When I was 18, I came up with a basic life philosophy. I called it "the expandable egg."
Imagine a chicken in the egg. One day, the young chick is aware of pressure. That pressure is uncomfortable, then constraining, and finally intolerable.
So the chick starts to kick and peck. She breaks out of the egg.
And immediately: Wow, it's big out here! So the first instinct is to seek shelter. Under mom, away from mysterious threats.
But eventually, the chick gets bolder, and starts exploring. After a while, she learns all kinds of shortcuts to the best or hidden food. What was immense and unknowable becomes familiar.
And then, it becomes too familiar. Constraining. One day, the chick pokes through the fence, and --- wow, it's big out here!
Learning is an egg that gets bigger and bigger.
It applies to using libraries, too.
In Douglas County, many, many children are first exposed to libraries through storytimes. Here they fall in love with one or more of our staff, discover fascinating stories, learn fun finger plays and songs.
Consider the following. Based on a comparison of library statistics between 2002 and 2006:
* Visits to libraries increased by 10 percent across the country; at Douglas County Libraries, 65 percent.
* Circulation (checkouts) grew by 9 percent nationwide; at Douglas County Libraries, 74 percent.
* Nationwide, the number of Internet-capable computers increased by 38 percent; at Douglas County Libraries, 126 percent.
* Our circulation of children's materials (in 2007) is the highest in Colorado at 3,122,000 and is 48% of our circulation. That outstrips the 42% that was reported as the highest in the country in 2006 -- at a library in Vermont.
Here are a few local stats:
* Over 80% of our households have at least one active library card.
* Independent research has revealed that the return on investment for the Douglas County Libraries is just over $5 per tax dollar invested.
* A recently completed poll by Hill Research reports that we have an approval rating among our citizens of a staggering 93 percent.
A few months ago I got to give one of my favorite talks. The topic was generations: how a combination of parenting styles and world events leads to distinct differences between us, and how those differences play out at home, in the workplace, and in society generally.
One of the people who heard the talk -- a police chief -- invited me to give it again, this time to a leadership group of police officers.
At first, I'm not sure they thought that a librarian would have much to say to them. But what I like about the topic is that it eventually touches everybody.
I learned that several metro area police departments are finding that they just don't get as many qualified officer candidates as they used to. Where once a modest ad might bring in 2,000 people, now only eight show up, and four of them really shouldn't be given badges and pistols.
Many officers reported that the way they were trained doesn't seem to be working as well with new recruits.
Herein is my 2nd column trying to address questions the public has asked about a proposed mill levy increase question for library funding (approximately $30 a year on a $300,000 home).
Q: Why is the library asking for money for the arts?
A: It isn't. It never did. It is asking for money to build and operate libraries. The proposed land for two of the library projects (Lone Tree and Parker) is adjacent to proposed performing arts centers in those communities. But the library isn't paying for them. They are local projects. Together, libraries and performing arts centers add up to a significant draw for economic development. But the funding for them is completely separate.
There is an independent library foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization that uses private donations for the purchase of art in our libraries and in partnerships with other community agencies. But no taxpayer dollars are used for the purchase of art.
Q: Who needs libraries in the age of the Internet?