This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

April 7, 2004 - daylight savings

While we were having dinner last Saturday, the family was talking about the need to adjust our clocks for Daylight Savings Time (or as they say in England, "Summer Time"). My 10 year old son, Perry, asked, "Why do we do that?"

I shrugged. But then I remembered something else, I think from Ayn Rand. "A frown is the beginning of intelligence."

A shrug says, "Beats me," and lets it go. A frown says, "I ... don't know. And it bothers me."

Since then, I've been pondering the nature of learning itself. Over a decade ago now, I remember calling an all staff meeting. I asked them to list -- on flip charts scattered all around the room -- the things they thought we HAD to get right the next year. This is a planning method that does tend to get at the real problems of an organization.

A lot of bright people work for the library, and they came up with many good ideas. But the overwhelming consensus was that we really needed to do something about our staff training. The computer systems that manage the inventory of the library can be fiendishly complex. This item is checked in on time, this one is late, this one is on hold, this one is in transit, this one is in processing, this one is damaged, and so on.

Please, said the staff, hire somebody to be in charge of staff training. So we did. Missy Shock came to us from the school district, and before long, while still working for us, charged off to get her Masters in Instructional Technology.

Good training is a huge piece of the reason our staff is so competent today. And good training is in large part due to Missy's thoughtful planning and management.

One of the things Missy said to me early on was that learning goes through four stages. The first is unconscious incompetence. You don't know that you don't know. The second is conscious incompetence. You know that you don't know. The third stage is conscious competence. You know that you know. The fourth stage is unconscious competence. You know, but you don't really remember how you know.

A good example of this is learning to drive. When you're a kid, your parents shlep you around. Driving is just a given. Then, when you're fifteen, you're behind the wheel of a car, and things change. I remember discovering, to my shock, that when I was driving, it didn't seem possible to fit the width of a car (a Ford Fairlane 500) onto a standard highway lane.

Now, as I discover while sitting next to my daughter, herself behind the wheel, I have no idea how I know how to back out of a slanted parking space. I just ... know.

But all learning begins with that first admission of ignorance, and the unwillingness to just let something go.

And that brings us full circle. The REASON we have daylight savings time is to reduce evening use of lighting. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, "countries often first adopt daylight time during a war or other crisis."

So it was for us. We used daylight savings time from 1918-1919 (the early days of World War I), and again from 1942 to 1945 (World War II). Since then, many states adopted the plan, including Colorado. Beginning in 1967, the federal government adopted the plan, largely in response to the Arab oil export crisis. (Some states, of course, exempt themselves.)

Does it work? Yes. Daylight savings time reduces our dependence on oil, and saves money.

And now you know.

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