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.
April 10, 2008 - Power Corrupts
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat."
-- John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987
I'm just going to come out and admit it. I, as director of the Douglas County Libraries, abuse my position.
I -- and let me be clear about this, I have NO intention of changing -- have let people know in our receiving department, our cataloging department, our circulation department, that I, Jamie LaRue, Library Director, get the comic books first.
That's right. Before anybody else. Before any tax payer in the county. I don't care WHO is waiting for them. I'm first in line.
I could try to pretty this up. When I was a kid, all kinds of other authorities tried to take my comic books away from me.
I remember, back in fourth grade, that I would try to hide them in my notebook, and my teacher (when I failed to respond to a question) would seize my comics from me. I never got them back.
My father, when I was away for a summer, literally burned (I figured out later) about $20,000 worth of comics (in 1972 dollars). I had the first 16 issues of Spiderman. The first Thor. The whole first several YEARS of the original X-men. I had the Carmen Infantino Flashes.
I remember the moment when I sat down with a price guide, and pointed out that my entire college education (and a big chunk of his second house mortgage) could have been entirely funded from just one of the grocery bags full of comics my dad consigned to ash one day. He was stunned. For all the good it did me.
Adults -- cruel, insensitive, foolish adults -- have repeatedly stolen or destroyed priceless treasures, key volumes in my personal library, at MANY moments of my young life.
Not that I'm bitter.
But I'm not going to go there. Finally, and I realize that a lot of people don't get this at all, I'm not a child any more. Yes, I've been victimized. But I am a victim no more. There comes a time when you have to reach deep inside yourself and find your inner adult.
But here's the thing: My inner adult likes comic books.
So, as director, I directed the investment of library funds in the collection of whole bunches of them.
I will say that we've ruined the comics for investment purposes. We slap barcodes, markings, covers, etc. on them to help them stand up to repeated use. That absolutely devalues them for collecting purposes.
But that's not the point. I firmly believe that some of the best writing in the world today -- and some of the finest artwork -- still takes place in the world of comic books.
As I have noted to several concerned parents, when I was just 5 years old, I was the only kid on my block who could spell "invulnerable." That's worth something.
I'll also point out that comics speak to young adults at precisely the moment that they lose interest in libraries. Comics surprise and re-engage them, reconnecting them to a world that combines word and image in a way that is far more demanding, far more literate, than TV or film.
I hasten to assure you that I'm not absolutely corrupt. I work hard to ensure that I add just one day to the distribution of our comics. There are times when I come home with 20 of the latest issues, and, sparing NO personal effort, work through every single one of them in a single night.
My wife has learned that, on those nights, I really can't be called upon to do anything else.
But there it is. I have been given great power, great authority. And I have taken total advantage of it to read the library's comic books first.
As Thor, the Norse God of Thunder (as interpreted by Stan Lee), might put it, "So mote it be."