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 20, 1993

January 20, 1993 - Amendment 2 and CLA boycott of Colorado Springs

Neighbors -- even good neighbors -- don't always agree with each other. But the difference between good neighbors and bad is that good neighbors try to work things out.

For instance, suppose that one night your neighbors throw a party. Suppose it gets pretty loud. If you happen to be a good neighbor, you probably won't call the police. You'll put up with it for a night.

But if all of a sudden your neighbor is having a party EVERY night -- your response is likely to change. You'll be less tolerant, more judgmental.

If you don't talk to each other, the situation is likely to escalate. The next thing you know, you're dumping garbage across each other's fences and making obscene phone calls.

In many respects, a public library is most like a remarkably well-behaved neighborhood. You'll find some books -- just as you'll find some neighbors -- that are chock full of completely wrong-headed notions. (These are the ones that hold different opinions from yours.)

And there are books whose viewpoints are remarkably lucid, well- argued, so obviously right that you wonder they don't have more friends. (These are the books expressing opinions that are very similar to yours.)

But somehow, all these books manage to co-exist more or less peaceably in the sedate streets of your local library. Sure, they occasionally have nasty things to say about each other, but it's understood that the freedom to gossip is one of the characteristics of this particular neighborhood. Nobody has to move out.

Libraries are good neighborhoods.

But things aren't always so rosy. Sometimes issues spring up that divide neighborhoods. One such issue is Amendment 2.

Before last November, the Board of the Colorado Library Association adopted a resolution against Amendment 2 which stated in part, "The Colorado Library Association wishes to demonstrate consistency of purpose and continuing opposition to a discrimination which could have a chilling effect on collections concerning and service to such a targeted group."

Amendment 2 passed anyhow, by a 53% majority. The CLA doesn't have a lot of clout.

Several weeks ago, the CLA Board voted to boycott Colorado counties that supported Amendment 2. What does that mean, exactly? The CLA canceled its contracts with two Colorado Springs hotels slated to be the sites for the 1994 and 1995 annual conferences.

This proved to be a relatively controversial stance, prompting Denver Public Library Director Rick Ashton to write an open letter to the CLA Board (appearing in the January 9 editorial page of the #Denver Post#) chastising them for their vote.

I got a protest call myself. The man said that it was absurd to think that Amendment 2 would have any effect whatsoever on libraries. The same day, I received a written complaint about a book, a murder mystery whose main characters happened to be lesbians. That was the complaint.

So the CLA, it seems to me, had a point.

But I'd like to stress the difference between a Library and a Librarian. The CLA is a voluntary organization of librarians. And the people who belong to it have about the same differences of opinions you'll find in any other group. The Board took a stand -- but it doesn't represent a vote of all the librarians who belong to the CLA.

Even if it did, the vote of a group of librarians doesn't change either the constitution of library collections, or the fundamental mission of the public library.

People -- including librarians -- have a right to vote for the things they like. They also have the right to boycott the things they don't. Either one is part of democracy in action.

At the Douglas Public Library District, we'll continue to provide materials on both sides of this -- and many other -- issues.

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