July 20, 2008

Civility getting popular in Howard

Last week a friend asked, "What, exactly, is 'Choose Civility'?" She had just joined the 40,000-plus Howard County residents who sport Choose Civility in Howard County car magnets. Begun as an internal Howard County Library initiative inspired by Johns Hopkins professor Dr. P.M. Forni and his book, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, Choose Civility has evolved into a community-wide initiative with 40 partners. Together, we created a vision: Howard County is a model of civility. It's an invitation to enhance respect, consideration, and tolerance in Howard.

Some people ask, "Why in Howard County?" We believe the campaign is flourishing because we strive for the ideal. We aspire to live our vision. Yet it is easy to forget, and people appreciate the reminder, which is why the car magnets - for which we thank our generous sponsors, including the Horizon Foundation, Friends of Howard County Library, and Howard County General Hospital, A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine - are so popular.

Still others ask, "Why has it been so successful?" Because civility is relevant to every aspect of our lives. The term includes cultural norms as well as universal values.

Civility is also a Howard County hallmark. We are an exceptionally civil community. Choose Civility brings visibility to what is a key component of our extraordinary quality of life.

It is the library's privilege to serve as lead partner in this initiative. We are well-suited for two reasons. Our customer base comprises all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. In addition, we deliver self-directed education through books and materials, and provide instruction through classes, seminars and workshops that bring people together to discuss ideas. The components of Choose Civility thus align with our educational mission.

This summer, we are pleased to offer two seminars: Promoting Civility in Your Neighborhood (John and Joan Webb Scornaienchi of Ambassador Protocol will discuss neighborhood etiquette, customer service, courteous customers, and Choose Civility car magnets' effect on driving behavior -7 p.m. Tuesday at our Central Library) and Lessons of Forgiveness (St. Mary's College associate professor of religious studies Katharina von Kellenbach will explore how justice, forgiveness, and remembrance can transcend devastation and lead to new relationships among perpetrators, victims, and their communities - 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the East Columbia branch).

Our information specialists and instructors are ready to assist you with recommended titles on civility should you or your book discussion group desire to read and discuss the subject. We also invite you to stop by any of our branches to pick up a free car magnet.

The magnets continue to be spotted beyond Howard County, most recently on July Fourth. A co-worker called me from Charleston, S.C., while vacationing with her family. Just as parking congestion at the beach began to raise her blood pressure, she spotted the familiar green car magnet, immediately trading stress for a smile.

Valerie J. Gross, Executive director and CEO, Howard County Library

Parks board should consider a few things

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) recently presented an Aquatic Development Plan that outlines four possible options for a public aquatics facility. During this presentation, the county's consultant noted that outdoor pools offer more "bang for your buck" than indoor aquatic facilities when the bottom line is considered.

As the RAP Advisory Board reviews this Aquatic Development Plan - and as it awaits the Aquatic Feasibility Study that is scheduled to be released later this summer - it should consider:

* The danger and "health costs" of such myopic thinking, and realize that the potential for public health and safety is so much greater with a year-round (i.e., indoor) facility than with a facility that is utilized only three or four months a year. Tomorrow's health costs are just delayed costs that are sometimes difficult to measure in today's dollars.

* The greatest good when reviewing options for such a facility, by providing a venue that offers more than just recreation. It should offer: recreation, fitness, competition, aquatic therapy, swim instruction and water safety programming. A 50-meter (Olympic-size) pool in combination with leisure/therapy pool would accomplish this goal.

*A central location that will offer the greatest access to the greatest number of county residents.

*Forging partnerships with other county agencies (public schools, Health Department, Office on Aging, Howard Community College) and private groups (Columbia Association, Kimco and General Growth Properties) to bring a much-needed public aquatics facility to Howard residents sooner rather than later.

I encourage county residents to view the Aquatic Development Plan online on the RAP home page, and submit input to Gary Arthur, Director of Recreation and Parks.

Diane Goodridge, Ellicott City

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