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.
August 4, 2004 - My Wife's Reading
My wife, Suzanne, admits to her almost obsessive collecting of books. Some years back, I was going to award what I thought was a clever prize: a gold library card. (Not real gold, you understand, but a gold-colored collector item.) It would go to the person who had checked out the most books over the past five years.
But there was a problem. The winner was my wife.
It would be churlish of me to complain about the piles of books around the house. For one thing, I keep running across the most interesting things. For instance, immediately at hand is a paperback called "Useless Information," by Paul Steiner.
It lives up to its title. Even the most dedicated diet-addict would be hard pressed to do anything with this:
* One portion rattlesnake steak contains 200 calories.
* One bowl bird's nest soup ... 75 calories
* One serving of barracuda ... 135 calories
* One glass hippopotamus milk ... 80 calories
* Five fried grasshoppers contain 225 calories. (You want my advice? Boil them.)
And for those of you in the dating world, here's a gloomy tidbit: "Only one woman out of ten knows how to wink, asserts a University of Melbourne professor."
Worried about contagious diseases? Well, no wonder: "Particles expelled by a sneeze have a muzzle velocity of 152 feet a second, says the Massachusetts institute of Technology." It's a wonder we're not riddled with tiny holes. Or maybe we are.
Just under this compendium of random facts lies "The Tipping Point," by Malcolm Gladwell. The subtitle is "How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference."
Gladwell posits that there are three kind of people who together add up to social movements, fads, and sudden action. There are Connectors. These are the people who always know way more people than you do. A famous example: Paul Revere was one of two riders who sounded the alarm. But only the people Revere contacted actually did anything. Why? Because he knew the people who lived at the hub of social networks.
There are Mavens. They obsessively collect highly detailed data. They are early adopters of technology. They are comparison shoppers. They are blazers of the trail. They not only know those useless facts above -- they can help you get a deal on your next batch of raw grasshoppers.
Then there are Salesmen (and women). They make you feel at ease. They persuade. They are impossible to work up a good defense against.
Together, these people can "tip" something from notion into reality.
Then there's the book "Wicked," by Gregory Maguire. It's the story of the Wicked Witch of the West -- from her side. Unlike, for instance, the Three Little Pigs, told from the Wolf's side, "Wicked" is not a kid's book. I found it utterly moving. The Witch Elphaba (whose name comes from "L. F. Baum," author of the Oz books) will break your heart.
A week or so later, Suzanne brought home the CD from the musical of the same name. And the music is some of the catchiest, soaring, most powerful I've ever heard. Glinda makes me laugh. Elphaba still breaks my heart.
Over the past 20 years, I've worked hard to pull people into the library. It's ironic that although I go to the library every day, I hardly need to. I have a talented librarian at home whose ceaseless curiosity offers a quirky education that catches me when I least expect it.