November 8, 2007
I'm writing this on November 1, five days (at least) before I'll know the results of our mill levy question. But the column will run after election day.
So although I don't know how it all comes out, I'd like to take the occasion to express my profound gratitude to the many people who assisted in the campaign.
It begins with two levels of volunteers: the Board of Trustees, and the many volunteers within and without our organization who give so freely of their time and attention. Their thoughtfulness, and their willingness to carry the message of library plans and programs, are deeply appreciated. The library belongs to the public.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, I have seen firsthand, and heard from many, many members of the community how very impressive our staff is. From the shelvers without whom our entire system would fall apart, to the cataloger in the back room, to our facilities people, and to the many people who work with the public every day, we have been fortunate enough to find the most service-oriented people I know. They are wonderful, and our patrons have told me so repeatedly.
Most people have never worked on a political campaign, so they don't know how much work it is. Here's just a glimpse:
* fundraising. The library can't pay for political mailings and yard signs. That has to come from private citizens. Douglas County is fortunate to have many civic minded business people, willing to invest in plans that they believe will improve their communities. Particularly in the Parker area, many small business owners stepped up to the plate, contributing both money and time to begin the arduous process of public communication and persuasion. Moreover, many of them didn't even wait to be asked -- which, judging from what I hear from my fellow library directors, is very rare indeed.
* mailings. The science of electioneering is predicated mostly on direct mail. These mailings have a very brief life, often sorted through right on top of the trash bin. The mailings have to be clear, attractive, and concise. It's not easy to boil down a complex long range plan to an oversize postcard.
* sign distributions. Many thanks to the individuals who gave their free time to hand out or hammer in signs all around the county.
* public talks. There is a network of civic clubs throughout Douglas County, all quietly doing very good work. They graciously provided a platform for their members to hear about important community issues, and always treated library advocates warmly. They make our towns and county better.
* endorsements. I am humbled by the long list of groups who carefully weighed the library's case, and gave it their blessing. Some came from the business community -- chambers of commerce, economic development councils, and local media. Others were elected officials in charge of various levels of government -- county, school district, towns and cities.
* response to questions. I have also been heartened by the many people who directly contacted me to make sure they understood precisely what they were being asked to vote on. I suspect this happens more often than people hear about: a citizen phones up an "official" to ask just what the heck they're up to -- and then actually listens to the answer, and thinks about it. (They don't always agree, of course.) That, my fellow citizens, is democracy in action. And I know that I was not the only person answering questions. This same task was assumed by off-duty staff, our Board members, those business and elected officials I mentioned, and many others who follow the library closely.
There is also so much going on in the world, so many things competing for mindshare and money, that just letting people know what your institution needs requires endless perseverance and patience.
Not every campaign wins. In any contested race among candidates, someone loses. But here's one thing I have learned over the past months: there are many good, earnest, smart and hardworking people at all levels of our community. Taking the time to have these conversations with them makes me appreciate the people of Douglas County all over again. It has also been part of my continuing lifelong learning.
Thank you, all, not only for your contribution to the library, but also for your many contributions to the community we share.