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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.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

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 Tree AND Parker have secured funds, and begun design on their art centers, while poor Castle Rock has neither public transportation linking it to the Denver metro area (the only community in Douglas County that chose not to pay for it), nor any likelihood of getting an arts center in the foreseeable future, despite thriving art and theater groups -- who now wonder if they should be focusing their efforts on other communities.

Over the past 18 years, I've put a lot of time into local community efforts, and the library makes countless contributions to Castle Rock, as we do in all our communities. It was particularly disheartening to me that Castle Rock, my home town, was responsible for our narrow defeat last year.

At least, this year, we've made a much stronger effort to get out the word. As I have said in several talks, there's a wonderful western tradition of the barnraising. The whole county paid for the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. They showed up with their tax dollars. Now, they need their own barns. And Castle Rock residents did not show up last year.

Elections don't just decide funding -- they decide what kind of communities are going to exist, what sort of quality of life will prevail. I hope Castle Rock decides that libraries fall into the institutions deserving of their support.

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