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 14, 2004 - Too Many Children!
Here's another letter I received from our unofficial, self-proclaimed ombudsman, Ms. Featheruffle. Incidentally, I'm closing in on the clues.
The letters are arriving from the email of one Missy Hess, a shelver at the Parker Library. At any rate, Ms. Featheruffle seems to have gotten her tongue stuck firmly in her cheek. I think. - Jamie LaRue
Dear Mr. LaRue:
I'm a Shelver. I think you should know how stressed my job is becoming nowadays because of all the new programs for children. My gray hair is not a fluke.
I had the system down at first. There are three reading times for small children at my library every weekday morning. So I'd go in at the beginning of the first story; shelve videos, DVDs and board books quickly (that's the most popular area nowadays - "Arthur," "Sesame Street," and "Mary Kate and Ashley" videos fly off the shelves just as quickly as the board books) and then I'd exit quickly when the kids streamed out of the story room. Fortunately the book drops need to be emptied regularly.
Then when the next story time started, I'd saunter back in and shelve another section.
I had the mornings figured out perfectly.
On my afternoon and night time shifts I was okay. There's always a steady flow of kids, but not the large groups who toddle in for the stories in the morning. (By the way, did you know they actually sing songs and do finger plays too at these story times? Not the library I grew up with.)
But the good times have ended. Somebody had the bright idea to institute an afternoon story time. And a lot of your libraries even have a Saturday story time.
And kids come! They come in droves!
Mr. LaRue. I like kids. I respect the moms who come in and sit in a chair with their kids on their laps and read them stories. I'm awed by moms who sit next to strollers and help their babies clap their hands. And I even tolerate the moms who somehow don't smell their kids' stinky diapers. (Well, maybe I move to the other side of the room till they leave.)
But really, Mr. LaRue. There are tons of kids in the library at all hours of the day now. When's a poor Shelver to do her work?
Tess T. Featheruffle
Dear Ms. Featheruffle:
I will certainly look into the matter. Too Many Children at the Library is certainly a serious matter. You know, different libraries have different story times. Perhaps we can adjust your schedule. Meanwhile, you might comfort yourself that if weren't for all those kids and parents, we really wouldn't have anything that needed putting away.
Think of it as job security. Thank you for your comments.