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 6, 2006 - LaRue's Views
Effective today, this column has a new name. It's not just a title. It's a disclaimer.
First, I thought about adding a more formal statement to the end of each column. It would read something like this: "The opinions expressed in this column, unless stated otherwise, are not the official views of the Library Board of Trustees." The Trustees are my bosses.
Does that mean some of the things I say are NOT endorsed by the Trustees? Yes.
While I have never pushed a position they have voted against, the Trustees simply don't review what I write ahead of time, so shouldn't be held responsible for it. That's particularly true if it irritates or angers members of the public.
That doesn't happen as often as you'd think. But it happens sometimes.
I might also point out that my thinking doesn't necessarily reflect that of other library staff, either, although Lord knows life is easier when it does.
Now that I think of it, even I don't always support the arguments I make here. Sometimes, I'm just trying on an idea for size. A week later, I may have learned something new, seen the error of my ways, and moved on.
Or I may discover a deep thread of truth, and follow it further.
There's no denying (indeed, it is my great pleasure) that I am the director of the Douglas County Libraries. In my columns I try to set an administrative tone: about our commitment to service, about fundamental values affecting our operations, about my expectations for myself and staff.
Sometimes I also report on our budget, our statistics, and our plans. When representing the institution I serve, I strive to be as accurate and forthright as possible. Often I even solicit public comment on some service, or potential library action.
On occasion, I do indeed represent the decisions of my bosses, and am proud to say so.
In all those ways, this has been, and will continue to be, a "library column."
But the reason I started writing this column in the first place is that, for me, libraries just won't stay put.
Public libaries connect to everything. There's big stuff, like urban planning, arts and culture, local history and global politics, public education and small business development. It connects to lots of little stuff, too. Yoyos. Chinese jump rope. Ear plugs.
You think I'm kidding.
The deeper I get into librarianship, the richer all these connections become.
My "views" are often based on something I believe in whole-heartedly: the EXERCISE of literacy. I read a lot, listen to and watch a lot. I talk to a lot of people.
To me the exercise of literacy also involves writing: making judgments about the information I sift through, trying to fit my conclusions into an always changing, but I hope always more coherent, worldview. I do this in a newspaper column. Others may write blogs or websites.
One of the things I abhor about our current culture is that too many people are frantic to categorize everything into one of two camps. Something is either liberal or conservative, blue or red, black or white.
How small! How confining! As if our thinking, our lives, can, or should, be reduced to a binary choice.
One of the signs of our time is the idea that there must be a profound conformity of opinion. But my own understanding of the world suggests that all the big ideas, the ones that change people and cultures, come from outside the norm.
Cleaving too close to one camp or the other means you'll miss those big ideas. And what fun is that?
So consider this both a disclaimer, and a promise to keep poking into the odd corners of the world of ideas.
It's what a librarian SHOULD be doing, don't you think?