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, April 8, 1992

April 8, 1992 - night of a thousand stars

ome time back (in my October 17, 1990 column), I wrote about the three basic reference sources I thought belonged in every home. I said that every family should have at least a current almanac, an unabridged dictionary, and a good set of encyclopedias.

Since then, my wife has convinced me that you've also got to have a comprehensive collection of quotations. If you don't, you'll be forever wondering who said what.

April 12 through April 18 is National Library Week. This year, as they have for the past couple of years, Douglas County school librarians will observe the week with a "Night of a thousand stars."

What does that have to do with a quotations reference book?

Today I remembered a wonderfully apropos quote: "Hitch your wagon to a star." But for the life of me, I could not recall who had said it.

I suspected that it was Will Rogers, the cowboy philosopher. It had a folksy, pioneer-optimistic sound, with maybe a dash of Hollywood.

But I was wrong. According to "The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations," my wife's recent and wise addition to our home reference shelf, the author was one of America's most brilliant and influential thinkers, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

I've always liked Emerson, in part because of another quote: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

While looking up "Hitch your wagon to a star," I ran across some other great quotes attributed to Emerson. Here's one of them: "Never read any book that is not a year old." That's an interesting comment to an age when 80 percent of the business of most public libraries comes from 20 percent of the stock -- the new books -- and many classics languish unread.

Or how about this one? -- "'Tis the good reader that makes the good book." Usually, people think there are good books and bad books, a black or white, either/or proposition. But any book can be good with the right reader.

When you read thoughtfully, carefully weighing the ideas presented in a book, and using those ideas to test and clarify your thinking and values, even a "bad" book can be a positive learning experience. In fact, learning to read critically -- sifting the opinions and evidence of others through the sieve of your own intellect and experience -- is what growing up is all about.

But let's go back to "Hitch your wagon to a star."

For many children, school libraries are much like the almost incomprehensible constellations of Colorado nights. Even if you tried, you couldn't count all the stars in the sky. Even if you wanted to, you couldn't read all the books on your library's shelves.

Infinity, of course, is relative. Every Douglas County school library suffered a thirty to fifty percent cut in its book budget this year. According to various state and national standards, every school library should have at least 12 books per student. Some school libraries in the county have fewer than 3 books per student. Now they'll fall even further behind.

Nonetheless, even impoverished libraries offer books that can inflame the soul of a child, can fill a young spirit with light, can urge a child to acts of greatness. For the live and questing mind, books can still kindle both kindliness and ambition, a need to drive back the dark.

To celebrate the unparalleled possibilities of literature and culture, you might drop in this year's "Night of a Thousand Stars" celebration on Wednesday, April 15, at the Ponderosa High School, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Admission will be by ticket only -- but the tickets are free. Just contact the Douglas County School District Media Center at 688-3195 and request them, stop by your school library, or ask for them at the Parker Library.

The theme of the celebration is "Multi-cultural Safari." Featured performers include Bob Fox (clown and balance artist extraordinaire), Priscilla Queen (noted local storyteller), Mike Lee (a cowboy poet), Jim O'Meara (an Irish mountainman), Angela Griffith (a local Spanish teacher), the Denver Black Arts Festival (an African drum and dance group), String Musicians in Entry (a string orchestra from Ponderosa High and Ponderosa Jr. High), the Northeast Elementary Choir, and someone (to be announced) from the Colorado Chinese Language School.

I think I should give Emerson the last word. In May of 1849, Emerson wrote, "I hate quotations."

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