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 25, 2009 - book bags belong in YOUR closet
Over the years, I've gone to a lot of conferences, workshops, and professional events. I know this because recently I ran out of closet space. The problem? Book bags.
Book bags, or "swag," come with virtually every event librarians go to. Book bags are to librarians what T-shirts and baseball caps are to sports fans. When my closet door would no longer close, it's because I now have a couple of dozen of these bags.
Some book bag samples include:
* CAL - get RadiCAL (where CAL stands for Colorado Association of Libraries)
* A ClassiCAL Celebration (same idea)
* Colorado Teen Literature conference (a nice one, with a large zipper compartment)
* several from the Arkansas Valley Library System (now, alas, defunct)
* RefUSA (Reference USA was a sponsor for ... something)
* an old "Douglas Public Library District" Art of Reading bag (we're now the Douglas County Libraries, of course)
* Friends of the Greeley Public Library (which means I've had this one for over 20 years, which means I don't clean the closet very often)
* Natrona County Public Library (from a visit up to see a friend in Wyoming), and
* two bags from Paris: the American Library in Paris, and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. (This last was from a trip to see our daughter at school.)
Suzanne, my wife, has some definite opinions about which features of these bags are successful, and which are not. She admits, though, that it depends on how you use them. For instance, one slim sack from Paris suggests that you might be carrying just one or two books at a time.
Parisians accomplish their errands by walking briskly around lively but crowded neighborhoods; Americans traverse vast distances in fully-loaded minivans. Here in the LaRue household, we move a lot of books. This European less-is-more approach just doesn't cut it.
I asked Suzanne if color mattered. She gave her thumbs-up to the blue/black ones, especially when made of waterproof fabric. They look like canvas on the outside, but protect your precious library materials from sudden showers or leaks from attached water bottles (also a nice feature).
Thumbs-down: the standard "natural canvas" look. They show dirt, and when washed, never regain their shape again.
Thumbs up: 18-20" wide, with a flat or gusseted bottom. This lets you really pack 'em in.
Thumbs down: shoulder straps that are too long. One of our DCL bags is like that. Assuming you actually put the straps on your shoulder, you still have to be 5'6" to get the bag off the floor.
Along the same lines and for the reason, I prefer the bags to be wider than they are tall. Suzanne likes them more squarish.
Thumbs up: zipper on the top. It stops bags from spilling their contents around the minivan.
Thumbs up: internal library card pocket. Don't leave home without it.
So far, the best bags we've found have been the ones provided by OCLC. They're like little conference survival kits: a central pocket for mementos, two water bottle pockets, a slimmer side pocket for conference guides and maps, zipper on the top.
However, even in the LaRue Warehouse O' Books (tm), we don't really need as many book bags as we've got. So look for these distinctive collectibles at upcoming booksales.
Better your closet than mine.
LaRue's Views are his own.