write the guy who was on TV, or that she would get such a straightforward, approving personal response.
But, of course, it is strange. Fred Rogers, born in 1928, and who recently died, inspired that sort of direct, personal confidence. His gentle, reassuring tone was absolutely genuine. Kids knew they could trust him.
Mr. Rogers duplicated this tone in his writings, too. The library currently has some 25 of his titles: 11 picture books, 5 books for older children, 5 videos, and 4 books for grown-ups. The titles show his ministerial
background, his willingness to tackle subjects that kids want to know about, and sometimes adults can't figure out how to discuss:
* Going to the potty -- a book that startled me, when I read it to Maddy years and years ago, with the revelation that children sometimes get anxious when they see former parts of their body whisked away into pipes. Never
occurred to me.
* When a pet dies.
* Making friends.
* Going to the dentist, and the doctor. Also, "Wearing a Cast."
* Adoption and stepfamilies.
* Divorce. And even:
He also tackled some topics just for fun. A musician himself, Mr. Rogers has a video about musical stories. Another of his books is just about kindness. One of his videos is about circuses. But throughout it all, he consistently presented this powerful message: you are special. I'm so glad to know you.
I don't know about you all, but I'll miss having him in our neighborhood.