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.
May 12, 2005 - One Step at a Time
When I was in 5th grade, my family moved from our blue collar, working class neighborhood to an older, established area. The next day we were visited by one of our neighbors, welcoming us.
She gave us something I had never seen before: lox and bagels.
In retrospect, I suppose Mrs. Shklair was the first Jew I'd ever met. I had no particular preconceptions. I just classified her as nice, funny, and bearing the most extraordinary food.
By two years later, lox and bagels had become our basic Sunday breakfast. And we played with the Shklair children.
In college, I traded my first roommate for another, more congenial and interesting. My new roommate was a Jew, also, and through him I learned that the web of parental guilt woven by Jewish mothers more than equaled the work of their Catholic sisters, whom until then, I thought were the champs.
But I don't think it was until the late 1980's that I ran across people who flat out denied the Holocaust. These were the Aryan nation folks, filled with such obvious sputtering hatred and ignorance that it was impossible to take them seriously.
Apparently, many people did, however, some even claiming to be scholars.
The deniers are wrong, of course. Even as the direct eye-witnesses to the truth begin to fade away, the evidence -- photographs, manuscripts, the simple disappearance of over 12 million people (at least 6 million Jews, and another 6 million of various other groups) -- is overwhelming. An excellent response to the deniers' absurdities is the website www.holocaust-history.org.
Or if you still prefer the tangible weight of a book, typing "holocaust" into the library catalog will deliver over 755 matches.
There are time, when reading human history, I despair. It seems we have barely to scratch the civilized creature to unleash the savage. There are those who believe the Holocaust could never happen again, and certainly not here. I think it could.
I fear the cycles of history, the societal surge, just as the memory of one horror dies, to play it all through again.
But the endurance of the human race rests, as always, with the young. And that's my more hopeful topic for this week: a play, written, developed, designed, and produced by a group of Douglas County teenagers. They were gently but masterfully facilitated by Susan Littman -- but she underscores that this original work is the sole product of the young people.
Their name is the Youth Ensemble Series, or YES. They are associated with the Castle Rock Players. Their play, "One Step at a Time," is actually two plays.
It begins with something that I suspect happens in many high schools today: the bullying of one victim by the crowd. One student is assigned to write a report on the Holocaust. And slowly, the students take on the roles of young people in Germany, at the beginning of the Nazi era.
In the next hour and a half, some truly touching stories are told. And finally, it all comes back to today.
The students not only put in a lot of research, they were also visited, and lectured to, by two Holocaust survivors. The play builds on real experiences.
YES already put on one performance. They'll be doing a couple of more. The next public showing will be at the Philip S. Miller on Saturday, May 14, 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
It happens that Holocaust Awareness Month was in April. But the lessons are still timely -- and timeless.