This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 23, 1990

May 23, 1990 - Libraries, public schools, and Mad Magazine

When I was in college, I had to work five part-time jobs in order to eat, buy books, and pay tuition and rent. Two of those jobs were teaching assistantships.

I have the deepest respect for teachers. To get ready for just 50 minutes of class time sometimes took me up to 6 hours. Teaching is hard work.

Of course, teaching has its rewards too, even if I can't think of any right now.

I prefer the rewards of librarianship. For instance? I like talking with a two-year-old one minute and an octogenarian the next. It tickles and sometimes enlightens me.

Another reason I'd rather work in a library is that I don't think most kids really want to go to school. They're forced to. Coerced.

When children go to a library, it's more likely to be by choice. And we're a lot more relaxed about what they can do when they get here. I remember Mrs. Short, my fourth grade teacher. Once she caught me reading a Mad Magazine in class. She yelled at me, then took it away. I never saw it again.

At a library, kids can read Mad Magazine and we not only don't mind, we're thankful that they're reading. (Hmm. Do our branches subscribe to Mad Magazine? No? Then by Alfred E. Neumann, they will! You know, sometimes it's great to be the boss.)

(And by-the-bye, Mrs. Short, if you happen to be reading this, I'd just like to say that I learned more from Mad Magazine than I did from all my sappy fourth grade reading primers, and now I'm buying it for THOUSANDS OF OTHER KIDS.)

But old injuries aside, schools and libraries can and ought to be good partners.

If libraries are doing their job, they hand over kids prepared - even eager - to learn, especially to learn how to read.

Then, during the school year, public libraries provide backup for the school libraries. We not only stock our shelves with plenty of reference and non-fiction materials, we also buy lots of books - and magazines - that help children remember that reading is more than a classroom skill, it's fun!

And when school days at last are done, we provide materials to help people write resumes, find colleges (and scholarships), repair cars, cook meals, buy a house, and much, much more.

Together, schools and libraries form a sort of life-long intellectual insurance policy. The public school system is there to provide the core knowledge and basic learning skills. Libraries exist to stimulate the interest for reading in the first place, and help people track down the information they need later on.

So what do you get when you combine formal instruction on the one hand, and supplementary reference materials plus recreational reading on the other?

You get smarter kids. And eventually, smarter adults.

Before long, libraries may assume an even more direct role in public education. But I'll have more to say about that next week, when I examine what seems to me to be a distinct Colorado trend: home schooling.

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