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, July 14, 1993

July 14, 1993 - local history

My maternal grandmother, called Mimi, was a true Southern Lady. And from my earliest memory, Mimi was telling stories.

There was the story of my Great Uncle Paul, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 22. He also taught my grandmother to dive from the pier into the Gulf of Mexico, dive so clean that she could enter the water without a splash, and turn up so quick that she'd barely get her back wet.

There was the story of the little ghost that lived in the foyer of Aunt Hazel's house. It seems it loved to rock in the rocking chair, looking out the front door window, and leaving the rocker turned that way. Then, one morning, Aunt Hazel gave it a stern talking to. "Little ghost," she said, "now you're welcome to rock in that chair all you please at night, but you put that chair back where it belongs in the morning, you hear?" And from then on, that's exactly what it did.

I spent at least two weeks every summer with Mimi, and heard the same stories over and over, stories about great-grandparents and genealogies, big bragging stories about the War Between the States, sly stories about flappers and flivvers, hushed stories about family scandals, suicides and bootleggers, story after story, spilling well into a summer's night. I never tired of them.

I realize now that those stories had a lot to do with defining my sense of self. They told me where I came from, they rooted me in my family, they helped me identify potential gifts and weaknesses in my own character.

Not every family is fortunate enough to have a Mimi, someone who lovingly collects, possibly embellishes, but at minimum passes on all these stories to the open young minds that follow. But every family needs one.

This may sound odd, but I believe that one of the jobs of the Douglas Public Library District is to serve as the Mimi of Douglas County. Who else can collect stories about the whole community, and see that they get passed on to the generations who will follow us?

Our new Local History Collection, housed at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, formally opened on April 23, 1993.

Many, many people have been involved in this project. Johanna Harden, Conservation Specialist for the library, did an outstanding job of working with several historical societies in the county to identify, gather, restore, and describe numerous historical documents relating to Douglas County. Then, she assembled and revised a variety of guidelines for historical collections from around the state to provide a comprehensive policy and procedural framework for our collection.

Along the way, we have relied upon the rest of our Technical Services staff, as well as the unflagging efforts of Sally Maguire and Joan Buttery, volunteers extraordinaire, to aid and assist the establishment of the collection. The Collection also enjoys the strong support of the Library Board of Trustees, who adopted the complete policy and procedural manual at its June meeting.

The Purpose of the Collection (from our Collection Policy) is as follows: "The Local History Collection of the Douglas Public Library District is dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of material, including but not limited to books, newspapers, manuscripts, business records, maps, minutes, photographs, and personal papers, primarily deriving from and relevant to the pre- history, social and natural history of Douglas County, the High Plains, the Divide area of the Front Range, and the State of Colorado. The Local History Collection will be used for research, educational purposes and exhibition."

The collection is still fairly limited. And as the policy goes on to say, "The District cannot engage in indiscriminate acquisition." Too, we can't provide permanent exhibit space for materials. We are a library, not a museum, and we do want to keep the focus as much as possible on the local area.

On the other hand, we are keenly interested in acquiring materials that fall into that category. Please note that donations to the Local History Collection are tax-deductible, although we cannot ourselves appraise the value of those donations.

Right now, the collection lives in a locked room at the south end of the reference department, and is available for public use by appointment only. As time goes on, I expect that the district will have to dedicate even more space and staff to the collection. But at least, we have begun.

In a sense, the establishment of the Local History Collection is a sign of the coming of age of the larger community. Only with maturity does the mind reach back to its past.

For a copy of our Collection Policy, stop by the library, or give Johanna Harden a call at 688-4875.

In memoriam. Perry Park resident David Campbell died in a car accident last week. His wife, Dorothy, has asked that anyone wishing to make a donation in memory of David please consider the Friends of Man in Denver (P.O. Box 2919, Littleton, CO 80161-2919, phone 337-377), or the David Campbell Memorial Children's Collection, c/o the Douglas Public Library District, 961 S. Plum Creek Blvd., Castle Rock CO 80104

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