Philip Harrison, Columbia and Boone County Library District Board Member
Phil Harrison and his family have called Columbia home for over four decades. Phil is retired from the University of Missouri system, where he worked for ten years as assistant to the president. Now he fills his time with volunteer activities, reading and foreign travel. He and his wife have three daughters, one in St. Louis and two in Chicago: a postdoc at Washington University, an actor and a speech pathologist.
Why are libraries important?
Libraries, like universities, are foundational to our democratic society and central to the transmission of human culture. Besides that, libraries are fun. There’s no other place you can go for books (paper and digital), magazines, newspapers, music, movies and events for adults and kids — all free, except for a few tax dollars.
What made you want to be on the library board?
I grew up in small towns without libraries. When I came to Columbia, it didn’t take me long to discover that the library was the center of the community. Eventually, I aspired to play a small role in sustaining and supporting our public library system. Without our libraries, our communities would be infinitely poorer.
What is the role of the district board?
First, to support our director and her excellent staff and, second, to help build support for our libraries in the communities they serve. Board members are temporary stewards of an irreplaceable resource.
What are you most proud of regarding the district board?
Members of the board are true believers in libraries. They take very seriously their fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. Every tax dollar should and will be spent wisely. We give our full support to the director and staff in the management of our four libraries. They do a wonderful job!
What makes DBRL special?
Daniel Boone Regional Library staff in Columbia, Fulton, Ashland and Holts Summit are never content with the status quo. They push themselves to make our libraries better all the time. For our size, our facilities and collections are second to none.
What challenges does DBRL face in the future?
Libraries, perhaps even more than other organizations, face the challenge of keeping up with technological change. We have to be able to evaluate, sometimes even anticipate, new technologies and determine how to implement those our patrons will want and need. And there is always the challenge of making the absolute best use of taxpayer support.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about libraries from your youth?
When I was a preschooler in Syracuse, my grandmother stayed with me for a year while my parents worked at Otterville High School. My most exciting times that year, other than when Grandma set the pasture on fire, were the bi-weekly visits of the bookmobile. I had no idea where it came from, but when it stopped at our dead-end country lane (!), it found a good customer. It was my year of stories with Grandma. She wasn’t very practical, didn’t teach me to tie my shoelaces. But Grandma and the bookmobile made me a reader. I’m still grateful to both.