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 12, 2009 - defy dyslexia, discover reading!
Some months ago, I got an email from Erica Vlahinos, a senior at Douglas County High School. She told me that she was a Girl Scout, working on her Gold Award Project -- the equivalent of a Boy Scout Eagle Award.
I'd met Erica before, we discovered when we met in person. Both of us had been in a Castle Rock Players production years earlier. In fact, Erica planned to make a career of acting, with a keen interest in musical theater. I bet she'll do very well.
Erica confided that she'd had one big difficulty in her life. She was dyslexic. In her efforts to overcome that she'd discovered how helpful it was to have audio books, sound accompaniments to text. Her idea for a Gold Award Project was to team up with some of her other theater friends and make recordings of some children's books.
After we talked some more, I suggested that she draw her source material from the Gutenberg Project. These materials, available at no charge from www.gutenberg.org, are out of copyright, part of the public domain. Kathleen DiLeo, one of our youth librarians at Philip S. Miller, also prepared a list of 25 bona fide children's classics out of copyright.
I didn't hear from Erica for awhile. Then, I got a message that she was done. She, her mother, and her Girl Scout advisor showed up at the library one day with a basket of very handsome, spiral bound books, each with a customized CD.
Erica calls this series of booklets, the "Defying Dyslexia, Discovering Reading Series." We will be cataloging them together as a discrete set for our children's department at Philip S. Miller.
The format of the books is this:
* A very attractive, illustrated cover.
* Acknowledgements. Many people contributed to the project in time and money.
* Meet your reader -- a little information about the voice talent. Among her readers were Marc Keefer, Mary Driver, Sandra Armentrout, Maiki Vlahinos, Alex Vlahinos, Kathy Lyons, Karin Nunly, Jamie Hilton, Emerson Steinberg, Jules Kingery, Paul Wise, Mitch Sellers, Shaelli Lawlor, Sara Bautista, Heather Emerson, Tiffany Trammell, Candace Leczel, and Sue Dumont.
* The text of the book itself, again with illustrations. I have before me Beatrix Potter's charming "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck." But the series includes many other others.
* Guidelines for contributing to the library. This is one of the things that most delights me. If someone finds this series of use, she writes, then add to it!
* Information about the Gutenberg Project.
* A CD in a plastic pocket, with its own illustration.
* A message from Erica.
I find this project impressive on many levels. First, it's obvious that many hundreds of hours went into the handcrafting of these items. It is a privilege to add them to our collection.
Second, it does my librarian heart good to find young people mining world classics, then making them fresh.
Third, by donating these works to the public library, they become shared resources and community assets.
Fourth, Erica's triumph over dyslexia is inspiring in its own right, and will certainly provide encouragement to others. As she writes, "You have Dyslexia, but that does not define who you are or what you can become. Good luck in your future endeavors, may nothing stand in your way!"
Congratulations, Erica Vlahinos, for your good work, and on the completion of your Gold Award Project!
LaRue's Views are his own.