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.
May 24, 2007 - My Book
Well, I did it. I wrote a book, and it got published. I unpacked my six free copies on a Friday night.
By Monday, I'd read it four times.
There's good news and bad news about being a published author. Here's the bad news.
The copyediting process caught several things I'd missed. For instance, I told the same story twice, in two widely seperated sections of the book. The editor asked me which one I wanted to cut, and I picked one.
But in the final review, both of them were still there. So I sent in another correction.
Well, both stories are still there. My goof made it all the way to the final copy.
So some readers will come across this duplication and think, "Is this author so dim that he doesn't realize that he already wrote this?"
Answer (since I did indeed submit the manuscript this way): Yes.
I'm a little disappointed that my errors survived the process. But I'm also mature enough to realize that if anything can be counted on TO survive, errors are at the top of the list.
But let's move on to the good news.
I wrote a book!
It's something I remember telling my mother I would do, way back when I was in kindergarten . She clearly valued books, as witnessed by our well-dusted bookcases, crammed with her Book Of The Month Club selections.
I dedicated my book to a man who had a profound influence on my life, my maternal GrandDad. He was the one who first taught me that to question was the very essence of humanity. I think he would have liked this book.
He was an amateur historian, with a fascination for the American Revolution. I have come to share it.
The name of my work is "The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges." It was published by Libraries Unlimited, so it's a professional piece.
I'm grateful to the publisher, especially my editor, who taught me how to build a book. Before then, I only knew how to build poems, essays, and articles.
But I think part of me wishes it could have been put out by a popular press. For one thing, professional books are ridiculously expensive. Mine costs $40, which is absurd. It's a short book.
For another, I'd really like more than librarians to read it.
The essence of my book is this: the meaning of the public library is very like the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.
That is, the deep idea behind the founding of our nation was "inalienable rights." Another way to look at that is "equal access to the law."
It took a while for the people to catch up. "All men are created equal" means not only men, but women. It means not only property owners, but also the people who were once considered property.
But that's easy and obvious these days. There are other folks who are still denied that equal access or treatment. With a little thought, I bet you can name them.
The deep idea behind the public library is "equal access to information." That means the poor have as much right to our cultural heritage as the rich.
But not just the poor. It includes our young. It includes a host of people whose backgrounds or views may be viewed with suspicion by today's majority.
Public libraries, finally, are about the fulfillment of the American dream. It's a vision that's still a little challenging, a little ahead of, the current zeitgeist.
But that's what I've always loved about public libraries.
We are one of the best examples around of a society actively devoted to an attentive life, exuberant liberty of inquiry and expression, and the frequently bewildered pursuit of happiness.
So I wrote a book. And I'm happy.
LaRue's views are his.