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.

Saturday, November 26, 1994

November 26, 1994 - thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It has that cozy feeling of settling in for the winter, touching base with friends and family, and not to be overlooked, building up the reserves of body fat. You never know when you might need some extra body fat.

Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving hasn't been so commercialized. You don't have to buy anybody anything. Although you usually bring food to the occasion, so does everyone else, and you all get to eat it.

Besides which, the holiday has a nice message: let us be thankful. On behalf of the Douglas Public Library District, let me say that we have much for which to be thankful.

* Our patrons. You so clearly love books, and not a day goes by without one of you taking the time to tell us something nice. You bring your children to see us, you trust us to provide solid information, and you're always interesting to talk to. On top of that, you pay our salaries. No business has better customers.

* Our Library Board of Trustees. Here's the roll call: Maren Francis, Cindy Hegy, Juli Lester, Tom McKenzie, Bob McLaughlin, Sue Meacham, and Jerry Poston. These people donate many, many hours of their time to oversee library finances, set library policy, establish long range planning objectives, make sure I'm doing the things I ought to be doing, and much more. Douglas County is fortunate to have one of the best public library boards in the state: fiscally conservative, actionoriented, and thoroughly convinced of the need for strong library services. Most of our Trustees are also regular customers, and bring a sharp service perspective to all our operations.

* Our staff. They're friendly. They're knowledgeable. They're interesting in their own right, and interestED in the lives of our patrons. In general, they're a lively bunch of people who clearly care about library service. Every single accomplishment the Douglas Public Library District has made is directly attributable to the high standards of service they have established, and they maintain, day after day, right at the "front line," which is where it counts. I am VERY thankful for them.

* Our collection. The growth in our collection of materials (books, videotapes, audiocassettes, magazines, pamphlets, electronic reference tools) is amazing. Over 10 percent of our purchases are direct requests from our patrons. This gives us the chance to let our collection grow in areas that the people who use the collection most want it to grow.

As a result, the collections of our branches aren't very much like one another. They reflect the unique interests and needs of the areas they serve. They have character, and are as fascinating and unpredictable as the communities they mirror.

* The opportunity to serve. While all the above are significant, we are especially grateful for the chance to deliver library services to county residents. We have a product that absolutely cannot be beat. We have people who want it, and tell us, and thank us for doing it.

From all of us at DPLD, have a great holiday.

Wednesday, November 16, 1994

November 16, 1994 - 3 week loan period

It all started when a patron came in to talk to me about our children's videos. His young son liked to watch most of the videos he borrowed from us at least three times. But with a two day check out period, that was difficult. Sometimes, one of the parents remembered to phone in a renewal. But the family found itself hit with fines fairly frequently.

The father had obviously spent some time thinking about this. Usually, he said, the videos his son wanted were in, which meant that the selection was broad enough that people didn't have to wait long to get the one they wanted.

Would we be willing to consider a 4 day checkout for children's videos?

I told him that I really wasn't sure where the two day loan period had come from, but that I'd look into it, and get back to him.

Well, it turns out that the loan period was a carry-over from the days when the library really didn't have that many videos, and we were trying to keep them moving. But the parent had a point: times have changed.

I took a poll of all the staff, and the majority opinion was that a four day loan period was in fact a better loan period for those materials. So effective January 1, 1995, we'll make the change. (January is the beginning of our new statistical period.)

But all this got me thinking about the loan period for most of our other materials. That's two weeks. Would three weeks be better?

This year -- probably around the second week in December -- the library will check out a million items. As I've mentioned before, this puts us in the big leagues of Colorado public libraries. In addition, over the past four years, our collection has grown from about 65,000 volumes to almost 200,000.


* Most metropolitan libraries, especially larger libraries, have a loan period of 3 weeks. Most smaller libraries have the 2 week loan.

* Many surveys in public library literature indicate a strong patron preference for a 3 week loan (as opposed to 2 or 4). Most patrons claim that 2 weeks is too short to work through several books, but that 4 weeks is so long that people forget what they have.

* Most people do keep out their materials till near the end of their loan period. In other words, a three week loan means slightly fewer books are on the shelf at any given time. The advantage to the library is that this eases the space constraints. The library can accommodate more materials with the same shelving.

* Moving from a two to a three week loan period tends to have two short-term effects for a library. First, it lowers the number of checkouts. People may well read (as in, "actually finish") more books, but they don't have to make so many visits to get them. This tends to lower the work load for staff a little bit.

Second, fewer checkouts and longer loan periods translate to fewer overdues. In turn, that means a drop in the production of notices (and the time it takes to print, fold, and run them through our postage meter). Postage is expected to have at least a 10% hike in 1995, and some sources have predicted a 71% jump.

My staff has raised the issue of a 3 week loan period several times over the past couple of years, but it just may be that the time has come to do it.

Why now? Because we've come to the end of our first planning cycle. With the renovation of our Philip S. Miller and Oakes Mill libraries, the establishment and subsequent expansion of our Highlands Ranch Library, and the purchase and future remodeling of our new Parker Library, the library has done about all it can do for new facilities.

If we continue to buy new materials at our current rate -- and in fact, we expect to increase that rate slightly -- we'll reach building capacity at most locations in just a few years. By stretching out the loan period, I hope to stretch out the period of time before our building (and financial) needs become acute.

I'm still exploring this issue, and won't make a decision until December. If you have thoughts about this, write me at 961 S. Plum Creek Blvd, Castle Rock CO 80104, call me 688-8752, or (for you Internet, American Online or CompuServe travelers) e-mail me at jlarue@csn.org. I'd like to hear from you.