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.
First, my thanks to the literally thousands of people who have responded to recent library mailings about our consideration of a proposal to add additional library space and materials around the county. I appreciate it.
Second, some of our citizens have asked pointed questions. I'd like to answer them.
Question: in Parker, why don't we just buy and renovate the vacant King Soopers, as we did with the old Safeway in Castle Rock?
Answer: the building isn't for sale. The owners have other plans for the property. We can't buy what isn't on the market.
Question: "are you idiots aware that there's a recession?"
Answer: we have got to do something about the quality of public discourse in this county.
No, we're not idiots. Yes, we are aware that some of us are spending up to $30 more a week to fill up our gas tanks -- for which we receive absolutely NO increase in value.
Libraries change lives. They sure changed mine, and more than once.
For instance, back at the end of fourth grade I went to the downtown library. I saw Mrs. Johnson, the first librarian I had ever met (way back at the bookmobile, which was another life-changing experience). We got to talking, I don't remember what about, but I do remember that she gave me a book called "The Dialogues of Plato."
That might seem like an odd thing to give a 10-year-old. But there are at least two explanations.
First, I was an odd 10-year-old.
Second, Mrs. Johnson believed in the Great Books. "You can read?" she thought. "Then you should read about Socrates!"
She was right.
The first dialog I read posed a deceptively simple question: "What is wise?" Then followed the most amazing conversation. Everything the student said was questioned, and questioned again, and again.
Until then, I had no idea that thinking, that talking, could be so much fun.
The other kids in my class were interested in ... well, I'm not sure what they were interested in. TV? Sports, some of them. But I know what I was interested in.
The examined life.
I want to tell you about a magical book. It's a book that tells several stories at once, filled with tragedy and humor and love. It does this utterly without words.
The book is called The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. It is, technically, a "graphic novel" -- a sort of hardbound comic book.
The cover looks like a worn leather folio, with a drawing of a man encountering some kind of bizarre animal. Just inside the covers is another arresting image: 60 faces, of every ethnicity.
The story begins in what I think of as "the old country." A man is packing up a photograph of his small family. Soon, we see them all walking through the city. Around them there are shadows: the tails of dragons, snaking through the gray streets.
The man boards a train, pulling away from the fingers of his wife and daughter.
Soon he is on a ship, along with many other emigrants. For several pages, we see nothing but clouds. Finally, he arrives to a country that is utterly bewildering. There is a big harbor, with statues in the water. There is an enormous hall.