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, May 26, 1993

May 26, 1993 - Oakes Mill opening

The first day I saw them, I thought, "How pretty!" I was looking out the windows of our new house, and for the first time in three years, I had a lawn. Now that's got to be one of the great joys of homeownership, I thought: dandelions. Crowns of gold above the green.

That was then. This is now. I'll grant you that dandelions are still pretty -- but only on somebody else's lawn, and only for about 12 hours. Because after that ... they mutate. They go to seed, they seize control of your lawn, then the neighborhood, then OH MY GOD THEY'RE EVERYWHERE THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!

Sorry. But honestly, you try to keep up appearances, and the next thing you know there's a twisty, alien quality to your yard, and you're afraid to go outside.

Isn't that just like nature? As long as something lives, it changes. And all of its transformations aren't especially attractive. On the other hand, on occasion you are gifted with visions of startling -- and heartbreakingly transient -- beauty.

And speaking of transformations, growing things, and the flowerings of summer, the Oakes Mill Library (at 8827 Lone Tree Parkway) is finished with its renovations. The upstairs changed only a little bit -- mostly to accommodate more children's books. But the entire downstairs of the library has been completely recast. We've also managed to establish a quite lovely Friends of the Library booksale area.

As was the case with the Philip S. Miller Library before it, the Oakes Mill Library will be featured at a Grand Re-opening. All the public is warmly invited to attend.

The celebration -- in the new downstairs -- will began at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 3. For those of you who haven't been there before, get off I-25 at the Lincoln exit, and head west to your first stop sign, which is Yosemite. Go two blocks north, and make a left. That's Lone Tree Parkway, and the library is the first building on the right. (Parking is just to the west of the building.)

In addition to tours and refreshments, we're working on providing some special entertainment as well. I'd tell you what it is, but we don't know yet. You can bet it will be good, though.

A second event is a public information session on homeschooling. On Tuesday, June 1, a group of local homeschoolers will present a talk at the Philip S. Miller Library beginning at 7 p.m., and lasting till 9 p.m. (and later if necessary).

The session will feature presentations by several speakers on the following topics: the philosophy of homeschooling; the laws on homeschooling; the many curriculum choices; the typical day of the homeschooling household; teaching children of various ages at the same time; socialization; support groups; and various resources to be found at your public library.

It could be that you've come around to the notion that just as each homeowner is responsible for his or her lawn, so too is each parent ultimately responsible for the education of his or her children. Maybe you'll go with the prevailing choices, but keeping a sharp eye cocked for potential problems. Maybe you'll practice some weed control on weekends (checking on the educational progress of your kids). Or maybe you'll choose to cultivate your own garden of splendors (teach at home).

In any case, it's always a good idea to see what's growing around your neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 19, 1993

May 19, 1993 - Mutant tadpoles from space parker library public hearing

eeling a little overwhelmed lately? It could be worse.

Consider the mutant tadpoles from space.

According to a recent report, a batch of tadpoles on the space shuttle Columbia "returned to earth as mutants." While in space, it seems that these near-embryonic frogs swam "endless loop-the- loops." By the time they got back to earth, their bodies were permanently curved -- deformed for life.

I know someone is bound to accuse me of "leaping" to conclusions here, but I see an interesting life lesson.

In order to be really healthy, we need to be grounded. We need to keep close contact to the soil from which we spring. In some deep, undeniable sense, we belong to the center of our world.

This lesson was perfectly clear at last week's meeting about the future of the Parker Library, one of the most instructive meetings I've attended in a long while.

For one thing, we had good attendance. In addition to five of the seven Library Trustees, a County Commissioner, and three of the Town of Parker Council members, our meeting room was packed with a good cross-section of Parker residents, most of whom lived at least a mile away from downtown -- although not the same mile.

They all listened with interest to the library district's dilemma: which of several possible scenarios would give us the best "bang for the buck" to provide services to our Parker patrons?

The public had a message to send, and the most surprising thing about it was its unanimity: people wanted the Parker Library to stay downtown. They talked about the need to have a central identity to the town. They talked about avoiding the sprawl and inner-city decay of our neighbors to the north. They talked about wanting to preserve a quality of life. They told us that the library helps pull things together.

It was a refreshing revelation. Many people feel that government has only a negative influence on people's lives, and that like those mutant tadpoles, the typical bureaucracy is a series of endless loop-the-loops.

But the public was being invited to pass on their concerns to the Trustees BEFORE a decision was made. And the public came. They spoke cogently and thoughtfully, and the Trustees heard them.

Too, it's worth mentioning that the only reason the library has so many choices to begin with, is solely because Douglas County and the Town of Parker are being so cooperative. The County -- especially Chris Christensen, Mike Maag, and Ron Benson (as well as Stonegate representative Bill Green) -- has been very responsive to the library's quest for free land. The Town of Parker -- especially Mayor Lopez, Becky Robideaux, and various Town Council members -- has been very eager to work with the library as well.

In short, three governmental entities -- the county, the town, the library district -- have as their sole agenda, the desire to team up in order to stretch public dollars as far as possible to meet the public interest. Judging from the people who came to our meeting, the public likes that.

The library district still has some issues to work through. Our chief concern remains the need for adequate parking. We don't yet have a solution. We do have ideas.

But even though we're still looking for more "space" than we have at present, I wanted to thank the Parker-area citizens who reminded us to keep our feet firmly on the ground.

Wednesday, May 12, 1993

May 12, 1993 - ACLIN and Dial-Pac

I'm pleased to announce another remarkable achievement by the Colorado library community.

Last year, you may remember, we unveiled our new Colorado Library Card. The CLC sticker -- which many of you snapped up for your Douglas Public Library District library cards -- lets you check out items FOR FREE from other participating libraries. At this point, that includes almost all of the public libraries to the north and south of us, and a good many academic and school libraries as well.

But the Colorado Library Card was last year's wonder. In 1993, we're taking the notion of library cooperation one step further. As of right now, it is possible to "dial-in" to a statewide, toll-free network and have access to literally millions of books all around the state. We called it the Access Colorado Library and Information Network, or ACLIN.

What does "dial-in" mean, exactly? It means you need to have a computer or terminal that has a modem and some "telecommunications" software. You just set your software to the following options: 8 bit word, 1 stop bit, no parity, and "vt100" terminal emulation. You can run the network at 9600, 4800, 2400, 1200, or 300 baud -- whichever speed is supported by your modem. Then direct your computer to call (in Douglas County) either 440- 9969 or 786-8700. (Caution: the two lines will be merged in the near future. If, one day, 786-8700 doesn't work, go back to the 440-9969 number.)

Once you get connected, you'll be presented with two "prompts." Just type, in lower case, the letters "ac" (without the quotes), followed by an enter or return each time. After the second return, you'll get a screen that tells you about how ACLIN was funded. Press enter again, and just follow the instructions on the screen.

The very toughest thing about the system is that when you pick an item off a menu, you must first type the number (e.g. "1"), then press enter or return to move your cursor there, then enter or return AGAIN to make it happen.

The big statewide publicity push for ACLIN won't happen till this fall. Why? Not every library feels ready to support the barrage of technical questions they may receive.

But I have a lot of faith in ACLIN. As one of the members of the menu-design team, I know how hard we worked to make the system genuinely easy to use.

I also have an announcement about our own services. We've upgraded our software as well, in order to make things more convenient for our own "dial-in" users.

Using the same settings for ACLIN described above, dial 688-1428. (Note: our modem is a little slower than ACLIN. You can only use the following "speeds": 2400, 1200, or 300 baud.) When you get connected, press enter or return a couple of times to let our respective computers shake hands with each others. At this point, you should see a "login" prompt. If you don't, try holding down your control key while simultaneously pressing the letter "q." Then press enter again. (If you get a "Password" prompt, just press enter and try again.)

At the "login" prompt, type (in lower case ONLY) the word "library" (without the quotes). Press enter or return. Next, you'll see a list of terminal types our system will support. Frankly, I think the vt100 option is the most reliable - - use that one if you can.

Next, you'll get two screens of "terminal testing" -- just follow the instructions on screen, responding with a "y" if you can read the screen clearly, and "n" if you can't. If you answer "y," you'll go to the catalog. If you answer "n," you go back to the list of terminals and get to try again.

Once you do get connected, you'll see some new options -- mainly, the periodical searches I talked about a couple of weeks ago. Another major enhancement is the ability to direct the "pickup" of a reserve or Hold to another branch. For instance, you might see that a book is available at the Oakes Mill Library, but want to pick it up in Parker. Just place the hold as usual, and the system will guide you through the options.

We're updating our Community Information Referral listings, too - - data about various organizations serving Douglas County residents. Finally, watch for a new service: our Community Bulletin Board. From most of our search screens, you can type "bb" (without the quotes) and go to some screens that list various events. Right now, it just includes library events. But soon, we'll be expanding it to include all kinds of recreational, educational, cultural, and governmental calendar items.

When you're all done with our system, work your way (using "q" for quit) all the way to the first screen of our system. It looks like a card catalog drawer. Then type the word "later" (still no quotes) and press enter or return. In a while, you'll see the "login" prompt again. Now it's safe to hang up.

If you don't work your way back to "login" it won't hurt anything. But the next person to try the line might not be able to read the screen as well.

Come fall, by-the-bye, ACLIN will be a menu item right on our own system, giving our users access to CARL, and CARL users access to our system. But that's a few months away yet.

Wednesday, May 5, 1993

May 5, 1993 - parker public hearing

The continuing appeal of the West is based on the belief -- so powerful it is almost a Myth -- that you can re-invent yourself.

When you get burned out by the pace or the grime of life in the Big Eastern City, when you weary of the strangely loveless social landscapes of California, when you just need to be somebody else, either for your own sake, or for the children, why, you can plop yourself down in (for instance) Douglas County, Colorado. You can start over.

But even the people that make successful changes in their self- images may find that one day they miss something or some things about their former lives. Unlike the older, more established east, the developing West often lacks a cultural core. Its spiritual center is inward, predicated on disconnected individuals, strong, but silent and separate.

If life is to flourish, it must be rooted. These roots -- in a family, in a community, in a culture -- are in essence a body of stories we tell ourselves over and over.

But in the West, we don't want to "crowd" anyone. We want to leave a little space around everything. So the stories we tell, the cultural institutions we slowly assemble, aren't too pushy.

For instance, this community in 1990 decided to fund a library system. But the branches are 15 miles apart. You have to know where they are. You have to choose to fit the library -- and its repository of many stories -- into your life. It's the Way of the West.

I recognize that all the above is an unusually long philosophic preamble. But I think it provides some important background to a crossroads in the history of the Douglas Public Library District.

Back in 1990, one campaign promise of the "Say Yes to Libraries" Committee was that the establishment of the library district would result in (among other things) the addition of some 3,000 square feet to the Parker Library. (The Parker Library has about 7,000 square feet right now.) Well, thanks to the success of the library campaign, and some careful saving since then, the library district does in fact have the money to fulfill that promise.

The question is, where should that 10,000 square feet be? At the current site? That was our thinking three years ago. There's something to be said for keeping a cultural center "downtown." But we now have more up-to-date information about the distribution of the Parker population. We have also come to realize that there just isn't enough space for parking at our current location.

So what makes sense? There are several possibilities. One of them is build a new Parker Library at Challenger Park, just opposite and west of the new Recreation Center. The County Commissioners have indicated their willingness to donate a four acre parcel to the library district. Another option, based on another, private donation, might be to move the library to west Mainstreet -- the other side of Highway 83.

And there many be other options that we haven't heard about yet. (If you know of some, call me at 688-8752.)

If you would like to give your opinion on this issue, please consider yourself invited to a meeting at the Parker Library on Monday, May 10, 7 p.m. I'll be there to summarize what we know to date. Then I'll open up the discussion to the community. Before we go any further with our planning, the Library Board of Trustees like to get some sense of what's important to our Parker patrons.

I think the library has an important role to play in the "re- inventing" of the cultural identity of Douglas County. If you think so too, please come and let the Library Trustees know how - - and where -- we can best serve your needs into the next millennium.