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 20, 2004 - I am an Earthling
It was a perfect Colorado day: crisp and clear. Autumn burned on the bluffs.
I was walking down the main street of my home town. Suddenly, all I could hear was the roar of traffic.
Just as suddenly, I was angry, irritable.
I have striven my whole life to cultivate calm. So with my anger came disquiet. WHAT was wrong with me?
I have two answers. Here's the first: it was America. America the loud, America the intrusive, America the land of the big, honking automobile.
Second answer: my real problem was something called acculturation. A couple of weeks before, I was in eastern Europe. I was able to walk for hours at a time on streets that meandered under trees, ambled along river beds, and had learned the trick of dodging traffic.
My deep anger was, of course, ridiculous. Right? Yet it was real.
For the past decade or so, I've been a member of Rotary International. I've always taken a keen interest in our exchange students.
Every year, we interview a handful of very bright, surprisingly poised high school students. We send a few of them off to live with loving families in other countries.
About nine months later, they come back. And they all report a similar thing: coming back to America is at least as hard as leaving it.
Over there, they were sometimes overwhelmed by all the differences from the life they knew. At the same time, it was invigorating. The brain is wired to notice what is new. When everything is new, life is intense.
These students expected their travels to be strange. But they didn't expect HOME to seem strange. When they returned, they made a deep discovery: what so many of us believe is basic and right, a given, is only cultural. Other places, other people, have other premises.
In my own travels, I thought I'd adapted well. I was booked from dawn to dusk and beyond, but always with very kind, even gentle people. I enjoyed myself tremendously, even if I did feel, on occasion, that I needed more time alone, more time to process my experiences.
When I got back, I was plunged into the crazy season of my job: library budget preparation.
So chalk up some of my crankiness to being overscheduled, overstimulated, then suddenly caught up in the finicky business of fiscal decison-making and strategic planning.
I strongly suspect that I am not nearly as adaptable as I'd like to think I am.
But issues of personal stamina aside, I feel a lingering rebellion against ALL countries: my own for its artless arrogance and careless abundance; Bulgaria for its legacy of entitlement, the blunt humiliation of the Soviet era. The rest of the world's nations ... well, because of the whole idea of borders.
On the 2000 census, after long thought, I listed my race as "Earthling." I meant by this that as a very young man I had seen a photo of our planet from space.
It was so achingly beautiful. I wanted to clasp it to me, as an infant hugs a balloon.
I still do.