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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Turning 54

Just back from a 2-night trip up to Estes Park for my birthday. Thank you, Suzanne, for renting a cabin for a couple of nights in so beautiful a location (McGregor Mountain Lodge)!

I noticed with some interest that I never even touched anything electronic. No email. No Palm. No blogging. No cell phone (except to determine that no service was available, about which I was frankly delighted). I read a new book ("Lost Dorsai" by Gordon Dickson). I read an old book, one of my favorites -- "The Superlative Horse," by Jean Merrill. I wrote in my little Target travel journal, while sitting out on the porch of our cabin, listening to the thrumming of hummingbirds, watching the antics of chipmunks and marmots (one of whom sounded his barbaric yawp to me, ululating his diaphragm). I enjoyed our get-together with Claudine Perrault and her family for drinks (where we got to hear Claudine's daughter lead us in some camp chants). I enjoyed the company of my family. Suzanne and I have children who are growing into some of the most fascinating people I know.

It was good to have a break. Before I left, there were a number of intense encounters at work. Some were most wonderful: a visit by two high school age young men, seeking to improve library management of our comic books; some conversations with state library colleagues. Other encounters were a little less positive: angry emails from patrons (protesting a potential mill levy, and detailing some concerns about catalog-searching functions), a letter to the editor from a man who seemed to assert that it is the job of libraries to demur to the will of the majority even in the consideration of ideas. I've dealt with bullies all my life, and this last is just ideological bullying.

My week ended with a public meeting in Highlands Ranch, in which a few, but probing, individuals wanted to know library plans, and asked a series of intelligent questions. To their satisfaction, I believe.

It is good to connect again with the natural world. It is good to revel in your family. It is good to remember what drove me to choose a profession I love so passionately. I love libraries for their rich respect for the individual mind, for their cost-effectiveness, for their intellectual fearlessness.

Birthdays are for me, always, a kind of reckoning. Here's what I have learned: life is good. Libraries are good.

As (perhaps) I step back into the political fray (an election for library funding), it's also good to get my bearings again. It's good to stand FOR something: the fundamental dignity and courage of individual inquiry.

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