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.
April 23, 2003 - You're Never Too Old
Last Saturday morning, I attended a workshop on "boardsmanship," put on by Pat Wagner of Pattern Research (www.pattern.com). With me were Mark Weston, President of our Library Board of Trustees, and Stevan Strain, head of our Board's Personnel Committee.
There were also public library board members and directors from several other libraries around the state. There were about 40 of us, all together.
Pat is one of Colorado's best presenters and facilitators, with lots of good advice, clearly presented models, and a relaxed, humorous style. I warmly recommend her for similar presentations for groups of almost any type or size.
As Pat put it herself, the American system of lay review of many governmental functions, as well as our incredible bounty of volunteerism, is very unusual in the world. Moreover, it's effective.
Yes, there are cases of public boards failing in their oversight. There are some boards that can only be described as dysfunctional. Nonetheless, most public entities do very well. And very few have the sort of corruption and cronyism so prevalent elsewhere in the world.
Our system works -- and kudos to our own Board members for seeking the training, on their own time, to be even more effective.
What most struck me, though, was one of Pat's stray comments. She said that something she was putting up on a flip chart represented her " current thinking." "Ask me next week," she said, "and I may think something different."
Maybe it's just this particular time in my own life, but I've become increasingly appreciative and admiring of people who keep reading and thinking about things, and in the process, come to a deeper and different understanding.
There's plenty of evidence of this. Take, for instance, the explosive growth of book discussion groups around the country. We're not just talking bestsellers here -- people gather to tackle some tough titles on some tough subjects. Whether it's Great Books groups immersed in Roman playwrights, or church study groups reviewing titles on the particulars of raising boys, there's something reassuring about adults willing to explore new subjects.
Suzanne, my wife, had long expressed a wistful longing to play the cello. Several years ago now, I got her a rented cello for Christmas, and worked with a local musician to find a teacher. To Suzanne's great credit, she through herself into the task with gusto. She's gotten pretty good, too.
The example is a good one. Now my son is also taking cello lessons, and my daughter is studying the viola. They even play together.
I was chatting with a woman at a high school play the other night who told me that she has started pushing for a new kind of family vacation. Now, she says, she encourages her teenage children to take up something new. She's a new golfer. She seeks new hiking trails. She's started going to plays.
What's the common thread? She is building new skills that she and her family can enjoy for years, together.
While sports can be a wonderful experience, and it can be lots of fun going to games to watch your children compete, few families will keep playing soccer, or football, or LaCrosse, TOGETHER.
Learning bridge, or golfing, or chess, or music, or attending cultural events, or taking classes, is something that can both challenge and bond a family. Any of these open doors to whole lifetimes of interesting days in each other's company.
Whether you're in your teens, or midlife, or in your eighties, it's never too late to take up a new interest. If you're looking for ideas, why not start at your local library? And feel free, as you start exploring, to change your mind about things.