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 7, 2005 - Douglas County and the State
I've come to realize that there are four dimensions to a librarian's job. The first is departmental -- working in the local branch, or administrative unit. Here the primary task is immediate, point-of-contact service to the public.
The second is district-wide. Here the task is making that first dimension both effective and sustainable. This is the arena of meetings: working to ensure consistency, coordination, efficiency, productivity, sufficient resources, planning.
The third dimension of librarianship is community. And in this sphere, the task is involvement. What's going on in the local area? What issues do people face? How can we help?
The fourth is the profession. Librarians need to share what they've learned from their experiments and experiences. In the process, they learn that local issues may not be local at all, but part of broad societal trends. They also learn strategies and best practices for responding to a changing environment.
Last week, I was invited to a statewide library planning summit. Thirty-six people were invited, representing a host of constituencies. We had school librarians, or teacher librarians, as they now call themselves.
We had university librarians. We had folks who work for the last remaining library system in the state -- a group charged with maintaining courier services and providing continuing education for librarians.
We had members of the State Library staff. We also had a lot of Douglas County Libraries folks.
Justine Shaffner, Adult Services Department Head at Philip S. Miller, is the chair of the statewide Ask Colorado committee. Ask Colorado provides 24/7 online access to real reference librarians.
Claudine Perrault, Manager of the Lone Tree Library, is the chair of the Colorado Library Card Committee. This is the group that set up and promotes a program unique in the United States, through which library cards from one institution are honored by others. This remarkable service is free.
While some states do have programs that permit borrowing among one type of library, CLC involves public, school, university, and even some special libraries (institutional or corporate).
Rochelle Logan, Associate Director for Support Services, has a strong background in surveys and statistical analysis. She had helped craft and analyze some information-gathering around the state for this planning effort.
I represented the Front Range Public Library Directors, a regional committee I have the honor to chair this year.
After the State Library itself, and the new statewide system, the Douglas County Libraries has emerged as one of the key, active contributors to statewide library planning. Our staff -- based on their activities as managers, district employees, and respected professionals -- have been recognized as the sort of people you want to have around when you're talking about big issues.
Ultimately, our reputation radiates from that first dimension -- the direct service to our patrons. Many of the state programs do just that.
Yet libraries, like librarians, have a responsibility to participate in various levels of activity.
I'm proud to see our institution so well represented, and very proud of our people.