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 3, 1995

May 3, OKC

It's been an odd week.

First, I got flown out to Boston (with about 50 other folks) to attend a 2 day focus group on a new electronic product -- full text periodical and reference information, delivered to your computer screen or fax. You'll be seeing it at DPLD this July.

Second, after just one night at home, I got flown to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I was a last minute substitute speaker for Dennis Day. Dennis is the City Librarian of Salt Lake City, and one of the most respected leaders in librarianship. Recently he was discovered to have an inoperable brain tumor. He is 52 years old.

Originally and ironically, Dennis had been asked by the Oklahoma Library Association to address their annual conference about a terrorist attack at his library some months ago. An armed gunman took several staff and patrons hostage. In the background, some courageous and remarkably cool-headed employees quietly whisked every child and most adults out of the building. Finally, one of the hostages -- an off-duty law enforcement professional -- subdued the terrorist. No one was injured.

My talk wasn't about anything so interesting. Thank God. But I sure heard a lot about terrorism.

One of the librarians in my session had lost three friends in the Oklahoma City bombing. Fighting back tears, she described a "torment" in her soul.

On the one hand, she said she still recognized her professional obligation to maintain full access to the wide world of print materials, even including the gun books, the mercenary magazines, and the detailed techno-thrillers that are often requested by some patrons, and therefore stocked by some libraries.

On the other hand, she said she wanted to throw on a bonfire every scrap of paper that advocated the violent destruction of human beings. She set she'd set it ablaze herself.

On my way back, I set off the Tulsa airport security alarm, even though I had emptied all my pockets, and taken off my watch. It turned out that the alarm had been set off by the steel shanks in my boots.

"That's a pretty sensitive detector," I said to the guard, who finally cleared me.

"Since Oklahoma City," he said, then stopped. "We don't want anything like that to happen here."

As I had a cup of coffee, I met another librarian, waiting for her flight to western Oklahoma. She was worried. "It was a great tragedy," she said. "But I'm concerned by the kinds of things I hear people talking about -- the influence of talk radio, the need for broader police powers, the disturbing messages of some books in some libraries. I think many -- maybe too many -- Oklahomans want to do SOMETHING so desperately that they'll trade away all their civil liberties for the illusion of safety."

Like every place else I've been, Oklahoma has some wonderful people. Most of the folks I met were wide open -- friendly, funny, warm and often wise.

But the horrifying death of over 100 neighbors and friends has hit them hard. And it will take some time to work it all through.

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