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.
January 7, 2004 - Feedback
I've always encouraged feedback from our library patrons and my staff. Recently, one staffer sent me a number of interesting letters, and I thought you might enjoy them as much as I did.
I haven't had the, er, pleasure of meeting Ms. Tess T. Featheruffle yet, but I don't see her name in our staff directory. Hence, she must be using a pseudonym. I'm told she has gray hair, wears glasses, and is a Shelver. She's feisty, and occasionally, as you'll see, she has very strong opinions. - Jamie LaRue
Dear Mr. LaRue:
I'm completing a year at a Douglas County Libraries and, since you're the Director, I think you should hear some of my observations.
I noticed early on, when I was checking my e-mail, that one staffer seemed to get sick a lot. Still she would cheerfully announce the hours she was going to come in anyways. She always said she was ILL in capital letters, so I thought it must be a terribly serious illness. After a couple of months of these messages, I began to think you were an awfully magnanimous manager to enable an employee with a chronic illness to continue working.
Curious, but not worth mentioning to anyone at the time. I guessed she probably did a lot of work via computer. In a library system, it's pretty much all on computer nowadays. Hey, even before I started working at the library I knew I could browse the whole catalog from my home computer. Beats leaving the house when there's a hailstorm outside.
Then one day I wanted a book and couldn't find it in our library system. I saw a heading on the library's main web page that said Research Tools. I clicked on it.
Guess what? There are databases galore. You can even find out what every library in the whole state owns, and probably even borrow what you need from them. And you don't even need to make a long car ride. The library does it for you.
So, Douglas County got my book for me, in just one week. On Interlibrary Loan.
Get it? ILL?
Yeah, yeah, I know now. The woman wasn't sick; she was just letting everybody know her hours in case they had questions about Interlibrary Loans.
So, Mr. LaRue, you've got a good system, for people who are having a bad time when they can't find their books.
Oh. The ugly Nobody wants to visit the library in ugly weather - so they use their home computers.
I've run out of time today, but I do have some strong comments on the children's room. I'll send them to you shortly.
Tess T. Featheruffle
P.S. You really ought to publicize the ILL system.
Dear Ms. Featheruffle:
Consider it done. Looking forward to your future letters, I'm sure.
Sincerely, Jamie LaRue