Yesterday I sent off my last local newspaper column. The archive - from April 11, 1990 to January 2012 - is here.
So figure a minimum of 500 words per column, an average of 50 a year (sometimes they didn't print it one week, or I had guest columnists), times 20 years. That's half a million words.
I learned a lot from writing those columns. Not least, it provided a discipline of thinking and writing that greatly helped me understand things. Librarians, like many other professionals, tend to write only for themselves. I liked that process of trying to write for the general public. It forced me to be clearer.
It took me about four days to cut and paste from my files into blogger. At that rate, I didn't read every word, usually just a snatch of the first and last paragraphs. But I did notice a few things.
First, I let a lot of other people do guest posts. I think Rochelle Logan, my Associate Director of Support Services, wrote more than anyone else. But I handed over the podium to board members, shelvers, front line staff, and citizens.
Second, the two people I seemed to have quoted the most were Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. They were profound influences on my early intellectual development. But I have moved on from both of them, adopting a less libertarian, more communitarian perspective over the years.
In the process, both of my kids grew up. And I suspect that's one of the forces that made me come to appreciate the importance of social infrastructure. Both Rand and Heinlein were childless.
I also came to realize that I really am worried about our society. I think the issue has a lot to do with language. Recently, I was at a meeting where a local state representative was saying that the conservative voters of Douglas County expect their representatives to talk a certain way. So if the choice is between giving money to schools or giving tax exemptions to seniors, then the language will be harshly anti-teacher union. But then, this representative suggested that we shouldn't take that language seriously -- it's all politics, and the job of politicians is to argue. I think we damn well better take the way we talk seriously. Language sets how we look at the world, and its cynical manipulation for partisan gain is a profoundly corrosive force.
The Baby Boomers as a group have been institution destroyers, and the libertarian mindset is now firmly entrenched, to our peril. I think that needs to be changed. I want to help change it.
But a local newspaper is read mostly by those same Baby Boomers. The next generations look elsewhere for the facts and language that form their opinions; their minds are more open. They come to the Web.
So I think that's where the intellectual battle will be fought.
The columns were a good long run, not only detailing my own intellectual growth, but documenting a whole lot of institutional history. Now, it's on to the next thing.
But first I need a little down time, a little mindfulness of life cycles, a little recharging of my intellectual and emotional batteries.