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, June 15, 1994

June 15, 1994 - Ben Franklin

Sometimes things start coming together in an interesting and wholly unexpected way.

Item: a long-time friend of mine, Heidi, is getting married. I met her when she was 6 and I was 13, and we've managed to stay in touch these past 26 years. Recently, her boyfriend, Glenn, proposed to her on one of Los Angeles's cable TV stations. It was done as a mock call-in show, airing on Valentine's Day. The show was very touching, very clever, and very funny, especially the rap session ("Yo Heidi, Yo Heidi"). She said, "Yes."

They decided to get married at her father's farm in upstate New York. Her father is an actor, well-known both for his long-running part on As the World Turns, and for his many critically-acclaimed stage performances. He's rented out a bed and breakfast place for the guests. So I'm taking some vacation time and my family is going to New York.

Item: it's a little cheaper to fly into Philadelphia than to Newark. I visited Philadelphia some years back and liked the city. So we decided we'd poke around a little before driving up to the wedding.

My wife instantly commenced her usual systematic sweep of library materials. For those of you who haven't thought about this before, think about it now: the public library is definitely the place to start when you're planning a trip. Suzanne (my wife) amassed an amazing pile of stuff: travel guides, road maps, regional food guides, Smithsonian publications, Amtrak videos, and much, much more. In one of her books, she found out about the Franklin Institute, a museum focused on Benjamin Franklin.

Item: when my father-in-law heard that we were going to the Franklin Institute, he told us that he was just that day talking to someone at the Smithsonian. It seems my father-in-law, by way of his mother's grandfather, had come into possession of a writing table, chair, and portrait, purchased long ago at a London auction. They have been authenticated as having been the property of -- you guessed it -- Benjamin Franklin. The portrait, incidentally, is OF Franklin, done by one of his British admirers.

My father-in-law was originally interested in donating the pieces to the Smithsonian, but they hadn't shown much interest. So he made a call to the Franklin Institute, and mentioned to their staff person that his daughter and son-in-law would be out to see the place just the next week.

Item: This staff person knew who I was; she was a regular reader of the pieces I write for a national library magazine, published in New York. I'll be honest: I don't think I have all that many regular readers in Philadelphia.

Item: just the next day, the editors of that magazine invited us to swing by and go out to dinner with them. They'd heard from yet another source that we were going to be in the area.

So finally, in addition to having the great pleasure of seeing Heidi marry a good man who loves her, my wife and I will be emissaries of a Benjamin Franklin donation. Meanwhile, the family will also get to see the Liberty Bell, have a chance to roam around some lushly forested landscapes, and even be feted in the Big Apple.

Item: Benjamin Franklin, by-the-bye, formed the first subscription library in the United States. He is also famous for his Poor Richard's Almanac, one of the great publishing successes of the period. Especially now, I think of him as a sort of honorary librarian, reaching out across the centuries to spice up the vacation of another librarian.

Thanks, Ben. Now we'll see what we can do for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 1994

June 8, 1994 - Summer Reading Program video

Several weeks ago, Carol Foreman, our children's librarian, came up with a bright idea. Why not make a library video to advertise this year's Summer Reading Program? She broached the idea to a local teacher (Karen Woods) and to a local parent/library volunteer (Laurel Iakovakis). Just a few weeks later, with the friendly and thoroughly professional assistance of the Arapahoe Community College, we've GOT a library video.

Most of the video involved children from the Academy Charter School. They wrote charming, sometimes very funny book reviews, memorized their own scripts, and put on some first class performances. They not only promoted their favorite books, they also get in a couple of plugs for the Douglas Public Library District.

They even let me be in the video -- twice (yet another advantage to being the boss). First, I got to introduce it. The ACC producers, at the suggestion of the kids in the studio audience, "beamed" me onto the set to say a few words. When I showed the final product to my daughter -- library shot, a silhouette of singing blue specks, then, suddenly, ME -- she said, with awe in her voice, "Daddy, how did you DO that?"

"Practice," I told her smugly. "And besides, I read a lot."

Second, I got to do the voice-over at the end of the piece. I talked about some of the things the library has got planned for this summer. To keep things interesting, the TV people put up some occasionally hilarious footage.

In some ways, it's kind of ironic: using a video to push books. But the way I see it, we'd be fools not to take advantage of every advertising tool at our disposal. We're not just pushing puffery here; we've got a product that stands for something.

The theme for this year's program is the same around the entire state of Colorado: Caught in the Book Web. So you'll probably see all kinds of (non-scary) spider art this summer. The idea is obvious: get caught up in books, and you'll find it hard to get out again. We hope.

The kickoff for this summer's program, at all of our branches, will be Sunday, June 12. Each of our branches will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.

Our Summer Reading effort is underwritten this year by our friends at TeleCommunications, Inc., and the Highlands Ranch Foundation. In addition to the usual book lists and prizes, the library will be providing a gaggle of unusual programs.

Here are the ones we'll hold not only at each of our branches, but for the first time ever, at our satellite libraries in Cherry Valley, Larkspur, and Roxborough.

HERPETOLOGY: Guided by the Colorado Herpetology Society, come get an up-close-and-personal view of some of your favorite reptiles and amphibians.

DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S K-9 UNIT: These 4 legged critters will thrill you with their skill and abilities. Come join us and meet the dogs of the K-9 unit.

DOG OBEDIENCE: Bring your own dog and learn the basics in obedience, or just come and watch. Also, we'll have a demonstration using the "smartest" dog in the world -- the Border Collie.

BEETLES, BUGS, BUTTERFLIES AND BOOKS: Take a closer look at the amazing little world of insects and their relatives. Explore with the Butterfly Consortium and see live spiders, scorpions, centipedes and other arthropods.

We'll also be having some other programs that we couldn't schedule for every location. Among these are CUTUPS CARRY ON (all ages); DREAMCATCHER (ages 5 and up); JUST FOR FUN: a preposterous play and silly songs (all ages); BUGS AND BEASTS (ages 3 and up); and SPIDER STORYTELLING (ages 5 and up). To find out which of these will be appearing at your branch, pick up one of our new calendar/bookmarks.