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, October 21, 1992

October 21, 1992 - community information referral part ii

On February 20, 1991, I wrote a column about the library's Community Information Referral Files -- a computerized collection of data about civic clubs and social agencies located in and/or serving the residents of Douglas County.

This information was gathered back in 1990, and has been updated once through the annual Douglas County Forum on the Family mini- conference.

When we put all this stuff in the library's computer, we figured that two main groups of people would use it. The first group consisted of our library patrons, who would run across the information in our computer catalog while searching for other things.

For instance, the patron might type "AAUW", hoping to find a short history of the American Association of University Women. But since we also have information about the Douglas County chapter, the person at the computer terminal would also get a local contact person. In this way, the library hoped to pull together local library materials and local human resources.

The second group we thought would use the system was the social service agencies themselves. We thought they would find the computer catalog far better than the old print directories for finding appropriate referrals.

For instance, someone might approach one of the library's public terminals and choose the "Subject Keyword" search option. Then, the patron might type in something like "battered women." The computer would then fetch the listing for "Community Information Referral Battered Women," and show that 1 agency was contained under that heading.

The patron would then pick the heading to get the name, location, phone number, and a brief description of services for the "Women's Crisis Center." From there, the patron would only have to type "rw" (for "Related Works") to see all of the other related subject headings, such as "Community Information Referral Victim Assistance," and "Community Information Referral Sexual Assault." Choosing any one of these would take the patron to information about other agencies providing these services.

And of course, the database could also be searched by the name, even the partial name, of any organization.

You just can't use a printed directory like this -- directories are too hard to keep current, and too difficult to adequately cross-reference. But the computerized tool -- now featuring 185 agencies -- was wonderfully easy to use.

But how would people get to it? We designed three basic approaches: by calling the reference department of the Philip S. Miller Library, and asking someone here to look it up; by walking into any of our four full-service library branches and using the terminals by themselves; or by connecting their personal computer to the library computer through a phone line (as I have described in another column).

In theory, by providing a centralized database of social service and civic organizations, we would also make it easy for people who worked with those organizations to just call us with any changes. We, in turn, could update the information in a matter of minutes.

The good news is that many of our patrons do find the database a useful and eye-opening introduction to human resources in Douglas County.

The bad news is that very few of the social service agencies and civic clubs call us when they have new information, or, apparently, use the information we have.

Over the next several months, those of us here at the library will be working to change that. We're going to call all the people in our files and ask them if the information is correct. We're going to offer to do private demonstrations of the system for them. We're going to put together some brochures for social service staff.

Meanwhile, next time you're in the library, you might want to try the system yourself.

There's a lot going on in your own backyard. Someday, you might need to know what's out there.

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