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, February 12, 1992

February 12, 1992 - the agelessness of libraries

In many of my columns for the News-Press, I have focused on the importance of children's services. That's not just because I happen to be a father of a four-year-old, but because I think public libraries -- especially these days -- need to focus on recruitment.

In America, two pervasive trends -- mounting illiteracy and ever more organized censorship attempts -- strike at the heart of our society. These trends are related.

Literacy means not only the ability to read, but to be undaunted by print, to accept the challenge of its manifold contradictions, to relish its depth and breadth. But these lessons -- if learned at all -- most often start early in life.

Ideally, every home should overflow with books and magazines. But every home does not.

Every school room should be a whirlwind of books. But every school room is not.

The early influence of books -- from as many perspectives of knowledge and opinion as possible -- is the surest way to ensure the kind of informed, intellectually vigorous nation envisioned by the framers of our Constitution. But for many, many people in this country, books are as foreign as moon rocks.

Most adult Americans don't read one book in a year. It isn't easy to get people like that into a library. For most adults, either you use the library or you don't.

There are exceptions, however -- moments when adults can break out of old patterns and build new ones. When they do, libraries are ready for them.

One pattern-breaker is the dawn of parenthood. Libraries can provide crucial information about pre-natal care, pregnancy, and those swift, miraculous years afterward. New (or about-to-be) parents have lots of questions, and quickly learn that it's much cheaper to borrow books than to buy them.

Another pattern-breaker for adults is a career change. People looking for work are consciously open to new sources of information. They tend not to want to pay for expensive, formal courses. Often, they can't travel as freely as they would like to. Sometimes, they just need to brush up on old skills.

For job-seekers, the public library is an almost perfect solution. We have numerous free materials and public programs that can help people polish their resumes, scan job opportunities elsewhere, and keep up with professional trends.

Yet another time when people can break free of old patterns is in the wake of a sudden change in lifestyle. Perhaps they get married. Or someone close to them dies. Or they buy a house. They move from the country to the city -- or the city to the country.

Or maybe they just grow old.

From family budgeting books, to the hundreds of "how to's" purporting to make a marriage better, to the wrenching accounts of grief endured, to redecorating and preservation tips, to magazines and local newspapers, to Large Type materials, to a wealth of other audio- and video-cassettes on virtually any topic -- the public library has something for everybody.

I write a lot about the perceptions, and the importance of, children. In part, that's because I know it's something all of us can relate to. After all, those of us who aren't children now, used to be.

But in the same way, the public library acknowledges and validates the experience of every human being, whatever the age.

Ultimately, the whole point of libraries is to obliterate the barriers of time -- to allow the person of one age, one culture, one moment, to speak directly to another, and thereby illuminate the life of the reader.

That's you.

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