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 31, 1995

May 31, 1995 - media center programs and California

In recent months, a lot of Californians have moved to Colorado. This column is for them. And it may contain a lesson for the rest of us, too.

On June 17, 1992, I summarized in this column a comprehensive two year study, conducted in Colorado. This study conclusively demonstrated that the greatest single predictor of school test scores -- beyond all other school characteristics -- is the school media (library) program. The stronger the school library (as reflected by the size of the collection and the ratio of staff to students), the better the academic achievement of the student.

Now let's talk about the great California "Tax Revolt" -- Proposition 13, adopted by California voters in 1978.

According to a recent article by Michael Gorman in a magazine called "School Library Journal," "More than half of California's school libraries closed between 1982 and 1992; the state is dead last in the ratio of librarians to students (it would take more than 3,000 additional school librarians to move the state to 49th place); and, only 32 percent of school libraries have a certified librarian on staff (in elementary schools, 21 percent). The ratio of librarians to students is 1:6,248 (the national average is 1:722). The national average school library book budget per student is $7.47 -- in California it is 78 cents. Eighty-five percent of non-fiction titles in our school libraries are more than 10 years old. The truth is that a prison inmate in California has a much better chance of good library service than a public school student."

The effect of Prop 13 on many other institutions -- public libraries among them -- is now indisputable. To quote from a book called "California and the American Tax Revolt," published way back in 1984, "California's public libraries have weathered the financial setbacks about as well as books left in the rain."

Gorman, dean of library services at the California State University in Fresno, points up another problem: the need for "remedial reading" courses at the university, students who lack the most basic of library skills, and incoming freshman whose sole experience with computers is ... Nintendo.

Now I don't know exactly what brought folks from California to Douglas County. Certainly, the county has much to offer: great natural beauty, still largely unspoiled; homes that are far more affordable than homes in California; relatively few earthquakes; generally speaking, little crime; schools and libraries that have, I believe, good reputations.

All of these things are worthwhile. And as a transplant from out-of-state myself (I hail from Illinois), I'm not about to say Californians aren't welcome. No one is so rich that he or she can't afford a few more good neighbors.

But it's all too easy, in times abuzz with talk of "growth management," to focus on such things as roads and bridges; it's all too easy to ignore such pains in the pocket book as public education expenditures -- which includes libraries.

After all, you see the effect of a pothole right away. (Which reminds me, a big thanks to the Schmidt Construction folks, who during a brief moment of calm between snow storms, rainstorms, and sunny weather last week, managed to patch our Philip S. Miller Library parking lot.)

Potholes are obvious. But it takes a little longer to find out the hidden cost of skimping on literacy.

Maybe thanks to the California experience, Colorado won't have to.

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