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, January 13, 1993

January 13, 1993 - 1992 statistics don't tell whole story

There are many ways to measure a library. But probably the most important library activities are hard to put a number to.

Surely the best result a library could hope for is that through its resources, one or two happy souls per year achieved real wisdom. I'd like to see a number like that in a library statistical report. I wish I knew how to get it.

I'd also like to see a chart showing the number of children that formed a lasting love of reading over the past twelve months. It could be graphed against the total population of children in the area. A really successful library would get the two groups to merge.

I'd like to be able to count the number of people who found friends or a sense of community at the library, maybe through a conversation struck over the copy machine, the tax forms, the home repair videos, the children's book bins, or even the comic books.

I'd especially enjoy knowing how many patrons discovered some passionate new interest, who found through their local library important new information that generated new hope, new courage, and urged them on to new achievements.

A potentially illuminating statistic would be the percentage of groups who were offended by some library materials. This could be a very helpful way to spot gaps in our collection. Sometimes the only way you know you've really been thoroughly objective is when people on both sides of an issue are mad at you.

And it would be good to know how many of our taxpayers, on an annual basis, found through the library a moment of peace, of innocent diversion, or of laughter. They deserve such moments.

But I just don't have numbers like that.

All I've got are numbers about such things as, for instance, the increase of population in Douglas County since 1984, as compared to the number of items those people have checked out from the library.

But since I've got them, I may as well pass them on. In 1984 there were an estimated 37,325 people in the county. They checked out 113,188 items, or about three items per person.

By 1992, there were 69,399 people in the county. They checked out 692,146 items--roughly ten items per person.

To look at it another way, the population of Douglas County between 1984 and 1992 jumped by about 86 percent. But the number of items checked out of Douglas County libraries soared by 512 percent.

I can also report that in 1989, the library's collection had about 65,000 items. By the end of 1992, the collection had jumped to 165,000 items. That's an increase of roughly 154 percent in just the past three years.

I also have numbers about branch activity in 1992. The Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock accounted for 32% of all our business; the Parker Library for 31.8%; the Oakes Mill Library for 12.6%, the Louviers Library (our smallest building and collection) for .8%, and the Highlands Ranch Library (our youngest library) for 23 percent. Taken all together, library use (again as measured by the number of books, magazines, audiocassettes, and all other library materials checked out) was up by 36% over 1991.

All that's good news, I guess. And as I've mentioned before, nearly 70% of the residents of the entire county have--and use-- a library card. The more usual percentage elsewhere around the United States is forty to fifty-five percent patron registration. So there's more than one kind of growth going on here.

But all this stuff is just statistics.

Did the library touch your life in some significant way in 1992? If so, I'd like to ask you to jot down whatever it was and send it to me, either care of the library (961 S. Plum Creek Blvd., Castle Rock CO 80104), or to this newspaper. I'd like to know. I'm sure the Library Trustees would find your experiences of interest as well.

When it comes right down to it, libraries aren't about numbers. They're about people.

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