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.
June 21, 2007 - A Lifetime in the Library, by Cindy Malone (Philip S. Miller Library patron)
Do any of you remember when you checked out a book in the "old days," i.e. the Sixties? They would take an actual photograph of your card and the removable library card pasted into the book. You would stand there at the checkout counter, and the librarian (complete with glasses and a bun) would step on a foot pedal, triggering the bright light photo and a neat 1960's mechanical noise, taking the picture, so as to trace you if you became overdue or worse.
I wasn't even in kindergarten yet. I know that because they moved my neighborhood library in southeast Denver down a few blocks to a wonderfully larger space. My first memories are of the old library, and of going home and playing with the stacks of books my mother checked out for the whole family. I would open the book's cover, where the library card holder was pasted in, then step on my imaginary foot pedal. Iíd make the picture sound myself, then "stamp" the library card, and put it in the book. I'd go through the entire stack, then hand the books to my imaginary mother (who was no doubt, making dinner or polishing the furniture in the house. These were the 60's, you know.) "Thanks for coming in, Mrs. Hopko," I'd say to her. Then I would proceed with the stack to the nearest heating vent (our tri-level was cold in the wintertime!) and curl up with those books, adult and children's.
I could read most of the words. My mother tells me I started reading at age 3, as she was helping my kindergarten-aged brother to read. I remember I caught on much more quickly than he did, and I would blurt out the correct words as he was trying to piece together G and O in "Go, Dog, Go!" by P.D. Eastman. My brother has dyslexia, but no one knew what that was then, and in a way, his drawback was my opportunity. I remember the exact moment I figured out the words, Dog, and Big Dog, Little Dog in the book, like a Helen Keller-like revelation, and at the same time my mother telling me not to read out loud because my sibling was trying so, so hard to figure it out on his own.
As an awkward, very shy teenager with no figure and glasses, the library and everything in it were my haven. Other kids, including my brother, were out riding bikes, playing kick-the-can, but I was curled up in my dadís recliner, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew. Later on, I read Charles Dickens, then T.S. Elliot, John Steinbeck and Shakespeare, sometimes over and over again.
As a TV reporter in Great Falls, MT, the library was one of the first places I looked up in town. It was a haven then, between busy hours of constant work, and what seemed was always winter. I started reading biographies of people in the West, especially women, understanding a little bit better how isolating that kind of life was, even though I was surrounded by 50,000 other souls, the smallest place I had ever been for an extended period of time.
Now, twenty years later, the library isn't just a haven. Itís a bonding place for myself and my children, two little girls. My youngest can't read yet, but loves to look at all kinds of books, and now, of course, the computer. My second-grader and I have spent many of our most happy and content times at the Philip S. Miller library looking for the newest Magic Tree House books, looking for the biographies of Abe Lincoln that she found on her own for her class report. Sheís shy with adults, but has no problem asking the librarian for information on anything.
My husband and I take the girls there just about every Sunday. It's a new family tradition. The best feeling I can have is seeing my 8-year-old daughterís eyes as she looks for books, DVDs, books on CD, Leap Frogs or CD-ROMs. Or when she proudly looks something up on the library computer and finds it herself, then settles down to read it. I know that glow.
And have since I was three years old.