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 7, 2006 - We Store it for You
I'm at a point in my life where "stuff" is starting to catch up with me.
On the one hand, there are boxes. I'm not just talking clothes, but those mysterious boxes that somehow survived three moves and ten years in the basement. Many of them are books, of course.
Some of those boxes are stuffed with my own writings. I have notebooks, I kid you not, from 6th grade. I have a couple of my incredibly naive and amateurish attempts at novels from high school. I do not, I promise you, spend my evenings reviewing this debris.
Here's the mystery: why do I think I need these things?
Not long ago, I sat through a "guided meditation" exercise. "Imagine a room," said our guide. "You can put anything you want in it. Big screen TV. Big comfy leather sofas. The rarest of paintings. High end sound systems. Price is no object."
After about 2 minutes of this, I realized that I wound up with a room that didn't have anything in it at all. My ideal space was a sort of Japanese hallway looking out at the mountains. Empty.
What do I want in life? Not more -- less. According to my family, this makes me a difficult person for whom to buy Christmas presents.
Now, let's consider another kind of storage issue. In the world of electronics is something called "Moore's Law." It concerns a formulation by one Gordon Moore, then promulgated by Carver Mead, about the amazing ability to cram ever more components into integrated circuits.
More popularly, people now understand Moore's Law to mean something like this: about every 18 months, the capacity of hard drives doubles, but the cost stays about the same.
It works. I still have, also in the basement, my very first PC. It came with two "floppy disks" that really were floppy. Each held 181K of "stuff."
Now I have 180 GIGAbytes on my current home PC. Most of that is empty. It cost about the same as the first PC.
I have also learned that everything I am likely to want to save -- letters, poetry, journals, even all of my newspaper columns -- fits just fine on a single USB flash drive. I started off with one that had 64 megs on it, about three years ago. It cost about $20. A year later, they were selling it, for the same price, but with 128 megs.
This past weekend, I ran across a deal where I could pick up 1 gigabyte of storage for $15.99. And this little flash drive was smaller than the last one.
This, of course, makes me think of Atlantis.
According to legend, Atlantis was once the most technologically sophisticated land on earth. Then, one day, after some kind of catastrophe -- volcano, earthquake, flood -- it utterly disappeared. It has never been found.
I think I know what happened. The storage technology eventually got to about the size of a tiny chip. Everything got copied there. The originals were destroyed.
Then somebody dropped the chip. They spent a while looking for it -- as at a party where someone loses a contact lens. This chip was never found. I'm guessing it cost about $20.
And there we have it: another of life's many strange contradictions. I have more boxes than ever, but all of my significant files -- if significant captures it -- now fit in a diminishingly small and cheap device. Which I will no doubt misplace, probably in the basement.
It's the kind of thing that drives a man to meditation, or, possibly to the library. Our motto: we store it FOR you.