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 27 - what and who is next?
Many months ago now, I attended a couple of meetings with the deans of two library schools.
We library directors had some ideas about the desirable skill sets of new graduates. The deans were eager to hear from us what public libraries were looking for these days.
After a while, I started to feel a little sorry for the deans. It turns out that all we wanted them to do was give us smart, emotionally intelligent, and experienced project managers who not only had a good handle on their own high ethics and professional standards, but also inspired others to be as good as they were.
To put it another way, what we wanted couldn't be simpler. We just wanted them to guarantee that we would never make a hiring mistake again.
The problem, of course, is that such an expectation is utterly unreasonable. No matter how good any new professional may be, the hiring organization still bears a lot of responsibility.
Professional programs impart a body of theory. They provide an introduction to a career.
The library provides something else: the real career.
The first test of theory against practice. The first big thrill. The first big disappointment. The first day when you think you actually get what's going on.
That magic moment when you see something new, something not only good, but something better than anything any of your professors talked about. You see a path to making a difference.
The day when you are tested, and you choose.
It's not all good. No matter how fine the library might be, it will still allow dysfunctional and even destructive behavior. Sometimes, that's because those in charge of the library really don't know such behavior is going on. Sometimes, that's because library administrators (and staff!) lack the courage to confront it.
Sometimes, libraries are guided by a compelling vision. Sometimes, there's nothing but expediency and crass opportunism.
Yet I believe that most librarians are in it for love. We live to serve, with intelligence, tenacity, great dollops of humor, and a genuine love of learning. We want the people whose lives we touch to be a little richer, a little better for it.
We want everyone -- the infant, the toddler, the preschooler, the elementary student, the secondary student, the college student or tradesman, the business person or social sector worker, the parent, the teacher, the consumer, the senior -- to know that the library is his or her birthright, sanctuary, workshop, and playground. We offer the accumulated knowledge of the human race.
I've been giving a lot of thought lately to what's next in my life. I've decided that maybe I should be giving more attention to those just entering the profession that has given so much to me.
Oh, and for those of you over the age of 50 who do not happen to have the great joy of being librarians, maybe you want to think about how you will offer a hand up to the gifted generation behind you in your own profession.
Do you see them?
LaRue's Views are his own.