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, February 28, 1996

February 28, 1996 - computers in libraries too much?

As I write this, I'm off for a week-long conference called "Computers in Libraries." As always before a long trip, I'm grappling with an essential question: which books should I pack?

There are many dimensions to the question. This trip, I have two main concerns. First, how much will they weigh? (I've got to lug them in and out of airports.) Second, can I find something that will go the distance, something that will both last 5 days AND engage me enough to partially address the absence of wife and children?

The more I've thought about this, the more I've learned about myself. I've decided that I read for just four reasons.

Here's one of them: I gotta. This is perfectly captured by the protagonist in science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein's "Glory Road," first published in 1963: "The truth is, I've got a monkey on my back, a habit worse than marijuana though not as expensive as heroin. I can stiff it out and get to sleep anyway, but .... The fact is I am a compulsive reader. Thirty-five cents' worth of Gold Medal Original will put me right to sleep. Or Perry Mason. But I'll read the ads in an old Paris-Match that has been used to wrap herring before I'll do without."

Here's the second reason: to share. For the past 8 years I've read children's literature aloud to my children, nearly every day. Maddy is our first child (8 years old now). These days, we're reading the American Girls series and Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby books.

Then came Perry (just 2 years old). We're starting all over again with some of the favorites -- "Good Night Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, to name one of the very best. But Perry has a different take on some of these things. In "Good Night Moon" he looks for the mouse. Maddy looked at the colors.

There may be better moments in life than having the flesh of your flesh snuggle up against you and say, "book!" But there aren't many.

Here's the third reason: to dream. Some folks call it "escapism." But this suggests that reading is running from life. That's wrong.

I think that when people dive into a work of fiction -- whether it be science fiction, or mystery, or historical romance, or best seller -- they're not running away from anything. Instead, they're looking to live in a world where things happen because they are meant to happen, a world where the logic is clear. They are looking for something more than the random incidents that make up so much of our waking lives.

In just the same way, we close our eyes each night, and our marvelous minds generate stories -- little plays in which everything stands for something. We wake up refreshed, a little wiser, a little more hopeful than we went to sleep, whether we realize it or not.

The fourth reason is to learn. There are times when I am overwhelmed by my own ignorance. I work in a library, and just to walk from my office to the circulation desk -- a distance of a few hundred feet -- is a profoundly humbling experience.

Most of us, even if willing and able to dedicate a lifetime to concentrated effort, won't read as much as a single range of shelves.

One shelf is 3 feet long. A range -- both sides of a set of shelving, or an "aisle" -- equals approximately 84 shelves.

Yet one range contains such a small portion of what the human race has so painfully discovered in its recorded history.

I've settled on two books for my trip. One is "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler. I bought it for two bucks from Hooked on Books in Castle Rock. The second is "Future Libraries" by Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman. I've decided this trip should be educational.

Here's hoping to learn something.

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