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.
May 21, 2003 - Tile Project
Several weeks ago, my wife, Suzanne, did something wonderful. She bought a couple of plane tickets to Portland, Oregon for my daughter, Maddy, and me. Suzanne thought father and daughter hadn't had a chance to do anything special together in awhile. Maddy and I had a great time. Mainly, we walked and talked. We walked through China Town. We walked to the Powell's bookstore, which occupies a whole city block. We walked to the Art Museum. We walked to the magnificent downtown Multnomah County Library. We walked to restaurants. We walked to the Saturday market -- artists and artisans selling their wares under an overpass, by a park.
Everywhere, any time of day or night, there were people.
Part of the reason, of course, is that there was a coffee shop on literally every intersection. This not only provided conveniently spaced social gathering places, it kept people awake and alert. Strong and pungent, the aroma of coffee wafted through the rain.
Portland, I know from my reading, is often held up as an example of how to do cities right. I admit that I was skeptical when I first got there. By the end of our stay, I was hooked. Portland works. I fell in love with it.
But I'm in love with my home town, too, which happens to be Castle Rock. For the past two and half years, my office has been smack in the middle of Wilcox, Castle Rock's Main Street. I like being downtown, enjoy watching the rhythm of it, the faces.
But Castle Rock, like most smaller towns, only partly works. We have so many wonderful elements -- the history museum, the School District administration building, the railroad tracks, the main square with its restaurants, the Masonic Lodge (whose downstairs windows don't line up with the upstairs), the Perry Street development, the paved walkway along Sellar's and Plum Creeks, our own independent bookstore, county and town offices, and soon, a new library.
But the rhythm of a pedestrian-friendly place is often disrupted by things that almost work, that don't quite connect.
One of the things I so much enjoyed in Portland -- and also served to connect the streetscape -- was the clear presence of public art. There were statues. There were murals. There were parks that tried to be more than a patch of grass and a picnic table.
Well, under the leadership of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Castle Rock, and the Douglas Public Library District, we're going to do something about this.
Our first public project will be a vividly colored mural depicting scenes from the town. The artist is Malcolm Farley, best known for his sports paintings -- and, most recently, his work on millions of Pepsi cans.
The mural will be composed of individual, 12" by 12" tiles, together making up a piece spanning 8' by 24'. The mural will display on the Perry Street side of the new library.
We hope to pay for this project by selling individual commemorative tiles. They show a section of the larger mural, but are sized for display in your own home. You can buy an 8" by 8" tile for $100; or a 12" by 12" tile for $500, which is also signed by the artist.
But here's the best part. After we pay for the piece on the library, we'll keep selling tiles. The money we raise will go to new art projects elsewhere in the town.
Oh yes, donor's names will appear on a wall of fame in the new library's lobby -- a roll call of people who think downtown art makes a difference in the life of a community.
To purchase a tile, stop by the Philip S. Miller Library, or the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce, located at 480 Jerry Street, Castle Rock CO 80104. Or call the Chamber at 303-688-4597.
Meanwhile, why not take your own daughter for a stroll downtown? There's a lot to talk about.