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, May 25, 1994

May 25, 1994 - living for the future

Years ago, author Ayn Rand wrote, "He who lives for the future, lives in it now."

More and more of my time, I find, is spent in the not-so-simple task of anticipating the future. Sometimes, the best information is right at hand. Other times, that information is to be found in the dilemmas of libraries scattered from one ocean to another.

Why worry about something that hasn't gotten here yet? For Douglas County, now the fastest-growing county in the nation, the future is the single most significant pressure ON the present.

For any organization, it takes time to develop new services. To keep up with the many new challenges addressing publicly-funded institutions, libraries sometimes have to scramble.

If public institutions concentrate their efforts on meeting the service pressures they experience right now, then they'll never catch up. If, on the other hand, they try to address the needs they'll have to face in a somewhat longer period, then they have at least some chance to deliver the goods.

About once every three years or so, a friend of mine who's the director of a library system in New York state flies me out to talk to his colleagues and staff. I talk about the trends I've seen back here in Colorado. I talk about what we're doing to get ready for the new challenges to library service. Meanwhile, I get a chance to snoop around another library community, and see what's on people's minds.
Well, I just got back, and it will come as a surprise to no one that things are different back East, at least in one respect. According to the staff of most of the libraries in and around upstate New York, circulation (the number of books that get checked out) is dropping.

Depending on the branch, the Douglas Public Library District is anywhere from 22 to 42 percent BUSIER than last year. How come? In part, it's demographics: we have lots of well-educated, white-collar workers, whose children have an insatiable appetite for picture books. In part, it's because we are among the most shameless promoters of library services in the country.

Another New York trend is the rise of challenges to library materials. More and more people are coming in to the library to announce that they find something so offensive that NOBODY should be allowed to read it. This trend is right in keeping with what's happening here.

What I find most interesting about all these challenges is where they come from -- the Boomers, my own generation. The Flower children of the sixties are turning into moralists, energizing the mini-movements of both political correctitude and religious fundamentalism. By contrast, the next-older generations are far more tolerant of differences in lifestyle and perspective.

Another trend is alternative education. In New York as in Colorado ever-greater numbers of home schoolers are showing up at the public library, and most public libraries aren't quite sure what to do about it. In Colorado (and elsewhere around the country), we also have charter school students.

While no one knows where this trend is going, librarians are taking a critical new look at their collections, wondering if our materials are well-matched to this new demand for service. The probable outcome, at least in the short term, is lots more non-fiction for children. That isn't a bad idea anyhow.
The other big issue in New York is the Internet, the linking of more and more computers into larger and larger networks. As in Colorado, librarians are seeing the need for more training in the navigation of the still-developing "information highway." We're all convinced that there's good stuff out there. The question now is how to find it.

You can expect to see more about all these topics in the months to come. For now, it appears that the Douglas Public Library District is ahead of the curve.

But time will tell.

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