When I was growing up, my mother had two beautiful sets of books. One of them was classics of science. I think there were pieces by Aristotle, by Newton, by somebody I've now forgotten, and by Einstein.
The other was a selection of Shakespeare plays: the comedies, the dramas, and the sonnets.
I loved the look of those books. I was 11 when I decided to try Shakespeare. So I'd take those gorgeous volumes up to my room and try to puzzle them out.
Every now and then people complain to me about the problems of growth. Sometimes they're talking about the county. Sometimes, they're talking about the library. Here's what I think. There are only two problems in life: the problems of growth, and the problems of decline. Pick one.
But that isn't to say that the problems of growth aren't real. I've been giving a lot of thought lately to a straightforward question asked by one of our new managers. "How," he said, "do I get something done here?" He meant, what's the process through which a decision is made?
My wife, Suzanne, admits to her almost obsessive collecting of books. Some years back, I was going to award what I thought was a clever prize: a gold library card. (Not real gold, you understand, but a gold-colored collector item.) It would go to the person who had checked out the most books over the past five years.
But there was a problem. The winner was my wife.
Several weeks ago I wrote a column about decision-making at the library. I'm still thinking about it.
I should have said, in my other column, that I was talking about operational or management decision-making. There's another kind that I didn't mention: leadership.
This is a different level of deciding: picking the big things that the whole organization will focus on. Not operational, but strategic.