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 14, 1991

August 14, 1991 - Bats and bookmobiles

When I was about 10 years old, I found a paper bag hidden in the rafters behind my closet, beyond a little door. The bag was stuffed with old letters.

The letters turned out to be from a boy in the army, written to the daughter of the family who had lived in the house before us. At the bottom of the bag was a telegram: he had been killed in action.

That's sad. But that wasn't the story I told my sister, Mary. She was about four at the time, maybe five. No, -- and I'm not saying I'm proud of this -- I told her the letters had been written by bats. We'd had bats in the house a couple of times, I was her big brother, and she believed me wholeheartedly.

I didn't think about this for years afterward, and I doubt Mary did either, until one day in high school. A teacher commented that the one thing that separated humankind from the rest of the animals was that animals couldn't write. My sister's hand shot into the air and she blurted, "Bats can!"

Even before her 16-year-old peers started laughing, and as her face began to redden, Mary suddenly realized that her big brother was not entirely reliable. I was away at college by then, which may have saved my life.

Sometimes, you hear things when you're young, or when you're not so young, that you buy into absolutely. It can be a rude awakening to find out that you were utterly and completely wrong.

I had a feeling something like that when I got back the report about our survey of rural residents (which I mentioned in my July 24, 1991 column). One of the Library Trustees had suggested that before we spent a lot of money on a bookmobile, that we try to find out just what people in the outlying areas really wanted in the way of library service. I was sure that the bookmobile would be the preferred choice.

But overwhelmingly (by about 70% to 30%), survey respondents wanted us to improve existing services at existing locations, rather than launching something new.

I was also surprised to discover that rural residents were more likely to have library cards than people who live near our branches, and more likely to use them.

But when I spent some time interviewing our rural library users myself, I began to understand. People who live outside the towns are used to driving. They plan weekly trips to pick up groceries, and in the name of efficiency, they schedule a lot of other things at the same time. For a lot of them, one of those things is a library visit.

When we asked survey participants if they thought they would actually use a bookmobile, most people said no. When I asked some of the people I know why that might be, they told me they were already using one (or more) of our branches, and they weren't too keen on adding yet another trip somewhere else every week, especially since a bookmobile wouldn't have as many library materials as a branch anyhow.

Given those circumstances, the Library Board will re-consider purchasing a bookmobile. I have recommended that they use the money originally set aside for the bookmobile to buy more materials for our branches, and develop a mail-order service for the homebound.

We'll be announcing a public hearing on the subject soon, just to make sure we hear from the people who didn't happen to get surveyed, and I haven't happened to talk to.

Meanwhile, I'm pleased to announce that beginning August 12, we have doubled the hours of our smallest branch: the Louviers Library will be open on Monday afternoons, from 3 to 7, AND its usual Thursday afternoon, also from 3 to 7.

I probably shouldn't mention that we've had some trouble with bats at Louviers. But I've written them some stern letters, and things are better now.

You didn't know bats can read?

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