Showing posts from November, 2014

What is a public library?

Near the end of my tenure as director of the Douglas County Libraries, a county commissioner proclaimed the purpose of the public library was "to be a repository of books." That's a tragically limited view. 
I've been using another definition for the past several years: "the job of the public library is to gather, organize, and present to the community the intellectual content of the culture."
But that may need some amplification. "The community" doesn't have to be a city; it could be a school or university or company. Or it could be a genre of writing or music.
"Intellectual content" isn't just the usual suspects: books, magazines, movies and music. It also includes people - often the most immediately useful and convenient repository of information, knowledge, or wisdom. That's the meaning of our traditional provision of programs, guest lectures, author visits, public meeting rooms, and the hosting of community discussions.

why this book

I am passionately in love with the idea and practice of the Library. I know public libraries best, but love (and have spent many hours in) school and academic libraries, too. I try to pay attention to my colleagues and their successes and challenges.In that process, I have learned that we all share one big challenge: the American culture’s generation’s-long devaluing, even deliberate dismantling, of our shared public infrastructure.The evidence is clear. We have become a nation not of citizens, but of consumers. Our meaning, our merit, is measured now not by what we believe or build. We are judged by what we buy.Ideas matter. In fact, just a few words can make “frames” (see the works of George Lakoff) so powerful that they govern almost every aspect of our lives. The Declaration of Independence is one example: “All men are created equal.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Here’s another: “tax burden.”Let me stake out my ground up front. Libraries generally, public librari…

Join the journey

I’ve decided to undertake a grand experiment. Using the program Gingko (, I’m going to generate a series of blog posts that will flesh out my original outline, and begin to elaborate what will eventually be chapters in a book. Do check out Gingko, by the way. It just might change the way you think about writing.Ultimately, I will self-publish the work as an ebook. Price: $5? (Please comment below. Would you pay that for a roughly 200 page book?)The working title is “Who Needs Libraries?” I invite you along on the journey. Comments from librarians and non-librarians alike will help me write a better book.I’ll be trying to blog at least three times a week, at about 350 words per blog. Along the way, I hope to learn more about this fascinating program.And please, do comment. We’re in this together!

SmartDown - a markdown editor for Windows

SmartDown This is my first use of the of the Aflava software, SmartDown, billed as a minimalist, markdown editor for Windows. I downloaded the trial version (which is due to expire in December). I don't know what the ultimate cost for it might be. But it was mentioned on, where I often find interesting new software, and I'm intrigued by the quick, zen-like approach to plain text writing.

Let's put it through its paces.
InterfaceSandwich icon on top left (file functions, export function)Character and line count at bottom center. Hover the mouse over it and get word, sentence, page counts. That's essential for most of the writing I do.View icons at lower right: pencil for edit, eye for view output.Column size easily changed by dragging.Right click gives usual cut/copy/paste/delete options.Spellcheck tags. That's it, and so it's a very simple interface, with a pleasant enough gray-blue background. It seems to be close to my essential writer t…