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, July 8, 1992

July 8, 1992 - Colorado Library Card

Two historic library events are shaping up in Colorado. I'm pleased to say that the Douglas Public Library District has had a small part to play in both of them.

The first is the formation of something called Access Colorado -- an attempt to link every automated library in the state to a toll-free, state-wide computer network. I'll have more to say about that in a future column.

The second is the Colorado Library Card. We've been fielding some questions about it from our patrons lately, so apparently word has leaked out. This is a good time to let people know what we're up to.

For at least the last decade, various agreements among public libraries have allowed the patrons of one library -- let's say the Douglas Public Library District -- to walk in to another library -- let's say the Denver Public Library -- and check out books. Librarians call this a "reciprocal borrowing agreement."

But it hasn't been free. In fact, in 1991, it cost DPLD over $8,000 to let our patrons have this direct access to other library collections.

But over the past year, several people in the front range library community have had some problems with these fees. I was one of them. I argued that the chief result of these agreements was the systematic punishment of small libraries for the crimes ... of being small and/or poor.

These libraries, often fairly new systems, just didn't have enough books for their communities. So naturally enough, their patrons went elsewhere to get them. But when they did, the small library was then constrained to give up even more of its already hobbled budget. This made it even harder for them to buy more books.

Strangely, the money we spent didn't even go to buy more books for the libraries where our patrons borrowed them. Instead, it went into the general funds of the various cities where the libraries were located.

In short, if the idea was to encourage library development, increase the number of books available, and make it as easy as possible for the public of any community to get their hands on the right book, this was not a good strategy.

Sometimes, things reach a critical mass. Suddenly, everyone is ready for a better approach. There's a change in leadership. The public gets a little more vocal.

All of those things happened, I think, here in Colorado. With the strong encouragement of the Colorado State Library, a committee was formed to look into the possibility of adopting a library card that could be used anywhere in the state, at any public library that was interested in participating.

I was appointed to the committee, and in just a few short months, we hammered out a series of rules that were simple, easily understandable to the public, and did away forever with reciprocal borrowing charges throughout the state.

In September, you'll be seeing a lot more publicity about this. But at present, not only have 62 public libraries agreed to participate, but we all got so excited about it that other KINDS of libraries started clammering to participate too.

As of this writing, over a hundred elementary and secondary schools, as well as 13 university libraries, 3 institutional libraries, and a smattering of regional library systems, have agreed to participate.

Very soon, no matter where you travel in the state, there's one place you will always be welcome -- the local library.

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