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, February 2, 1994

February 2, 1994 - Mrs. Gilmore and reading with the enemy

Mrs. Gilmore, my fifth grade teacher, always said that good writing was good thinking, and good thinking is always charming and admirable. Ultimately, she believed that good writing lead to good friends.

Now, I'm not so sure.

Last week, I wrote about the CHILD proposal to establish a new "anti-obscenity" law. I also laid out some of the reasons I oppose it.

About a month before that, I wrote an article for a national library magazine about how a public library should strive to collect materials from all over the political and religious spectrum. I said that many public libraries don't collect representative materials from a so-called "fundamentalist Christian" perspective.

But there's a growing audience for such materials. And while no group has "special rights" to our collections, librarians have to be careful that they don't ignore certain groups altogether. I wrote, "Fundamentalist Christians have the same rights to our collection as any other minority: the opportunity to state their case, without endorsement or prejudice on our part."

At the time, I didn't think either piece was especially controversial, especially given the perspective of my profession. But apparently, I was wrong. I got two letters this week that expressed strong disapproval of my opinions. Both of them were from librarians.

One accused me of being liberal to the point of supporting pederasty. (She had read the first article.) The other wrote that I had "slapped the face" of gay and lesbian librarians with my "thoughtless bigotry." (She had read the second article.)

In other words, my colleagues have labeled me a left wing, godless, fundamentalist conservative. I'll admit to this: there aren't many of us left.

But seriously, how either one of these readers reached their conclusions I cannot imagine. I have myself concluded that some people are so eager to take offense that they can find it anywhere.

Still, it's pretty rare that I get any letters at all. And I've heard it said that every time somebody does write a letter, there are at least ten to a hundred more people who feel the same way. (Although in my case, so far, they kind of cancel each other out.)

I have noticed that it tends to be the people who get easily outraged that write the most letters. The more middle-of-the-road, thoughtful, tolerant folks see something in a newspaper or magazine and think, "That's interesting. A little off-the-wall, probably wrong, but interesting." And that's it.

But someone at one extreme or the other is INCENSED that anybody could entertain for an INSTANT such a preposterous, insulting, damaging, completely DANGEROUS notion. So they swing into action, rallying the troops, encouraging them to fire off a volley of indignant missives.

On the other hand, such letters make for entertaining newspapers and magazines. In fact, the editor of the magazine for which I wrote the second piece was thrilled that I'd gotten someone mad enough to pen a protest. A little controversy sells more issues. She'd been worried that her periodical had become too innocuous, too bland. No editor wants the epitaph: "Excited Little Response." If too many people agree with you, she told me, you probably haven't said much.

So Mrs. Gilmore, wherever you are now, I'm confused. People in the business are telling me that good writing makes enemies. I was worried that I was just writing badly.

But you were correct about one thing: the friends I do make are good ones.

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