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 4, 1993

August 4, 1993 - carbureators and charter schools

Years back, in a fit of greed and fiscal overconfidence, I bought a used car that had a high performance twin carburetor. Naturally, this gizmo failed within hours after I took possession of the title.

After a dismal and dirty session under the hood, I finally admitted that the carburetor was beyond me. So I yanked it out and took it to a mechanic, who immediately commenced to do some mighty peculiar things.

To make conversation, and because I was curious, I asked him what he was doing. Silently, he handed me the carburetor. I jiggled it, then returned it with a puzzled shrug.

"I'm not a teacher," he said heavily. "I'm a mechanic."

I got the point. A while later, he did fix it, and considerably poorer, I slunk away.

I realize that this runs contrary to current societal trends, but I think almost anything we need to do in life can be learned after just a little study. But maybe that's a reasonable opinion for a librarian. Call it a professional bias.

It's not that I think mechanics, lawyers, doctors, teachers, real estate agents, and so on, are dishonest. All of us have at least some things we'd just as soon somebody else figured out for us. I don't begrudge people their areas of interest, specialty, or real talent.

But we ought not to be too quick to relinquish our independence of judgment. All of us can think of at least one time when a so- called "expert" wanted to charge us exorbitant fees for something that might have taken fifteen minutes of research, and five minutes of actual labor.

And I don't mean to suggest that members of my own profession are above all this. I myself have run across several librarians who made it eminently clear to me that my puny ignorance was an affront to their sophisticated data retrieval skills.

I recognize that some people, when they do manage to make it to a library, don't have the slightest interest in how we organize our collections, or train our staff. Likewise, most of us, when we take in our car for repairs, really don't want a lecture in automotive maintenance -- we just want it fixed. In libraries, most people just want some books or some answers.

But cheap information is precisely the point of libraries. It's not only our job to dig up the answer for you, it is our sacred duty to tell you how we found it -- provided you're interested.

As Francis Bacon put it over 300 years ago, "Knowledge is power." With public libraries, you've already paid for it. You can pick it up retail or wholesale.

It's up to you.

And speaking of wanting to know something about the nuts and bolts of things, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock now has a copy of the Academy Charter School application to the Douglas County School District. It's in the reference department, call number 371.02 ACA.

This 600+ page document -- largely the work of local resident Joan Torres -- represents a staggering amount of work. It provides a detailed description of just what the charter school stands for, and spells out how it plans to operate.

The Charter School people will also be holding some free public information sessions at the Philip S. Miller Library meeting room on the following dates and times: Tuesday, August 10; Wednesday, August 11 and Monday, August 30. On the first two days, there will be sessions: one at 7:30 a.m., and a second at 10 a.m. On the 30th, there will also be a third meeting at 7 p.m. The sessions should last from one to two hours.

The Douglas County School District Board has until September 12 to accept or reject the application. If you have an interest in this subject, you might want to find out more about it before that vote is taken.

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