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, July 17, 1996

July 17, 1996 - Libraries Close for District-Wide Inventory

In 1990, the Douglas Public Library District owned 65,000 items. Now we own 240,000.

Or do we? Well, our computer says we do. Of course, a certain amount of those items are checked out at any given moment. It's also true that some of them don't come back, although eventually they get deleted from our database.

But some of them also get stolen -- just walk out the door. How many? We don't know.

A great number of them get misplaced. My son Perry, who's 2 now, likes to pull titles from one bin in the children's area, exclaim over them, then carefully put them back in another bin altogether. I scoot along behind him and put things right. But I'm not always right there, kids move pretty fast, and Perry is not the only little one who enjoys this game.

Grown-ups do the same thing, selecting an item, looking it over, and sticking it back somewhere close to the right place, but not quite. Multiply this by literally tens of thousands of transactions over the course of a year, and it's hard to know what's where.

The result? You can't find the book the computer says we own. Librarians can't find the books they need to answer reference questions. Popular new materials get swallowed into little pockets of chaos.

Naturally, we do try to stay ahead of the problem with something called "shelf-reading" -- going through the shelves and putting things back in order. But more and more people come to the library these days, and they check out more and more books. To be brutally frank, it's time for us to attack this problem in a big way, with all-out concentration and force.

So the library will be doing its first ever district-wide inventory. Each of our libraries will be closed in turn as teams of computer-wand-wielding librarians handle every single item we own, then put them where they belong.

The schedule for closings looks like this:

Oakes Mill Library - August 1 and 2 Highlands Ranch Library - August 4, 5, and 6 Parker Library - August 8, 9, 10 Philip S. Miller Library - August 14, 15, 16.

We'll be moving at a pretty fast clip through all these collections, and hope to wrap it up on schedule. Emphasis on "hope." It's possible that the schedule won't hold.

We'll make sure that none of the items you check out will fall due on these days. And since we'll be closing the libraries in sequence, you'll still be able to phone or visit the other libraries. Think of it as "Reading Douglas County: a Literary and Architectural Tour." You'll find that each of our libraries has a distinct personality, reflecting the differences in its materials, its furnishings, its neighborhood, and its staff. One thing won't change: good service at each location, and lots of good things to choose from.

When we're done, we'll clean up our computer records, calculate our loss rate, replace the popular or core materials that have disappeared, and revel in the brief moment of glory that comes from knowing that all our shelves are in perfect order.

Then we'll open the doors, and you'll be able to find things again.

Thanks for your understanding.

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