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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, June 12, 2016

Moving, again

Some of you know that I moved from Colorado to Chicago this year. It was January. Then, I discovered that I had moved not just next door to, but just above the main floor of a very popular, and very loud, dance club.

To be fair, most days of the week (Sunday-Wednesday) the apartment is very quiet. But it's also dark, pointing east toward a tiny box of brick between two skyscrapers into which little light falls.

But my landlords gave me a six month (as opposed to a full year) lease, and let me out a little early to move up from the first to the 16th floor. The new apartment has a pretty spectacular view of Lake Michigan. The new apartment is more expensive, of course, but I do like the Near North neighborhood. From my address, it's an 11 minute walk to work, and two blocks away from almost anything else.

So I've spent my day, in a leisurely way (I strolled to a terrific breakfast place in the morning, I walked along the shore this afternoon), preparing 12 boxes, 6 pieces of furniture, and a closet that won't take much time to clear. Tomorrow, I've hired some folks to help me swiftly move up my stuff to a new spot. The new apartment features hardwood floors (as opposed to my current industrial carpet), the same high bay windows (but with light and a view to the east, and even north windows, so the possibility of a cross breeze), and granite counter tops. We're still talking small (about 650 square feet), but in fact that's plenty of space for me.

Small is good, because in my 5.5 months here, I've begun to build up these little incomprehensible piles. We expand to fill the available space. I suspect, as with email, these collections are mostly insignificant. (Says the man who just got a notice that his email box is full.) But in my impatience to simplify and clarify, I do worry that I'm tossing things that I will one day wish I'd saved, or should have paid more attention to. Probably not. But if you sent me something I didn't respond to, mea cupla. Ping me again. I'm getting better at recognizing what matters. (This means, of course, that I may not have been so good before. That's on me, not you.)

Starting a new job, learning a new city, is both exciting and stressful. Working another change, so soon since the first move, is also exciting.

I have learned:
  • The American Library Association is populated by some of the smartest, most competent, and most passionate librarians I've ever met. I deeply appreciate getting to know them.
  • The work we do is vital. I mean that. These days, according to Pew's Lee Rainie, there are only three professions Americans still trust: firefighters, nurses, and librarians. My only claim to firefighting - Fahrenheit 451 aside - was running out the back stairs with a flaming wok (get it out of the house! I thought). But my mother was a nurse, so is one of my sisters, and I've worked as an orderly. These days, still, I'm a librarian. I'll say again: the work we do is important.
  • Chicago, despite the appalling 1,000-plus shootings this year alone, and a deep, continuing history of crime and corruption, is also home to some of the politest people in the world, even and heartbreakingly true of its panhandlers, and architecture that takes my breath away at least twice every single day. The city has problems. But it is alive.
  • Lake Michigan is alive. She has a spirit, and today, she was frolicking with winds from the NorthEast, which dropped the temperature some 20 degrees. Thank you. Lake Michigan and I started talking when I was 6-17 years old. It turns out we still have some things to say to each other. She knows more than I do. But she's been around longer, too. That business about where the winds come from is worth thinking about, too.
  • I have a lot to learn. One example: today, there was a terrorist shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. In a couple of weeks, Orlando, Florida is precisely where ALA is holding our next annual conference. This is such an intersection of issues - political, sexual, religious, professional - that it's hard to know where to start, or what to say. I would like to contribute to the discussion, not just mark territory, like a stray and incontinent dog. We need to move forward. We, librarians, need to make things better.
I have so many wonderful friends and helpers. Thank you for your time, your insights, your advice. Keep it coming!

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