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, August 15, 1990

August 15, 1990 - The National Public Library Card

Imagine that you've got some relatives in Seattle. They're visiting you for the week. Just before they leave, they mention that they sure wish they had something to pass the time on the long drive back.

You smile. "I have an idea," you say. "Let's go to the Philip S. Miller Library." Your relatives look puzzled, but they figure you've just been struck by a burst of civic pride, so they go along with you.

You walk into the beautiful library in Castle Rock. Your relatives are impressed. You take them over to the audiocassette racks. You hand them the unabridged cassette version of #Moby Dick#. They look at it, bewildered.

"Do you have your Visa or Mastercard with you?" you ask.

"Sure," they reply. "We always take it with us when we travel."

"Great! Take the tape up to the circulation desk."

"What are you talking about?" they demand.

So you tell them, "As of Monday, August 20, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock is the first library in the country to participate in the National Library Card Network. By using your valid Visa or Mastercard, people from outside the area can check out up to ten items, for two weeks at a time."

"What does it cost?"

"If you mail back the library materials when you're done with them, all you pay is postage."

"What if I don't get them back?"

You smile. "Then the library sends the charge slip through for payment. You want 'em, you bought 'em. The library then uses the money to replace the materials."

"What a great idea!" your relatives exclaim. "So my credit card is like -- a National Library Card!"

"Exactly," you reply. "And spread the word. It all started in Douglas County."

Fact: the Douglas County Public Library System Board of Trustees has indeed authorized us to become the first site of the National Library Card Network.

After all, we thought of it.

A lot of other people in the state are excited by the project too. Nancy Bolt, State Librarian of Colorado, has endorsed the National Library Card and will help us push it not only in Colorado -- we're talking with libraries in Littleton, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Loveland right now -- but also around the rest of the country.

People who use libraries regularly know that libraries are great places to stop and find out what's happening locally. Sometimes, you can get maps and travel brochures -- usually provided by the local chamber of commerce.

But there's a problem with visiting other libraries. And it happens to me almost every time I go on vacation. Librarians in other states, even in other Colorado cities (outside the metro area), just won't let me check out materials from their libraries. They're afraid they won't get it back.

The solution? The National Library Card Network protects local libraries from loss, and makes it possible to keep people reading even when they're not in their home towns.

I believe that any literate American should have to right to use any public library in the country, from sea to shining sea. Could be this is a long overdue step in the right direction.

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