Back in my early twenties, I had an unusually vivid dream. I was driving a car, when suddenly, a big concrete wall loomed up in front of me. Crash!
For a moment, I was stunned, stopped, horrified. Then, I gradually realized that I wasn't bleeding. Nothing was broken. I put the car in reverse, and slowly backed up. Everything seemed to be working. I pulled forward around the blockade. And woke up.
The meaning was clear enough. Back then, I had a gift for making spectacularly bad romantic choices. The dream was about another breakup ... that I survived.
I find the image apt for the 2008 library election. Crash! - 52.6% of the county voted down a mill levy increase.
Castle Pines North voted for the mill levy increase at 62%. Parker approved it at 51%. Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree came in at 48%; Castle Rock at 43%, and Roxborough at 38%. But despite regional differences, the total is what matters.
The library was on the road to keeping pace with growth and demand. And after two attempts to make that case to the voters, I think we have to assume that the community has spoken. That road is blocked.
Many months ago now, I attended a couple of meetings with the deans of two library schools.
We library directors had some ideas about the desirable skill sets of new graduates. The deans were eager to hear from us what public libraries were looking for these days.
After a while, I started to feel a little sorry for the deans. It turns out that all we wanted them to do was give us smart, emotionally intelligent, and experienced project managers who not only had a good handle on their own high ethics and professional standards, but also inspired others to be as good as they were.
To put it another way, what we wanted couldn't be simpler. We just wanted them to guarantee that we would never make a hiring mistake again.
The problem, of course, is that such an expectation is utterly unreasonable. No matter how good any new professional may be, the hiring organization still bears a lot of responsibility.
Professional programs impart a body of theory. They provide an introduction to a career.
The library provides something else: the real career.
I recently returned from the Illinois Library Association in Chicago, where I had the privilege of giving the keynote address. I was raised in that area and began my career there. So I had the chance to see a lot of old friends, colleagues, and early professional influences.
One of those influences was Dr. Fred Schlipf. Several decades ago now, I took an administrative practicum with him. He was then the director of the Urbana Free Library in downstate Illinois. Recently, he retired, although he still teaches at the university and does building consulting.
I showed up that morning, wearing my only tie (I was putting myself through grad school, and most of my clothes came from Salvation Army), and was told that Dr. Schlipf was in the children's room, downstairs. I went to join him. About halfway down the stairs, I realized that the previous night's rain had flooded the basement.
And there was Dr. Schlipf, jacket off, pants rolled up, a bucket in one hand and a mop in the other. He beamed at me: "Welcome to the administrative life!"
That's a pretty good introduction.
A LONG time ago, my wife and I wrote an article about "green librarianship." Just then -- back around the late 1980s -- a lot of information was coming out about "sick building syndrome," and the toxic effects of some chemicals.
Since then, I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to practice the principles of green librarianship.
My continuing interest in this topic is based on an administrative realization. People imagine that the costs of library facility operations are all about their construction. That's not true. The cost is in operations.