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.
April 21, 2004 - Big Bang
It was once thought that the Big Bang -- that moment some 80 billion years ago when all the matter of the universe exploded from an unthinkably dense Cosmic Egg -- would eventually play itself out. Then, slowly, a universe of cold dust would tug itself back home.
So the universe might have a rhythm, like the breath of a baby: out, then in.
More recent cosmological theories aren't quite so homely. Right now, it seems that universal expansion isn't even slowing down. In fact, it may be picking up speed. There might be some fundamental force or principle of space that drives all matter further and further apart, faster and faster, and this might just go on forever. Einstein thought so, then didn't.
Sometimes I think that human beings follow similar cosmic universals. Nations expand, contract. Businesses decentralize, then, when communications break down, pull back in and solidify the core.
Lately, I've been noticing a trend in cities. Something like the development of LoDo, the reinvestment of public and private dollars in a city's heart, may signal the turning of the tide.
Demographically, Douglas County is its own Big Bang. We are still in the outward phase -- new strip centers, new shopping malls, new "town centers" that aren't, really, instead bent to the service of a neighborhood or development.
But even those town centers may reveal a change. People want to cluster. There's a difference between racing in a car from one strip mall to another, and spending some time strolling along an artfully designed space that encourages you to stay awhile, a place where the measuring stick is the human stride, instead of the length of an SUV.
One example is Castle Rock. There's a lot of new construction to the north of town -- if the round of Wal-Marts, Kohls, Wendy's, Office Depots, and Targets can be called "new." (More and more lately, I find myself in places that could be any place at all, if you know what I mean.)
But then there's our gazebo: a bandstand on Wilcox, Castle Rock's main street, right outside the library. This charming, 23 X 24 foot Victorian recreation, is sized to host the Castle Rock Band -- a brass band that plays music from a century ago. The gazebo also has sufficient power (for sound and lights) to highlight the performances of more modern bands.
The heartening thing, to me, are all the people who have come forward to help make this modest structure a reality.
The White Construction Group has donated labor, and is negotiating numerous gifts and donations of materials. MW Golden Construction donated many man-days of carpentry work. The Rotary Clubs of Castle Rock have made the gazebo their Centennial Project. Members of the Castle Rock Band -- itself a non-profit organization -- have donated thousands of dollars.
In Highlands Ranch, work is now moving forward on the Civic Green Park. A joint fundraising effort -- stimulated by the promise of matching funds from Shea Homes (up to $717,000 dollars) is pulling together many community, and even county-wide groups (Shea Homes, Highlands Ranch Park and Recreation Foundation, Douglas County, DC8, the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association, the library, and many others).
For more on this effort, contact Mary Colton of the Highlands Ranch Metro Districts (303-791-2710), and watch for Channel 8, Douglas County Television's special "Civic Green Park: You Can Make It Happen."
People are talking about similar re-imaginings of shared public space, in the heart of town, in Parker and Lone Tree -- efforts I'll try to highlight in future columns.
Whatever the fate of the universe, people are not rogue asteroids. We need, from time to time, to look inward, to draw together, to breathe in.