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.
November 2, 2006 - When Mother Nature is Cruel
Mother Nature is mighty and unpredictable.
I've tried to set up a procedure to handle library closings or delayed openings. In general, we try to follow the school district. But sometimes what makes sense for them doesn't make sense for us.
As I'm writing this (the morning of October 27), Douglas County's weather is split along peculiar lines. In some areas, it's fine for travel. In others, people are socked in with snow. But the weather forecast says it's supposed to be in the 60s by noon. You gotta love Colorado.
The school district's delayed openings reflect local conditions. But what I decided to do is delay openings all around the library district until noon -- simplifying (I hope) the message to be distributed.
Once that decision is made, we begin the laborious process of contacting all our staff. At the same time, we gear up our PR machinery: that means that we call TV stations Channel 4 and 9, post the news on the front page our website (www.DouglasCountyLibraries.org), and put a message on our phones (for now, call your branch library number in the yellow pages; soon, we'll have one district-wide number).
If you ever have questions about a library opening, these are the places to check.
Closing our libraries is always a mixed thing -- a risk no matter which way I call it.
On the one hand, I grew up north of Chicago, where winter snowstorms were frequent and severe. Eventually, you adapt -- learn how to get around in icy and dicey situations.
But in Colorado, those conditions don't last long enough for people to learn the skills they need. So we get more accidents.
I've become a little more protective of the public and staff through the years, without trying to totally wuss out, and have a timid library shut down when everybody else is open.
I'm even starting to wonder about my own driving skills. Once upon a time, I was a truck driver back in the midwest, where I endured one of the roughest winters in some 50 years. I got through the whole thing without incident, even though I was putting in some 6-8 hours a day on the road.
Yesterday (and my worn tires are probably much to blame), I got stuck in my own cul de sac on the way home. Were it not for the friendly helpfulness of my wonderful neighbors, I never would have made it to my driveway.
Mr. Hopkins, one of those great neighbors, popped up with snowsuit, snow blower, SUV and tow line -- which I promptly attached to what I thought was the metal ring designed for that purpose on my Toyota, but to what turned out to be a vacuum hose.
Sigh. I'm sure I had a car once that had a tow bar in that exact spot. But I will be the first to admit that I am mechanically inept. Mr. Hopkins straightened out that problem, too.
Ultimately, extreme weather is yet another lesson in humility. Sometimes, things don't go the way we want them to. But with the cooperation of our neighbors, coworkers, and friends, somehow we get by.