Once a year, planned about 9 months in advance, the directors of Colorado's public libraries get together for an afternoon, an evening, and a morning to have frank conversations about what's going on in our operations, our communities, and our profession. This confabulation always happens around Memorial Day, when the rates of mountain lodges are cheap. (We hold our meetings on the Western Slope as a convenience to the many geographically isolated libraries who do such good work the other side of the Rockies.)
Most of Colorado's public libraries serve small communities. But big or small, there were some trends:
A few weeks ago, I put out a call for stories about how the library changed lives. I'd like to give you a taste of some of the wonderful responses we've gotten. This one is from Hannah Fenstermacher: "I grew up with the library having a consistent presence in my life. My mom was a library fan, and I remember going to our small town library each week to pick out new books. I continued to enjoy libraries as I went on to college - and then when I moved to Castle Rock - the library was one of the first places on my list to visit.
I've learned a few things over the years.
1. Almost everything important requires teamwork.
2. Significant achievement should be celebrated.
3. Nothing is ever finished.
In light of these three principles, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge a big moment: a new library website.
When I was a kid (one of five), my parents could afford only one vacation a year: a car trip from north of Chicago to my mother's folks in Ohio. It was usually in the hottest month of the year.
The interstate highway program was still under development back then. For years, the trip took 10-12 hours, as we stuttered, stoplight by stoplight, on the two lane roads through Chicago, then Gary, Indiana (whose sky was always red, even at night), and across Indiana.
Eventually, with I-94 and I-80, the trip got whittled down to six hours, allowing no more than two potty breaks.
Imagine five kids in the back of a Ford four-door. No seat belts. Six hours. Pre-air-conditioning. Parents who smoked more or less constantly, interrupted only by the usual threats: "Don't make me stop this car! Do I have to come back there and separate you two?"
It's a wonder any of us survived.
I brought comic books and science fiction novels, because it didn't bother me to read in the car. But we usually had to fall back on dumb Interstate games -- finding a license from the farthest away state, looking for words on billboards, extra points for being the first to spot a VW bug, and so on.