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, February 17, 1993

February 17, 1993 - in praise of competence

The secret to success is to surround yourself with competence.

This week we're pulling together all the final pieces of our Oakes Mill and Philip S. Miller renovation projects.

To a certain extent, it's been, well, why mince words? It's been Chaos. Just by way of example, for a couple of weeks, I had no ceiling. I lived in a gentle rain of (non-asbestos) fire retardant dust.

Just beyond my office, the reference collection, periodicals, and paperbacks were crammed into a new center aisle. In many respects, working at the Philip S. Miller Library was much like moving all the stuff from a large house into a small apartment, while simultaneously remodeling the apartment, and holding a formal party every night.

At the Oakes Mill Library, a quarter of the library was without shelves for weeks. And there were people pounding under the floor. The wall behind the circulation desk -- where most of the library's business is condcuted -- was being patched, then painted. By the time this column comes out, the library will even have been without power for an entire day -- if not more.

And yet, somehow, the DPLD went on.

Throughout it all, the staffs at the two libraries mostly kept good humor. Most important of all, they kept providing service -- keeping the library open, maintaining story times, answering reference questions, helping people find a good mystery, ordering new books.

Sure, there was some grumbling and confusion, on the part of the public and staff alike. Some people don't deal well with utter messiness.

The way I see it, it's an acquired taste. I like Chaos. There's an energy about it, the strange glimmer of unsuspected possibilities. More often than not, it brings out the best in people.

Take Gina Woods, Oakes Mill Branch Manager, who pulled in her husband one night to assemble some temporary metal shelves. And laughed when in the middle of a particularly cacophonous story time, one young patron pulled the fire alarm.

Or consider Donna Harrison, Technical Services Manager, who marshalled her crew to complete the move into new, barely refurbished quarters in a little under two days -- a feat matched only by the two day creation of a spanking new reference room, ramrodded by Holly Deni, Philip S. Miller Branch Manager.

I don't mean to leave anybody out. I could tell similar stories about everybody who works at the library. We had people slapping books on trucks, hefting computer equipment, running vacuum cleaners, and just generally getting the job done.

Then there were our contractors. Dennis Kovatavich, a Franktown resident, and Jamie Roupp, from the Lone Tree development, were responsible for most of the action. They were here every day, including most Saturdays, cleaning up, inspecting progress, doing things they hadn't even promised to do and never asked to get paid for. They have something you don't hear much about any more -- a fierce pride in their work.

There was Ernie the electrician -- possibly the most gentlemanly tradesman I've met in some time. There was Paul Preister, rolling in his highly customized furniture exactly on schedule. There was Curt Farmer, who even after a near fatal car accident showed up, a cane in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, to completely rewire the building for computers, vastly simplifying the support of the system.

I am surrounded by competence, and I suspect all the people who demonstrate this competence never hear it often enough.

So the next time you're in either of these vastly improved libraries, do me a favor. Ask for a tour, and when it's done, take a minute to thank the staff. And if you ever run across any of the contractors I've mentioned, shake their hands. Take it from me: they deserve it.

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