Here at the end of 2009, I sent an email around to the staff of the Douglas County Libraries. I asked them to reflect on what they were proud of over the past year. I thought I'd share their responses with you.
Last week, on vacation, I drove down to Salida to see a friend. In the park across from the library was a health care protest. In tone, it was much like the many wild emails I've gotten lately about the scary takeover of medical care by big government.
I don't claim to be an expert. But speaking as an administrator of a public agency, I can tell you this: it's scary right now.
According to an article in the Washington Post (January 25, 2009), "A growing number of workers in 2009 will pay more for health benefits -- and in some cases receive less coverage -- as their employers grapple with the financial fallout of rising medical expenses and diminished revenue and profits."
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.