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, August 25, 1993

August 25, 1993 - staff day

I'm the eldest of five kids. Both of my parents worked. Our only family vacation usually fell smack in the middle of our long summer break from school. Every year, we went the only place our parents could afford to take us: my mother's folks. The trip (to Findlay, Ohio) was some 300 miles, or about 6 hours. To a small child, especially a child crammed into a Ford with four other children, it was a looong trip.

But it was worth it. Not only was I crazy about my grandparents, I also got to spend some time with my cousins.

It was at my mother's funeral, many years later, that the cousins realized just how much we missed seeing each other. So we started having family reunions.

It was always amazing to me how many memories they sparked. Inevitably, one of us would dredge up some odd little bit of family history. Up until that moment, most of us had forgotten all about it. But once reminded, all of us remembered it. In a surprisingly important way, those reunions made us whole, bound us together again as a family. Together, we figured out the ways we were alike. This, in turn, strengthened us, sent us back into the world knowing that somewhere out there, we had allies, people you could count on, people who were there for you, people who remembered the same things you did.

I find that the Douglas Public Library District is now in need of a reunion.

Over the past three years, the district has gone through explosive changes. Three years ago, we had 34 employees. Now, after greatly increasing our hours and opening a new branch, we have 70, many of whom have never even met each other. Much like a scattered family, the various libraries need to spend some time together again. We need to talk about our shared past. We need to re-identify our common links, our common purpose. And we need to talk about our joint future.

In the state of Colorado, the new Access Colorado Library and Information Network may well transform the way we do business. The Americans with Disabilities Act has some significant ramifications for public entities. There are many other issues to consider, too.

And at least once a year, I think our employees would like a chance to hear the "state of the library district" address. They also need - and deserve - an opportunity to ask some hard questions about where we're going and why.

All of this is by way of explaining why the Douglas Public Library District branches will be closed on Friday, August 27. This will be our first annual Staff Day.

Why did we pick August 27? We know from carefully scrutinized statistics that Fridays tend to be our very slowest days (based on the number of books checked out). Statistically speaking, the last week of August tends to be just about our slowest period in the year. The library is open 7 days a week. In fact, we're closed just 8 days per year. But that commitment to public service means that it's mighty hard to find a time when we can get everybody in the same room at the same time.

So from now on, we're going to set aside one day each year when we will pull everyone together, bring in some speakers on important subjects, hit our major training issues, and map out our plans for the next year.

I apologize to those of you who had planned to come to the library that day. But I do believe that when you come in the next day, you'll find a staff that has reaffirmed its connection to a rich family history. The payoff, if I'm right, is a more closely coordinated service philosophy, a better-informed staff, and ultimately, greater patron satisfaction.

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