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.
October 12, 2006 - Library Hauntings
This is just a little early, but I thought people would like to know, as they approach Halloween, that some 100 United States libraries are reported to be haunted.
I read it in an article by George M. Eberhart, in a book called "The Whole Library Handbook." He is also the author of "Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology," "The Roswell Report: An Historical Perspective," "A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies: Primary Access to Observations of UFOs, Ghosts, and Other Mysterious Phenomena," and more.
Most of the hauntings are a little mundane: cold spots in the building, elevators or computers that run erratically in the older wings, strange noises late at night. Of course, if you've ever worked in an old building after the sun goes down, you know that hearing odd things -- bangs, screams, moans, manual typewriters, people rifling through papers -- can be most unsettling, even if it only turns out to be frantic grad students cramming for a final.
Other phenomena are stranger. Here's one that would definitely have gotten my attention. The library director at the Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee said that on March 5, 2001, he saw "a cat come floating across my office floor and disappear among the boxes stored under the table behind my desk. I did not see any legs or paws and no motion like a normal cat walking on a floor. The apparition was near the floor, about the right height for a cat, but it appeared to be gliding smoothly through the air instead of touching the floor."
In Tarrytown, New York, several years after his death, Washington Irving's ghost was reported to have been seen walking through the parlor and into the library -- where he was wont to pinch young ladies.
At the U.S. Capitol Building, Rotunda, in Washington, D.C., a male librarian has been seen paging through obscure volumes near where he once hid $6,000 -- a sum found in 1897 when the collection was moved to the Jefferson Building.
In Evansville, Indiana's Willard Library, a "lady in grey" has been seen many times. In fact, there are three ghostcams if you'd like to join the watch. See www.willardghost.com/index.php.
At the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, Massachusetts, an old apparition has hushed noisy passersby.
Out here in the west, the dead are unquiet, too.
At the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, San Pedro Branch, in New Mexico, a disembodied voice calls out of an evening, "please come check out a book."
At the Long Beach Public Library in California, the "appropriate" books sometimes falls from the shelves, presumably while people are looking for them.
In Portland, Oregon, library staff saw a man sitting in a room that was supposedly locked and empty. As a supervisor went upstairs to check, the library assistant watching the camera saw the mysterious figure vanish.
Sadly, the only library in Colorado with a haunting is Denver Public, where people report having been pushed in the basement -- by nobody.
But I'll add another one. I could have sworn I saw a tall Indian, in buckskin and feathered head dress, stroll noiselessly through the foyer of the old Philip S. Miller Library on Plum Creek late one Sunday after hours. I couldn't find him, though.
I like Eberhart's take on all this: "...libraries offer such dynamic mental and sensual stimulation that if haunts are truly evidence for postmortem survival, I can't imagine anywhere else I'd rather spend my earthly afterlife than in a library..."
Watch for me.
[LaRue's Views, unless stated otherwise, are his alone.]