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Trustee Revisited

January 9, 2006

I won’t name names, but I’ll tell you what happened.

Last week the library board interviewed five people for a trustee position. The board made its choice, which is a recommendation given to the county commissioners, and then the Salida city council, for approval.

The experience was remarkable in several ways for us. This is the first time, in my tenure at least, that the board has done this. A few years ago we settled with the commissioners on a procedure: The board could nominate a trustee for reappointment without first soliciting other interest, but if a new opening occurred, then we would post the opening and solicit letters of interest.

Five people submitted letters, and it was clear we couldn’t lose. Four had extensive board experience, public and private, and the other had particularly appealing planning skills. There was financial, accounting, business, academic, library, and civic service experience to pick from.

Interviewing is important, since people can look different on paper than in person. However, there was no easy triage here. Each person only enhanced his or her impression in person. It was a very pleasant circumstance.

Which is not to say it was easy. It’s fine to say that one can’t lose, but a choice must still be made. I have faced this same circumstance every time I’ve had a position to fill at the library. Oh, the people I’ve said no to.

After the interviews, the board’s discussion began quietly. All I heard was head-scratching. But then, I think, the board did a good job of analyzing its own needs and the strengths of the applicants.

I don’t know if it occurred to any of the board members, but I had the thought that if the current board conspired to retire at once, we could make a whole new board from the applicants … and it would be an excellent one.

This was a whimsical thought, of course, but not so far-fetched when you consider that two board members are fisherman, one is an artist, and the other has business and grandmotherly interests stretching to Pueblo.

So, I must keep from their hands the collection of essays I just read by Bertand Russell called “In Praise of Idleness.” The title essay is wonderful and is followed immediately by “In Praise of Useless Knowledge.” Here’s the point of “In Praise of Idleness”:

“I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and properity lies in an organized diminution of work.”

The essay is funny, but it is genuinely wise, too, as are the others in the book. Here’s how he describes the collection in the preface:

“The general thesis which binds the essays together is that the world is suffering from intolerance and bigotry, and from the belief that vigorous action is admirable even when misguided; whereas what is needed in our very complex modern society is calm consideration, with readiness to call dogmas in question and freedom of mind to do justice to the most diverse points of view.”

What a breath of fresh air … from 1935.

P.S. Psst … need an old computer? We’re giving some away. We have 9 left, reformatted with Linux. Most are 400MHz Celerons with about 256Mb of RAM, maybe more. We might have Windows98 CDs for some, if you want to reload them. Monitor not included. See Vic or Jeff.

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