In general, they appeared on the dates shown in various Colorado Community Newspapers.
After the Rocky Mountain News shut down, I talked with some publisher and journalist friends.
They noticed when the World Wide Web started carrying news, then ads. Competition! they said. On the other hand, newspapers have been around for centuries. Surely they would survive!
Now, most of them think that traditional print newspapers, excepting perhaps small town editions, will be extinct in 5 years. (Small town rags will last longer because there's less competition for ads.)
Let me start at the hardest spot. Libraries, sometimes, throw books away. We really do.
How could we?! Don't librarians understand the value of the book?
And by book, we mean:
* Your college textbook. You didn't actually read it. The parts you did read, you marked up heavily with a yellow marker, and scores of obscure comments. But that was the year you also met a young woman who gave you a completely different idea of yourself. That's what makes that book valuable to you, so valuable that even though you're convinced that you can't keep it any more, surely it deserves a place at your local library!
* A book published 20 years ago, in a field where things change quickly. It wasn't that long ago that I strolled through a local high school library and found a book published in 1965. It was in the science section. This is an act of profound disservice to young minds.
* A bestseller! Of course, this is from 5 years ago, from an author that had only that one book, and it didn't really make much of an enduring impact.
A few weeks ago I gave a talk up in Golden. Later, a journalism student interviewed me. Was there still a place for the library, he wanted to know, in the age of the Internet?
I told him that I've been asked that by a lot of reporters over the years. But it has a particular poignancy to it now. Before this young man, the last person to ask me worked for the Rocky Mountain News. (The financially troubled Rocky, as surely everyone now knows, recently shut down operations after failure to find a buyer.)
Some years after earning her Ph.D. in neuroanatomy, Jill Bolte Taylor woke up one morning and ... had a stroke. A congenital malformation of the blood vessels in her brain burst, flooding the left hemisphere. She was 37 years old, and home alone at her Boston apartment. She tells the whole story in her book, "My Stroke of Insight."
Recently, I appeared in a play, the Parker Arts Council's "Harvey." Written by Colorado author Mary Chase, and the well-deserved winner of a Pulitzer Prize, it has always been one of my favorites.
All of the roles are wonderful, with surprising depth and humor. I landed the part of Elwood P. Dowd, the man who pals around with a 6-foot-one-and-a-half rabbit. Since most people don't see this rabbit, they assume that Elwood is "touched."
And well he may be. The rabbit, Harvey, is a "pooka." According to the play, a pooka is "From old Celtic mythology. A fairy spirit in animal form. Always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one at his own caprice. A wise but mischievous creature. Very fond of rum-pots, [and] crack-pots."
My thinking about the character went through several changes. First, I thought Elwood was enlightened. He was always fully present, kind and courteous. But Elwood also does a lot of drinking in this play -- so maybe he was a "rum-pot," albeit a curiously gentle and friendly one.
Two weeks ago I described the library's core mission and vision. Last week I talked about some financial challenges we face (along with everybody else). This week, I'd like to talk about what we actually plan to do over the next three years.
Before I get into library finances, I should clarify something that confuses a lot of people. Douglas County Libraries is not part of some other government agency. We are not a department of the county, although we share geographic boundaries. We receive no money from them, nor from any of the cities or towns or school district in Douglas County.
Instead, we are an independent library district, created in accordance with state statute, by a vote of the people, in 1990. Virtually all our funding comes from a voter approved property tax of 4 mills. In 2009, that generates (with a few other smaller streams of income) about $21 million.
On January 10, the library Board of Trustees and senior staff met to set a course for the future. In three hours, we adopted a refocused mission and vision statement, reviewed our financial status and goals, and finally, adopted some specific plans for the next three to five years.
Over the next three weeks, I'd like to cover those issues in more detail.
First (this week), what does the library stand for?
Second (next week), what is our financial status in these troubled times?
Third (two weeks from now), what does our mission direct us to do to respond to our budget issues? To put it more positively: what are our plans?
At the beginning of last year's campaign season, I attended a fundraiser. It was for a good local man, running for an important office. I put more of my own money into the little basket than I ever had before for a politician.
Then I had a chance to chat with him, along with some of his other supporters.
After a while, he said he had to make a little speech to the party faithful. And what he said astonished me.
Almost the first words out of his mouth were along the lines of "Of course we all know that government is incompetent and inefficient." He then went on to praise the can-do efficiency of the business world. Remember that this was just at the time we were learning about the lending crisis, and a host of other private sector misjudgments, over-reachings, and dubious ethics.
I couldn't help but notice that I had just paid this guy to insult me. Working for an independent library district is working for government. As it happens, I'm proud of that work. And I put the library's efficiency, competence, and integrity up against any organization's, public or private.
"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." - John Kenneth Galbraith
Isn't it the truth? Every single one of us has held onto strategies that have been clearly demonstrated not to work. Women trapped in situations with abusive men finally get themselves out -- only to immediately hook up with another one.
Business owners persist in plans that focus firmly on a long-gone past (think the American automobile industry) or demonstrate the most incredibly cynical and short-sighted greed (subprime lending, for instance).
Politicians -- whether it's fostering Great Society welfare dependency, or proclaiming the gospel of market deregulation up to, and right past, the point of public health or industry collapse -- just can't accept the fact that negative results disprove really bad ideas.
Every day we find out that things we just know to be true, aren't true at all. And even though our erroneous premises cause us direct damage, we pull ourselves together and bravely ... stay the course.
Maybe if we just try harder... If we just BELIEVE...