Showing posts from 2008

Parisian haiku

Led by Maddy, my wonderfully multilingual daughter, the family has now been to the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, le Marais, and other points about town. We bought week-long passes to public transportation, which whisks us underground to pop us up at our desired destinations with marvelous efficiency.

Along the way, I've written lots of haiku. They're all new enough that it's hard to know if they're any good. But they arise fully formed as we walk the streets. So here are a few of them.

chalices of stars display
along the Champs Elysée:
Christmas in Paris

These "chalices" are some six lines of white lights per tree, rising from the bottom of the branches, and terminating in parallel lines at the top. (These are "plane" trees -- all uniform in size and height on both sides of the street.) Every now and then, one light seems to drip down the line -- falling stars, sliding stars. But the effect of the display is of chalices, …

Branching universes

I'm in Paris, about which I'll have much more to write later. But along the way I've read two science fiction books, both older, both brought along from our used book sale.

The first I believe I read years ago: "Time-Scape," by Gregory Benford (1980). But it holds up, a complex book that predates Orson Scott Card's "Pastwatch" by many years: in the future (1998) the world is on the edge of ecological collapse. A desperate experiment ensues to communicate via tachyon beams with the past, the 1970s. The book is fascinating on many levels. It talks about the intersection between politics and science -- meaning the pursuit of funding. It illuminates the politics within academic institutions despite what is nominally supposed to be the pursuit of truth. And finally, the book is about the open-endedness of the universe. If the message is successfully communicated, the present ceases to be. And by the end of the book, at least three endings are presented: a…

Book Organizations of Colorado blog

This from Bonnie McCune at the State Library.

"The Book Organizations of Colorado now uses a blog to post book events in Colorado. The process to post events is the same, just email them to and BOOC willl post them and categorize them (month, event type etc). Using the blog gets your events posted more quickly than the web updates, and provides complete information. In addition, old events are not deleted, so folks can learn about past programs as well as future.

"The "events" page on the web site ( now has a link to the blog, which is

"Please help spread the word about the blog and keep posting your events to the BOOC list so people can blog them."

Powerful stroke of insight

My wife sent me this amazing link: "Jill Bolte Taylor's Powerful Stroke of Insight", about a brain scientist who has a stroke in her left hemisphere, and describes, with radiant expressiveness, exactly what that was like. This is one of the most astonishing speeches I've ever witnessed.

The source for this is, which reveals just how potent the web can be: an educational tool on demand, free lectures on a host of fascinating topics.

I also saw in the paper this morning an article about how some college students, stuck on a math problem, turn to Youtube math tutorials, and thereby save their academic careers.

The Internet is like a library. We have books that capture profound insights; we have a lot of commercial pap and frivolous diversions. There's a place for both -- just as Jill Bolte Taylor describes not just two different hemispheres of the brain, but two different modes of being that are united in a single body.

More challenges ... music and suicide

Not long ago, I had a visit from the father of a 15 year old young man. The son is the friend of a recent suicide, also 15. Shortly after that death, the father found about a dozen CDs in his son's possession, all checked out from the library, and many marked with "parental discretion advised."

And the father lost it. He broke many of the CDs, demanded from library staff a list of everything his son had ever checked out, and had many confrontations with his son. He also tried to call me, and I returned the calls, but we never connected.

By the time he came to see me, though (the day of the suicide's funeral), the father was in a very different mood. He presented all the CDs to me, admitted that he was the one who destroyed them, and very respectfully said that he understood that the library, and that I personally, do a lot to help the youth of our county to be healthy. But he could not square that with the availability of these CDs, many of which, he said, had themes o…

Society without God

I just finished reading a book called "Society without God: what the least religious nations can tell us about contentment," by Phil Zuckerman. Zuckerman, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College. The book recounts his ethnographic research into an interesting puzzle. The societies of Scandinavia (particularly Sweden and Denmark) are by all measures secure and successful: low infant mortality rate, long life, among the lowest disparities between rich and poor, well educated, cared for in old age, and by their own account, quite happy. Their countries are prosperous, peaceful, and stable. They have among the lowest rates of crime, illiteracy, political corruption, and poverty in the world. They also pay high taxes. Yet the average Scandinavian is irreligious -- despite the pronouncements of Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, and others that the absence of God can only lead to tyranny and evil.

Zuckerman divides the irreligion of Danes (based on many interviews) i…

coyote jawbone

amid the bottles
cans and trash by roadside
coyote jawbone

[At least it looks more canine than feline, but I don't know for sure. Does anyone else out there? The jawbone is exactly 5 inches from one end to the other. The haiku works as a poem, I think, even if my animal physiology is off.]

koalas on sticks

I think of cattails as something common to my home town of Waukegan. I was surprised to see them in Taos. And I was especially surprised to see one stand of them in full bloom. I wrote this haiku.

sometime last night
desert cattails exploded
koalas on sticks

New Mexico haiku

I'm on vacation in Taos. On the beautiful drive down, I had a series of haiku moments. Writing haiku makes life worthwhile.

lone dark pinon
new mexico mesa
and sky

Which goes from focus to field. And here's one that goes the opposite direction:

mountain snow dust
stirs golden valley into
herd of pronghorns

And here's one that's just about how nature reclaims what man makes:

white mountain road
snow snaking parallel
to river below

And just before I stopped for lunch, I saw:

two crows feast
on bloody ball of meat:
table mesa

And on the long road south of Fort Garland:

beetle in the sand
long straight line between peaks
me on two lane road

And finally, flapping up from a field into the sun, against a backdrop of blinding snow-capped peaks:

until just now
I did not know that ravens
are made of light

Colorado Association of Libraries conference 2008

I enjoyed the conference, and was particularly grateful to see a couple of my Board members show up and participate. One of the reasons many librarians give for enjoying their work is the sense of collegiality. I certainly enjoyed presenting with Rochelle Logan, Diane Caro, Jody Howard on "Books We Hate." And I had a marvelous time with my fellow directors, Shirley Amore (Denver) Jon Walker (Pueblo), Eloise May (Arapahoe), Janine Reid (High Plains), and Pam Sandlian Smith (Rangeview) in our session with young/new professionals looking for jobs.

The directors all have their own quirks and emphases. But in the main, we share a lot of common approaches: we're looking to make a difference in our communities, to be a significant asset, to strive for excellence, to be effective advocates for literacy and lifelong learning, and not least to have fun. Those themes ran through the keynote by Chicago's Mary Dempsey, Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight Jones, ALA President…

2008 election results and the library

Now to report the results of the library's 2008 mill levy campaign: We lost.

As of today's still unofficial tally, we got 55,394 yes votes (47% of the total cast) and 62,442 no votes (53%). So we lost by over 7,000 votes. The school district's issue went down by about the same percentages.

I find myself surprisingly light-hearted about it. I truly don't think this reveals some secret disgruntlement with either institution. I think it's clear that our community was worried about the economy, and is hunkering down.

It's also clear that when you lose by 7,000 votes, there isn't much you could have done that would have won. The community has spoken.

But I have two other thoughts.

First, here's a bit of very good news. I have witnessed the birth of several new civic leaders, most of them folks who had never participated in the political process much before, but revealed themselves to be tireless organizers, and passionate and articulate speakers on our behalf. I…

Physical therapy

I'll start with a rant, but end with something nice. My health insurance premiums are going up 23% next year. I don't think it's because I'm going to get 23% more value. Just a reminder here to my libertarian friends that the people who reach deepest into our pockets, without our permission, exactly, aren't/isn't always government. Rant over.

That said, after going through the costly and pointless referral process (two doctor visits just to point me to a physical therapist): wow. First visit, Eric (the physical therapist) quickly and thoroughly diagnosed the specific muscle and connective tissues that were causing me so much shoulder pain. Then he explained the problem clearly and succinctly. Then he gave me an excruciating painful and pointed massage, and showed me how to do two exercises that would directly address both pain and my range of motion restrictions. I left, after an hour, with less pain and more motion than I'd had in weeks. I'm doing my ex…

Matador sign waving technique

Today I was up at another rally by Lone Tree, and if I do say so myself, have perfected a Say Yes to Libraries sign waving maneuver that you just can't take your eyes off. Suzanne captured it on her little camera, and somehow wound up putting it on the UK Youtube (??!). Click the title of this entry to see my inimitable approach to driver distraction.

Freemind on the Acer Aspire One

There are men who spend the day moving all their tools around the basement or garage. Puttering.

I don't do that. But I did spend much of my afternoon puttering around on the new Acer Aspire One. I didn't actually accomplish anything. But I now have all the tools I need arranged more intelligently than before. That's what puttering is all about: the illusion of work.

First up: after adding a couple of programs I use often (Thunderbird, Notecase Pro, JPilot), I was irritated that there was no utility to add those programs to the default Acer desktop. The built-in email took forever to load, although it ran well enough afterward. Thunderbird is world's better; replacing the old with the new should have been (in the delightful British idiom) a "doddle." But there doesn't appear to be any way to do that at all. (In passing, though, the built-in message client is wonderful. It talks to Yahoo, AIM, Google, and does a webcam.)

So I found some marvelously clear ins…

Rotary meeting on literacy

With several others, I spoke today at a Rotary District 5450 conference about literacy.

There are a few bits of data worth reporting.

According to the 2008 Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy:

* the US is now the only 1st world country whose current generation (adults coming of age) is less well educated than the previous generation. (Please read this again. Out loud.)

* 1 in 3 young adults drop out of high school.

* low literacy is correlated with family poverty.

* low literacy is correlated with imprisonment: 56% of current inmates are illiterate (I bet that's low).

* 20 million Americans (about 10% of the total) scored "below basic" in literacy skills. I bet it's twice that.

Also: there is a 90% probability that if a child reads poorly in 1st grade (meaning mainly that the child does not recognize letters), he or she will still read poorly in 4th grade, when children become fluent -- or don't.

* 3rd grade reading scores are the best predictors of the pr…

Library Camp of the West

Last Friday I went to an "unconference." (Click entry title to see the website/wiki.) Here's the main thing I wanted to observe. At the beginning, some 130-150 people file into a room and shout out topics they want to talk about. Then they schedule the rooms on the spot. The whole thing took about 40 minutes.

Having planned plenty of conferences starting 9 months in advance, I wonder if the unconference approach isn't just as good, with a lot less cost on all kinds of levels.

I felt that much of the energy, vision, and organizational support came from the Millennial generation librarians, and it was purely a pleasure to see and be a part of it. Well done!

Now, of course, we see what comes of it. But what comes of any conference? A chance to listen, a chance to talk, a chance to connect with some interesting people.

Say Yes cards

I got the first mailer from the campaign a couple days ago, and my wife got hers today. Just in time -- the mail ballots from the County Clerks will be going out today, too. Here's how I understand it: 70% of the voters requested mail ballots this time. 70% of THEM will vote within 72 hours. The election will be over by next week -- and we'll just have to wait three more weeks to find out how it ends.

As noted earlier, I am deeply grateful for the many people who put their hearts into this effort this time. I was very pleased, too, to see the ringing endorsement given to us, and the school district, by the Douglas County News Press. Their heading: invest in your community.


Yesterday, went to an acupuncturist for the first time. I had two reasons. First, I've been interested in Chinese medicine for some time, and never tried it. The flow of "chi" through the body is something I'm inclined to accept, having seen some demonstrations by a tai chi master that I found incontrovertible.

Second, over the past 4-6 months, I've had growing pain in my right shoulder. I suspect it's the same problem I had in my left arm some years ago -- nodules, fatty deposits, "growths" that sometimes grow up tight against a nerve. Last time, I had to pay a surgeon to slice me open and dig them out. I was hoping to find a less invasive and expensive course.

Well, it doesn't seem to have worked. I'm in as much or more pain now than before. But the experience of acupuncture was not in the least uncomfortable, and left me feeling better, more energized, more balanced, than I've been in awhile.

Clearly, it doesn't do all things for al…

John McCain's Vegetable Friends

My son sent me this, and this is why I think the next generations have a better fix on politics than mine. Click the title of this entry for the Youtube video.

Stunt marketing

My good friend Meg Truhler just called to "report in." She came up with an idea to promote the library mill levy. She's dragging a floor lamp, rocking chair, afghan, library sign, and big honking Harry Potter book to some key intersections in Castle Rock, just as folks are driving out of town in the morning. She waves her sign and people honk at her, thumbs up.

I'm touched that she does this. I also think it's brilliant -- just the sort of stunt that people remember. Here's a nice lady spending her own time to conjure up support for the library she loves. And it was cold this morning!

Podcast for library science class

A couple weeks ago, Beth Wrenn-Estes interviewed me about intellectual freedom for the online library science class she's teaching for San Jose State University.

There are two podcasts. The first can be found here, and the second, here.

I'm never quite as articulate in these as I'd like, but I'm sure there's a lesson in that, too. But it was fun to talk to Beth, who used to work for the Douglas County Libraries, and now, with her husband Mark, will be moving to California.

YES to Libraries!

I can't believe I haven't already put this up. The campaign website for YES to Libraries! is up and running. Click the title of this entry for the link -- or look over on the right side of this blog. This is about 5A - the library funding measure being voted on by Douglas County this fall.

And since the mail ballots will be going out this week, that means just about now. Do hop over to the site, read up, and if you can, volunteer or donate to the cause.

Eat out ... for the library

This is a brilliant fundraiser for the library campaign. To quote the YourHub article, "Brainchild of Warren Lynge, chairperson of the library committee, three local restaurants are now getting into the act by offering 'A Night Out for the Library.' The restaurants have agreed to direct 20% of each party's check to help fund the campaign. Choose La Dolce Vita on October 14, Celtic Crossing on October 16, or Jimmy's Steakhouse on October 23. Simply make a reservation, and you will be making a 20% contribution to the campaign efforts when your bill arrives."

I've said it before: the library doesn't belong to library board, to director, to staff -- it belongs to the community. If this isn't proof, I'll eat my hat. If they serve hat at any of these fine restaurants.

Fellow blogger: Karin Piper

One of the delights of working in libraries is the pleasure of meeting so many other book-loving people. An example is Parker's Karin Piper, a Swedish-American mom with a serious addiction ... to books. You can read her marvelous, high-energy, chatty, passionate writings here, or click the title of this entry..

Signs and campaigns

My wife and I spent this fine, fall, Sunday morning sticking library campaign signs around Castle Rock -- one of a couple of teams. It's not easy work. The ground around Castle Rock is often like concrete.

A lot of these signs, despite our efforts to put them in areas that did not infringe on private property, will be collected then thrown away by various sign police. I'm not sure I know why. Seeing things from cars is one of the few ways to let people know what's on the ballot.

We also wandered around Oktoberfest yesterday handing out postcards and buttons. Most people were quite friendly, some enthusiastically supportive. But when I got into longer conversations, I was amazed all over again that BAD information is far more likely to get around than good. For instance, there are those who didn't support us last time because they didn't want to pay for an arts center in Lone Tree (a city to the north of Castle Rock). But we never asked anyone to. And now, both Lone T…

Spinning Stars quilt

Here it is, one of the smaller quilts, and mounted high on one of our walls. And I'm sorry you can't see much of the detail -- very mandala like, with fascinating textures.

Quilting display

My grandmother LaRue was a quilter, and quilts always feel warmer than any other kind of blanket. Yesterday I was one of the many judges of a magnificent quilting display at the Philip S. Miller Library. I highly recommend visiting it -- many are breathtaking. Look for my first choice: "Spinning Stars."

Wall Street bail-out

Representative Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, 9th District, Toledo, is my new hero, and a spectacularly clear speaker about the recent travesty. Click on the title of this entry to see her talk to Congress. This phrase captures it all: the bail-out represents the privatization of gain for the few, and the socialization of loss to the many.

I think and write a lot about comparisons between the public and private sectors. Let's be frank about the bail-out: it seems to represent a complete failure, through unregulated greed, of our private sector, "free market" financial system. After fending off regulation, Wall Street now "can't afford to fail," so requires the immediate support of government. Can you spell "hypocrisy?"

Incidentally, see this piece about how the Swedish government handled a similar crisis by doing much as Rep. Kaptur suggests: require government ownership of properties in the bail-out, so the people get paid back.

Oh, and one last thing. The D…

Mentors and administrative practica

While in Chicago, I also had the chance to lift a couple of glasses with Dr. Fred Schlipf, one of my library school professors. Dr. Schlipf, I am proud to say, was one of my mentors. I have many memories of him, but here are the two key ones.

I signed up for an administrative practicum with him. During that time, I had the opportunity to tour the various departments, watch him do some legislative lobbying, and eventually, offer some insights about what needed to be improved within his institution. Then, Fred had me work up a proposal, and start working to change things. More than anything from library school, this told me how change happened: observation, conversation, progress toward a goal of improvement through various meetings. But the key memory was this: on my first day, I showed up only to be told that the director was in the basement, the children's room. There had been a big rain the night before. I walked down the stairs, and there he was, shoes off, pants rolled up, mop …

The torment of Armenian women

I lit out of Chicago this morning hoping to catch an early flight back to Denver. No luck. So I had a four hour layover at Midway. And you know what? That sounded great.

First, it turns out that someone has sprinkled the airport with big white rocking chairs. I bought a cup of coffee, and happened upon such a chair. For about an hour, I rocked and beamed at the many, extraordinarily beautiful people on the slidewalks. Many people remarked to me about how utterly happy I looked, in my straw hat, sport coat, Hawaiian shirt, white chinos, bare feet in dun Crocs, and beatific smile. I most certainly was.

One woman I saw reminded me of a charming story I should tell. During my talk at the Illinois Library Association, I blurted out a tale of my childhood. Long ago, I fell in love with the Marsoobian twins, Nina and Lisa. They were beautiful, with their long, glossy black hair, their olive skin, their dark and flashing eyes, their fascinatingly accented voices. My relationship with these Arm…

New Inquisition talk for Illinois Library Association

It was at the Navy Pier, just a few hours ago. It always does my soul good to see the Lake again. And I'd never been to Navy Pier -- a cool place.

I got to see Carl Volkmann (and got him to sign his book, "Springfield's Sculptures, Monuments and Plaques"). Saw Carl Lorber, who left Lincoln Library about the same time I did to work at a university library in Illinois. Saw Nancy Huntley, current library director at Springfield, and the woman who hired me there. Saw the Waukegan Public Library crowd (Richard Lee and Heidi Smith). Later I'll see Fred Schlipf and others.

There are many wonderful colleagues here. Wish it wasn't so hot, though. Whew!

I gather that there are a lot of intellectual freedom issues here, too. I hope my own approach will be helpful to people: to turn away from the rigid and bureaucratic, and strive to create service that both staff and patron can be proud of.

Laptop Lust Part 3

As Oscar Wilde put it, the best way to rid oneself of temptation is to yield to it immediately. I bought the Acer Aspire One today from MicroCenter. It's cool.

The instructions were simplicity itself. It found my home wireless. It loads programs fast. I used the quick little hack to make it easier to add programs:

Launch My Document
Select Desktop Preferences>Behavior>Show desktop menu on right click

Then a right click brings up the Xfce menu, which allows (among other things), the ability to add new programs.

Then I went to the Notecase Pro page and downloaded the Fedora 8 version.

Then I stuck a USB flash drive into my home PC and copied over the files I care about: my newspaper columns, my journals, my bookmarks, my contacts, my calendar. (And my Notecase.key file.) Then popped the into the Aspire One and dragged over the files.

Now I have a tiny little computer that's fast, full-featured, and portable. I can surf the net, do IM, writ…

Laptop Lust Part 2

See, this is what I hate. No sooner do I start to get all misty-eyed about the Acer Aspire One, then it turns out there's also a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (click the title for the link). The Dell is about $20 more expensive than the Aspire, and roughly the same hardware specs (although maybe the Dell SSD is a little smaller). The big difference is the operating system: the Dell comes with Ubuntu. I really like Ubuntu.

See, now I have to read reviews, and try to figure out which one of the things I don't need I need the most.

Laptop Lust

Generally speaking, I am not a man who longs for "stuff." But at a recent browse through of the local MicroCenter, I found a little netbook computer I really like: the Acer Aspire One. (I've also heard this called a "lapTOT.")

It's small, although not quite as small as the Asus EEEPC. But that's good, because the keyboard is actually usable with two hands. The display is just 8.9" diagonally, but remarkably clear and crisp. It has a full complement of ports (several USB, two SD, a VGA and Ethernet port) as well as built in 3G wifi.

The whole thing weighs 2.1 pounds, and is quite handsome. It boots from a cold start in 15-20 seconds.

The operating system is GNU/Linux, specifically, Linpus Lite -- a highly customized version of a Fedora 8/Xfce desktop that is immediately obvious to use. With just a few simple steps, you can turn on the Xfce right-click menu, allowing you to add additional programs.

Built-in are most of the things that a Netbook would wa…


I can't remember how I found Pentangle, but it was back in high school. Of course, like everything else, they're on Youtube. They are an odd and fuzzy bunch. But Jacqui has a voice that seems to know no bounds at all, the bass is extraordinary, and they manage to infuse an old-time English sensibility with some remarkable jazz jamming. I used to listen to these songs by the hour.

Cruel sister (with John Renbourne on guitar)

Hunting song - 13th century - listen to the round at the end

People on the highway

Train song - Rockin blues

Traveling song

Wedding Dress

Will the circle be unbroken - best version ever

A Day in the Park

I spent the day (10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) volunteering at a booth for the Parker art festival. With me were a couple of other folks donating their time: local lawyer Jim Anest, and local restaurateur Stevan Strain, who also happens to be our current library board president. Both were articulate and passionate. Stevan is an extraordinary man.

I have several observations.

First, there is a big group of Parker residents who expressed shock that we lost last year. When told that only 34% showed up, they nodded grimly. "We need to make sure it wins this year." They talked about the trouble finding a parking spot. They talked about how long they had to wait for new materials. They talked about how important the library was to them and their children. One women said she had been sent to our booth BY her son -- who loved the library, who read all he could, who really questioned what kind of community he lived in that would vote AGAINST a library, who every time they drove past the spot wh…

Book "offending Muslims" withdrawn

Click the title for the news article. In brief, it describes the removal of a book from Serbian bookstores because the "Islamic Community in Serbia has deemed [it] offensive to Muslims..."

Also, "The Jewel of Medina was to be published in the United States last month, but the publisher there decided against selling the book, fearful of the reaction of radical Muslims."

Thank God, we don't have radical Christians in America.

Flame Warriors by Mike Reed

Click the title for the whole entertaining ride. Mr. Reed does a funny and masterful job of dissecting some of the more recurrent types who post on fora and blogs. I can't believe I hadn't run across this before.

"Predictably Irrational," by Dan Ariely

Here is yet another in the flood of books proving that most of the time we don't have a clue why we do what we do, and when asked, we consistently lie about it. Ariely is a lively writer, clearly deriving way more fun than you would expect from being a Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT.

The subtitle is "the hidden forces that shape our decisions." Once again, we learn that people see, hear, and feel just about what they expect, and that "framing" often determines behavior. Example: take a group of Asian-American women about to take a math test. Divide them into two groups. Ask the first group what they think about a variety of gender related issues: the state of coed dorms, etc. Ask the second group to describe which language is spoken at home, family histories, etc. The first group, subtly reminded of the stereotype of women not being good at math, don't do as well as the second group, whose stereotype of academically high-performing Asians is reinf…

Priest ascends

This is a sad story. But a very strange story, with the most arresting lead I've ever read. Click the title of this entry to see what I mean.

Uncle Bobby's Wedding redux

This is not the longer posting (see here for that). But our library received yet another challenge to "Uncle Bobby's Wedding," apparently based on my earlier response.

First, this new patron stated her belief that the topic of a gay wedding is inappropriate because same sex marriage is illegal in 48 states, and specifically, in Colorado. Second, she claimed that she knows at least 100 people ready to fill out a petition against the book.

In response to the first point, I pointed out that we don't know where "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" takes place -- it could be in California or Massachusetts. It could be in Canada. It could be in a wholly fictitious universe with its own laws. Nonetheless, I wrote, "This principle would seem to require librarians to be familiar with all Colorado laws, and to read each work we purchase, or consider purchasing, to determine whether any of the characters might violate those laws [no matter where or when they live]. Thousan…

Douglas County – reading too much?

[OK, this is a joke. I've been thinking about running an ANTI-library funding campaign.]

Sports dad: "I thought the Internet was ok. It's kind of like TV, ya know? But I come home one day, and what do I find my son is up to? Reading! Books, hidden under his pillow! And after last summer, he went back to school and started off with good grades. I just ... don't know where we went wrong..."

Senior citizen wife: “I thought when my husband retired he would sit on the porch in a rocking chair. Like in those commercials, drinking lemonade, and sharing little jokes with me. But NOOOO. He's down at the library every day, attending meetings, lectures, programs, coming home with all of these projects and ideas. He's reading up on history and politics. He knows more people than ever. When do I get my husband back?”

Grumpy old Republican: “yes, yes, some thing else for the kids. Bah! When I was a youngster, I was in a gang, like any red-blooded American. Now, these pa…

Building a great community

Lately, I've been meeting with a lot of community groups, in the public information and feedback part of the library's planning process. I want to record a couple of things.

First, foremost, I am utterly impressed, even blown away, by my board, the Library Trustees. They are fiercely intelligent and passionate advocates for the library.

Second, but it's not just the library. Every one of them sees the library not as an end in itself, but as a sign of a community's interest in its own future. I sat today at an economic development council meeting where my board president, Stevan Strain, delivered yet another artful, articulate, and authentic call for the profound value of the library in the creation of a great city.

For me, here's the conundrum: there is strong community support in my county for some public institutions that I'm not sure always deserve it. I certainly give them props for securing that support. It's not rational. It's emotional.

But the libra…

Randy Newman "Harps and Angels"

After working through the weekend, I took a day off to hang out with wife and daughter (son's first day of high school, which is strange), fix the vacuum cleaner, mow the lawn, read a bit, and take a nap. Lovely.

While out and about, we stopped at the new Borders and I saw a display for Randy Newman's latest CD. So I bought it -- on sale for $14.

Man, I wish I could play piano like that. (I did play a bunch of Scott Joplin songs this morning, which was fun, but I'm only middlin' good.) Newman is not only a great shuffler, a great comedian both lyrically and musically (see "A few words in defense of our country," or "Potholes") but on occasion he can pull out songs so heartrending you can barely breathe. Examples: "Losing You," "Feels Like Home."

I think of Randy Newman as a kind of modern day Stephen Foster: intensely romantic, with a sweep of lush melody, and an eye that misses nothing.

Oh, and why not support the local economy, eh…

Reference Renaissance

I participated in a panel discussion at BCR's recent "Reference Renaissance" conference. Over 500 people attended -- indicating a keen interest in the topic. I sat on a panel and got 10 minutes to try to be "provocative." (Honest, I was supposed to.) My mindmap, a pdf, can be found here. I also put a link to it on my website.

I didn't attend the whole conference, but did get this sense: there was more talk about tools than about direction. On the one hand, that's reasonable for a professional gathering: people want to share what they've learned about new products and applications. But I didn't hear a strong, compelling vision for the future of reference services overall.

My own belief is that reference librarians are vital both to our profession and to our society. The direction of reference services in the years to come is all about community connections. It's not enough to sit behind a desk and wait for the questions to come. It's not en…

Paris Hilton for President

I know I'm not the first to find this. Paris Hilton came out with a major policy statement about energy use. Click the title of this entry.

I regret that I have not formed a comprehensive opinion about Ms. Hilton. We unsubscribed from cable television years ago, and I don't follow a lot of celebrity news. But this video struck me as pretty funny.

Activist lexicographers

I recently got an email from someone who hangs out at trianglefreeforum, a message board in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area, although it has people from all over. It's a lively place. In a "librarian from hell" thread I was upbraided for my use of a 1960 dictionary to respond to a patron complaint.

But just as there are accusations against "activist judges," there are also culture war complaints against activist lexicographers. Read the shocking story here.

Appreciative inquiry

Recently, my good friend Eloise May (director of the Arapahoe Library District) and I took a day to talk with the Board of Trustees of another Colorado library and engage in some strategic planning. Our agenda looked like this:

* Introductions.

* Trends. Eloise and I identified some of the big trends we're seeing in the public library world these days, among them merchandising, self-service, library as place, library as community asset, and the growing diversity of our clients/customers/patrons.

* Appreciative inquiry, stages one through three:

-- Values -- a second round of introductions that focused on what got the board members to the table in the first place. This helped some relative newcomers learn something about each other and begin to establish some common ground.

-- What do you do RIGHT? This is a so much better place to start than, for instance, "what's WRONG with us?" It helps identify strengths, assets, and real achievements. It begins to acknowledge and buil…

Next Generation ILS - and the power of failure

I just returned from BCR's conference called "Next Generation ILS: "Mashed Up, Fried, of Half-Baked," held in Boise, Idaho. (The conference title was a series of references, I later was told, to potatoes, which completely escaped me. On the other hand, I ate at a Basque restaurant one evening there [Leku Ona, on 6th and Grove], and the mashed potatoes were indeed superb.)

There were several speakers:

Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University. He was good, too, providing an excellent overview of the marketplace today.
Karen Schneider, Community Librarian, Equinox. The always delightful Karen is now working as a remarkably clear-eyed proponent of open source solutions. She still does some of the best PowerPoint there is -- mostly humorous images and short phrases.
Matt Goldner, Executive Director of End User Services, OCLC. Like most of the folks at OCLC, Matt is frighteningly knowledg…

Library use: DCL growing faster than the US

Recently there was an article called "Library use grows, but varies by region; Utah among states at top." You can find it here. We compared our own statistics (where DCL=Douglas County Libraries) to those in the report.

Visits to DCL increased 65 percent between 2002 and 2006. Nationwide = 10%
Circulation, which measures how often library visitors check out print or electronic materials, increased at DCL 74 percent between 2002 and 2006. Nationwide = 9 percent
The number of Internet-capable computers increased from 42 to 95 or 126 percent between 2002 and 2006 at DCL. Nationwide = 38%
Circulation of children's materials is the highest in Colorado at 3,122,000 and is 48% of our circulation. That outstrips the 42% that is reported as the highest in the country -- Vermont.

Cool, huh?

Mindmapping: an alternative to Power Point

Some years ago I was speaking at the Computers in Libraries conference. One of the other speakers asked me to run his PowerPoint presentation as he spoke, and I noticed something fascinating. Before I turned off the lights, and started the presentation, people were interested and engaged. And the instant the lights went off, people's eyes glazed over and they SLUMPED. That's not a comment about the speaker, or even the slides. I learned that people are wired to attune to people -- that's why you go to conferences and talks.

So I don't do PowerPoint, usually. If I do, it usually involves cartoons.

But I have been playing with mindmaps. Many of us, most of us, are visual. And graphics can be a powerful way to illustrate points. Mindmaps are particularly good at something PowerPoint isn't: showing the interrelations of things.

I often use a freeware product called Freemind, which is a Java application, so runs in Windows, OSX and Linux. It's a great brainstorming too…

Douglas County Libraries wins an Emmy

I've just learned that we won an Emmy (full name: National Academy of Arts and Sciences Heartland Region Emmy Award) last night for our Public Service Announcement about libraries. I've blogged about the PSA before here.

Congratulations both to the Network DC (our Douglas County cable and Internet based television network), and my own staff (Katie Klosser, producer) for winning this prestigious award.

Incidentally, this isn't the first library piece to be so honored. Another library story, several years ago, was the first episode of "Lunchbreak." The host, Steve Capstick, picked me up in his pickup truck. He then interviewed me as we drove around town. The topic was censorship. That episode was submitted for an Emmy and won. I can now, truthfully, say that I'm "an Emmy award winning film actor." The film won the award, though, not me.

The library also played a role in "Kit Carson's Last Campfire," a historically-based musical (really!).


OCLC's From Awareness to Funding

OCLC's long-awaited report is available for download. Click on the link in the title above, and you can order the print copy, or download the pdf. This is a powerful bit of research.

DCL Mill Levy - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Proposed Library Mill Levy Increase by the Douglas County Libraries in 2008 [note - this has been updated to reflect the revised proposal to be considered by the Douglas County Libraries Board of Trustees on August 21, 2008]

What is the library asking for?

A property tax increase of 1 (one) mill. 0.4 of that would pay for three new or replacement library buildings, and that part would go away or “sunset” after the buildings were paid off (about 15-20 years). The rest, less than one mill (0.6), would pay for operations (staff and materials, mainly), and would mark a permanent increase.

What does that mean for my taxes?

If your home is worth $100,000 (market value), you'll pay $7.96 more a year. If it's worth $200,000, then $15.92 a year. If $300,000, $23.88 a year.

Annually, the county assessor sends you a statement about the worth of your property.

The assessment rate for residential property is 7.96% (single family homes, mobile homes, condomi…

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called "Uncle Bobby's Wedding." Honestly, I hadn't even heard of it until that complaint. But I did read the book, and responded to the patron, who challenged the item through email and requested that I respond online (not via snail-mail) about her concerns.

I suspect the book will get a lot of challenges in 2008-2009. So I offer my response, purging the patron's name, for other librarians.

Uncle Bobby's wedding
June 27, 2008

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for working with my assistant to allow me to fit your concerns about “Uncle Bobby's Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen, into our “reconsideration” process. I have been assured that you have received and viewed our relevant policies: the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View, and our Reconsideration Policy.

The intent of providing all that isn'…