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, December 7, 1994

December 7, 1994 - one million books

On the eve of my 13th birthday, my favorite aunt asked me to sit down for a little talk. "Tomorrow," she said, "something horrible will happen to you. It will last for about 7 years. Please don't take this personally, but I really don't want to talk to you for that period."

I laughed. "Aunt Edith," I said, "just because I'll be a teenager doesn't mean that I'll be any different."

"Oh yes it does," she said. "And it's awful."

I don't know how to explain this, but the very next day, I had an uncontrollable urge to buy a polka dot sweatshirt and shades. At almost precisely that moment, I developed strong musical preferences that seemed -- at least to those around me -- predicated on how offensive they were to my parents.

In short, my aunt was right. The teen years were, even for me, mostly horrible. It's that time when you're no longer allowed to be a child, but nobody will let you be an adult. It was a time, I do believe, when what I really needed was some kind of special rite of passage. Our culture isn't very good about providing those.

It was a time of transition, a time of development and/or reinvention of a personality. Therefore, life often felt awkward. I made mistakes, then struggled to learn from them.

It isn't surprising that public institutions -- being founded by people, and consisting of nothing BUT people -- mirror human growth. The Douglas Public Library District has in just four years gone from being among the quieter public libraries in Colorado to being the fifth busiest (after Denver, Jeffco, Pikes Peak, Arapahoe, and Aurora, all of them serving a much larger population base). This is a lot like growing 4 inches a year. We've had growing pains, right down to our bones.

This month, probably sometime around the 17th, our library will celebrate the checkout of our one millionth item in 1994. Since we won't know exactly where that will occur, we'll plan some kind of surprise for whoever checks out the millionth item AT EACH BRANCH.

If you'd like to help us track how quickly we're approaching this milestone in our development, you can get a daily update. From any of our computers, type BB (for Bulletin Board) from our main menu. I'll post the date, the current circulation count, and how many checkouts still remain.

A million items: that's a lot of books, magazines, videotapes, and books on tape. Over a quarter of those will be children's picture books. Almost a hundred thousand will be audiocassettes. As always, however, the overwhelming majority of our business continues to involve books.

Reaching the million mark represents both a quantitative and a qualitative change. Libraries that do that volume of business cannot quite operate the way smaller libraries do. Changes will be with us for a long time to come.

For instance, next year, we're going to be making some adjustments in our loan periods. I got many calls, e-mail messages, and letters about my proposal to go to a 3-week loan period for most materials. To date, all my public messages endorse the change; none oppose it. So come January, we'll do it. We'll also lengthen our loan period for videos.

As a result, in 1995, it's likely that our circulation count will drop back below a million. The shorter loan period makes items move faster.

Nonetheless, we won't be moving backward. We're just going to have to get used to being one of the bigger -- and better -- libraries in Colorado.

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