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 7, 1993

July 7, 1993 - schools and public libraries

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what kind of relationship makes sense between the public school and the public library.

Clearly, we cover a lot of the same ground. Both institutions are publicly-funded, both of us buy books, and I hope both of us come to mind when parents want to help their children learn something about the world around them.

There are areas where our services overlap, and other areas where we go out of our way to cooperate with one another.

Most of the overlap happens between school and public libraries. In both these organizations, you'll find children's literature. You'll also find lots of general non-fiction materials.

Both organizations teach children how to use the library. In the schools, this tends to be a more formal and regular process. At the public library, generally we only provide instruction to whole classes when a teacher asks us to. Otherwise, our instruction tends to be on a more individual basis.

The Douglas Public Library District even offers a special Teacher Library Card -- which allows classroom instructors serving Douglas County students to check out our books to supplement the resources available to them through the schools. In turn, several schools in Douglas County have adopted the Colorado Library Card, which opens up their doors to parents and community members.

A more recent sign of cooperation between the Douglas County School District and the Douglas Public Library District is our submission to the Colorado State Library of a grant for over $11,000. I'm very pleased to report that we got it, too.

This project, called "The Electronic Highway," will enable us to place, by this fall, DPLD computer catalog terminals and a PC- based reference workstation in three outlying elementary schools: Roxborough, Larkspur, and Cherry Valley. The school district will even provide delivery services back and forth between each school and the public library -- helping us to get library materials out to the people who don't happen to live close to one of our branches.

Beyond all this, it seems to me that school and public librarians just plain like each other.

But there are differences as well. School libraries have as their primary responsibility the support of the curriculum. Assuming they know what the curriculum is, and they've got some money, they can succeed at this task, providing precisely targeted materials to accomplish instructional goals.

The public library serves a broader clientele, and therefore requires a broader range of materials. Public library collections are more diffuse, less focused. Our mission is to represent some reasonable cross-sampling of the literature of our entire culture, with attention to the special needs of various age groups, from pre-school to senior citizen.

Unlike the school libraries, we can never succeed at this task -- until American and world culture itself becomes well-organized, which I find unlikely.

Sometimes, it may seem that our missions have been confused, and even reversed. In some schools, the focus has shifted away from formal instruction in reading, and toward a greater emphasis on recreational reading. But then some parents turn to us for curricular support, especially in such areas as phonics.

On occasion, the public library has even sponsored classes. For instance, Les Simonson has taught several classes at the public library on the writing of short stories and mysteries.

On the other hand, public libraries sponsoring classes on writing is like a restaurant sponsoring classes on cooking. It's just planning for the future.

The public library also makes space for individual literacy tutoring, provided through the Adult Center for Training. But again, you could argue that such an arrangement is in our own best interests. People who can't read don't use libraries.

Over the next couple of months, the Philip S. Miller Library will offer two kinds of support for yet another player. You may have read in the paper about the Academy Charter School. This is an attempt to form an alternative, publicly-funded elmentary school in Douglas County, under recent enabling legislation by the state.

Materials provided by the organizers of the charter school will be available at the Philip S. Miller reference desk. Completed forms (indicating interest in participating) may also be returned to the reference desk.

Ultimately, it seems to me that the public is well-served by alternatives. Let's face it: there's a big informational, educational, and intellectual marketplace out there. The wise consumer shops around.

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