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, July 20, 2005

July 20, 2005 - passing on the torch

It was the morning after my last night in Springfield, IL. I'd stayed up late packing, along with my wife (who got stuck STARTING to pack while I wrapped up a final conference obligation). We were off to a new life in Colorado, where I'd taken my first job as a library director.

My last stop on the way out was Lincoln Library, where I had been Assistant Director for 3 years (and Circulation Department Head for 2 years before that).

I had to pick up the PC I'd bought with my own money -- back when it was really, really unusual for a public official to have a computer on his or her desk.

I boxed it up and set it on a cart. My boss, Library Director Carl Volkmann, offered to accompany me down the elevator.

As we sank from the administrative third floor to the basement parking garage, I turned to the man who had taken such a gamble on me. "Thank you," I said, "for giving me this amazing opportunity."

To my utter surprise, his eyes filled with tears. He blinked and turned away for a minute. Then he looked back at me. "I thought I'd prepared myself," he said.

I get it. Now.

You see, some six years ago, I recruited another young librarian to what is, in some peculiar sense, "my" library. (I know, it's really yours, but I mean "not Carl's.") The name of this young librarian is Claudine Perrault. She hadn't worked in a public library before, but from conversation at conferences, from our email debates on library fora, from her interview, I thought she'd be great. I hired her as manager of our Lone Tree Library.

For the past six years, she HAS been great. She has given me one of the greatest pleasures any administrator ever gets: watching people grow.

These days, most of our libraries are seeing something like a 6% increase in business for checkouts. At Lone Tree, that would be thirty percent.

Claudine has been a force for change at our library, articulating new goals, advocating for them with passion and integrity, reveling in her staff. I have striven to be a good mentor to her, as Carl was to me. But mostly, I suspect, she grew on her own.

And now, starting in September, she'll be packing up her own family for a move. She will be a director herself -- of the Estes Park Public Library. They're lucky to get her.

I well remember what that first job is like. The weird feeling of actually being in charge. The sober realization that you can't blame any big screw-ups on somebody else. Now the responsibility is (gulp) yours.

And then, the discovery that ... this is really fun. This is what you're meant to do. This is living!

In some ways, this profound feeling -- of pride and loss -- makes me feel a little, well, old. It's a passing of the torch.

But mostly, I remember my own mentor. Carl, here's another "thank you," for providing yet again a wonderful model for just what principled and heartfelt leadership really looks -- and feels -- like.

No comments:

Post a Comment