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.
October 1, 2003 - Incomparable Staff
I have now had the great good luck of opening several new libraries in Douglas County. Most recent has been our headquarters library, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock.
Much of our public activity acknowledges the countless contributions of the general public -- our many donors, our artists, our colleagues in other branches of government.
This column, however, is about the folks who too often don't get acknowledged.
Let's begin at the beginning. The Trustees of the Douglas County Libraries are community volunteers. It is they who set the policies to make sure we had enough money on hand to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move back downtown. It is they who adopted the mission of the library, which directs us to "build community and improve lives in Douglas County."
Then there were our architects. We always aggressively bid out our architectural contracts. And Humphries Poli keeps winning them. Why? Because they have the ability, time after time, to "get" what we need, to imagine new buildings, and re-imagine old ones.
Our contractors, Cambria Construction, also worked hard for us -- bringing in the project on time and under budget.
To the public, one library closed down, and just a couple of weeks later, a new one opened. I hope I don't destroy any illusions for anybody, but behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of staff activity, at times indistinguishable from panic. (Graceful panic, to be sure, but ... panic.)
The new library houses not only the circulation, children's, and reference staff of the library; it is also home to our Technical Services department (the folks who order, catalog, and prepare our materials for checkout), the Computer and Network Support Staff (who keep all our systems running), our Training staff, our Facilities Department, our Community Relations Department, our Business Office, and a handful of administrative staff (Human Relations, Volunteers, Adult Literacy, my assistant, and me).
Over the past couple of weeks, I've seen a wonderful "jump-in-and-do-in" attitude all over this place. Catalogers have been slapping books on shelves. Trainers have been plugging in computers. People have been stuffing packets and lugging equipment, practicing tours, and setting up tables and chairs. Even the staff at other branches have pitched in, in an unending demonstration of support (and sympathy, as many of them have gone through their own Grand Openings).
From the beginning of our whole design process, to the final snipping of the ribbon, this library is the product of many minds, many hearts, and many hands. Yes, we pay them -- but this staff gives us not just their time, but their deepest and most conscientious commitment.
Here's just one example: on one of our moving days, Lynn Unruh, our Circulation Supervisor, tripped on a wooden ramp and tumbled. She wound up with a dislocated and fractured shoulder that required surgery. Lynn's response? She was sorry; she APOLOGIZED for the trouble.
While Lynn did wind up missing most of the fun, her good planning helped the rest of us get things done efficiently.
I have the extraordinary privilege of working with an absolutely incomparable staff. Library buildings are wonderful places. Books and magazines and DVD's are magnificent resources. But the library is more than all that: it is the people whose passion and intelligence give those things meaning.
Thank you, the staff of the Douglas County Libraries. Well done!