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 8, 2003 - Castle Rock Charrette
A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk with Stevan Strain. Stevan is one of our Library Trustees, representing the Parker area. Stevan also runs the Warhorse Inn on Parker's Mainstreet.
We strolled down Wilcox, the historic Main Street of Castle Rock, then back north on Perry Street. I'd been thinking a lot about the downtown area, so I was all set to illustrate, tour guide fashion, all the touches I thought made downtown Castle Rock so successful, so pedestrian-friendly.
Well, it turns out that Stevan had been thinking about these things even longer than I had, and more deeply. Every time I pointed out something, he'd point out out two things.
I can't remember when I've had such an interesting time. I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that most of us don't pay very much attention to our surroundings. Until you're really thinking and talking about all these things, you don't notice the subtle effect of a curb cut on how fast the traffic flows. You don't understand why some storefronts invite you, and others disconnect.
Over the past 13 years, I've seen how new libraries change the way towns and neighborhoods work. I've watched the way downtowns have developed in Castle Rock, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Sedalia, and Larkspur. Each community is different; each conducts different kinds of experiments.
Most of us just inherit our surroundings. Nobody asks us, particularly, what kind of feel we want for either public or commercial spaces. We take what we get, and all too often, what we get is soulless, tacky, cheap, and surreal.
Yet the shape of our surroundings does have an effect on us. It determines how people connect to each other. It makes it easier, or harder, to do our work well. At a deeper level, it also affects how we feel as human beings -- sheltered, encouraged, welcomed; or exposed, frustrated, and rejected.
Here's what I've decided: I want to live in a place I like. I want to be part of making wherever I am a place that's good to live in.
Fortunately, the Town of Castle Rock is giving me -- and anybody else with an interest in such things -- an opportunity to do just that.
This weekend, the Town is hosting something called a "charrette" With the able assistance of some urban design specialists from the American Institute of Architects, the public is invited to participate in a two-day process with the following goal: to generate some great ideas about the direction of the town's development.
But don't expect a dry planning committee. While there will be some brief updates on current projects, most of the time will be spent on brainstorming. There just might be some wild ideas -- Denver's 16th Street Mall came out of a charrette process.
The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 10, followed by a social event until 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, October 11, the charrette will run from 8:30 to 5:30. The location is at the new Philip S. Miller Library, 100 S. Wilcox.
If you're interested, we do encourage you to RSVP -- that way we can more accurately provide for munchies. Please call Loretta Daniel, Senior Planner for the Town, at 720-733-2232.
The results of these two days of planning just might determine what happens in Castle Rock over the next 20 years. Make a difference.