One day I was visited by a gentlemen who worked for a non-profit in the Midwest. His organization had formed to address a recurrent problem. The pattern looked like this: A fantastic new leader showed up in the community. That meant the community was able to recruit good leaders! The new leader hit the ground running, quickly forming key connections, and tackling significant issues. The new leader, responding well to early challenges, became the go-to person for other challenges. Slowly, the new leader's plate got full. Then over-full. Then way over-full. Then the leader burned out. Maybe there was a half-hearted attempt to get away for a while--a vacation, a sabbatical. But more often, he or she just imploded. There were substance abuse issues, broken relationships, or some kind of community scandal. But the root problem wasn't any of those things. The problem was that the community saved up all their problems for the new person, then kept piling them on until something broke.
[on behalf of the Colorado Association of Libraries Future Interest Group] In a recent Youtube presentation on the public good, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich cited a startling statistic. Public confidence that government did the right thing all or most of the time fell from 71% in 1963 to 16% in 2016. That was before Donald Trump became president. Pick an institution–the church, the Supreme Court, public schools, Congress, television news–and the general trend seems pretty clear. Confidence in institutions is falling across the board. There are outliers, but after reviewing this Gallup report , I can’t help but wonder how America’s libraries are doing. Today we’re witnessing the greatest surge of book challenges since the founding of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom in 1967. Some of these campaigns are certainly coordinated, but it’s not always clear by whom. These challenges aren’t just against particular titles or themes (although most of them focus on books by or abou