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.
December 29, 2005 - Sleep, Perchance to Dream
The last couple weeks of the year are precious to me.
The library's budget has been adopted for the next year. The meetings tend to be put off till January, because lots of people have taken time off.
The frenzy of shopping is done. The parties are over. Now comes one of the true gifts of the year: time to think.
So much of our lives is conducted as if we were in some kind of speed trial. Or as I read in "The World is Flat," by Thomas Friedman,
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, better start running."
Friedman was writing about globalization. The above is an African proverb, translated into Mandarin, and posted by an American entrepreneur on the front door of a factory he opened in China, which is itself a little bewildering.
And a little sad. On the one hand, it is better to make widgets than to make war.
On the other, it is possible to be so caught up in the outer world that the inner is neglected. After all, even lions spend an average of 13.5 hours a day sleeping. (Just so you know, the extremes are brown bats at almost 20 hours of sleep per day, and giraffes at a paltry 1.9. In yet more information suggesting kinship among us apes, baboons sleep 10.3, chimpanzees 9.7. While human infants sleep a whopping 16 hours a day, adults grab just 8. )
The National Center on Sleep Disorders says it is a myth that people need less sleep as they get older (aside from infants, that is). They just GET less sleep.
Here's another myth: "sleep is time for the body in general and the brain specifically to shut down for rest." It turns out that the brain is even busier when it's asleep. Sleep is a dynamic process.
It is also necessary. Rats deprived of sleep will die in 2 to 3 weeks -- just about as long as it takes to die of starvation.
But my point is not that we need more sleep, although most of us do.
My point is that downtime isn't necessarily unproductive. We need cycles in our lives, a variance of rhythm. Our alertness, our health, our success, depends upon troughs of busy-ness, time to allow for the active exploration of things we haven't yet had time to consider.
So, if you can, stop running. Seize the slow times. Stroll through the library, trolling for the odd item that will dredge up an issue you were unconsciously hoping to explore.
Or sit by one of our fireplaces and dream. We need dreams -- and we need time to dream them.