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.
June 23, 2005 - Our Future
The Douglas County Libraries have gone through two phases. The first ran from about 1990 through 1996. This was the period in which the district was established, and began to grow.
The second phase was from 1996 through 2005. This was the period of our adolescence, when we began to resemble our more mature neighbors. Specifically, this meant the spread of departmentalization. We launched reference departments at most of our branches. We added children's departments. At Highlands Ranch, we added a Reader's Advisor station; at Philip S. Miller, a Teen Tower.
We are, and our statistics back this up, among the best suburban library systems in the United States. By that I mean that of libraries serving communities of our size, we are not just in the top ten, but among the top two or three. We are a very good library.
It's also the case that our revenues have begun to flatten. The demand for our services has not.
We have begun to talk about what it means to become a great library. This is not, incidentally, just about money. The private sector counts its success by dollars. The public sectors reckons its Return On Investment by something quite different: the depth and breadth of its service.
I've learned some important things in my time here. When I was first starting out as a library director, I thought of communities as essential tools to build libraries. Now, I think of libraries as essential tools to build good communities. That's a big change -- and I suspect a mark of my own growing up.
Our future -- of library holdings, of library buildings, of technology, of staffing patterns -- cannot exist in isolation. We will succeed only to the extent that we assist in the success of those around us. Those around us include not just government, but also education, and business, and all those private concerns that add up to local life.
To help us plan for the next phase of our development, the Library Board of Trustees has decided to do some surveying. Over the next several weeks, we'll be conducting a series of telephone interviews.
Some of the questions will indeed be about money -- we're at the limit of what we can do with what we've got.
But most of our questions are about something more important. What really matters to you in your quest for quality of life? What do you really want from your library? It's just possible that what you want isn't something MORE, but something DIFFERENT.
Our questions aren't about what makes a library better, but what improves your community. The library is just another means to that end.
So if you get a call, it's legitimate. The people asking the questions are being paid by us to help us systematically, scientifically, get a read on what our taxpayers are really looking for in Douglas County.
Please, take the time to answer. The future you'll help us craft is not just ours. It's yours.