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 4, 1998

February 4, 1998 Loan Period Change

I need some advice.

As I’ve written before, the library is trying to buy enough new books to meet a minimum standard of two items per person.

But we have two problems. The first is that the population of Douglas County keeps growing. We bought twice as many materials last year as the year before. By the end of the year, we had fewer items per person than ever. Frustrating.

The second problem is that we’re running out of space. It’s not a problem at Parker (our newest and largest library). It won’t be a problem at Oakes Mill when the new library is done. At the Philip S. Miller we can stuff a year’s worth of materials into the building while we work on a modest expansion. At Highlands Ranch, we’re crammed right now, and it’s two years before the new library can be built and opened.

So my managers have come up with a suggestion. Change our standard loan period from 3 weeks to 4 weeks.

Here are the pros and cons as I see them.


The longer loan period means you have to make fewer trips to the library. (Unless you're getting kid's books, in which case you'll probably still come in once a week.) Most likely, a longer loan period means you’ll take more books per trip. That’s a convenience for many people. For the library, that means that more books are out at any given time. In turn, that means we have more space to put new materials.

Because hotter items (bestsellers or items that often have long reserve lists) would move more slowly, we would buy more copies. Instead of buying one book for every four requests, we would buy one for every three. So we’d have more high demand books (although again, books on hold aren’t on the shelf -- they’re checked out). That cuts down on your waiting time, but still gives us more shelf space.

Another advantage is simpler rules. I’d take the occasion to make most materials follow the same basic procedures: 1 month checkout plus another month renewal if nobody has the item on reserve. No grace period (as opposed to a grace period offered for some materials but not for others). This all adds up to fewer exceptions, thus fewer things to remember for you and our staff both.


Fewer books on the shelf. Sure, we’d have more space for the new books that AREN’T on hold), but some of our older materials would be less available for browsing. That can be a bother when you (or your children) have reports due the next day.

Increased fines. Right now most of our materials carry a whopping a nickel a day penalty. (Some items, like videos, are competitive with local video stores.) The purpose of fines is not to punish. It never has been. The purpose is to give people some incentive to bring materials back when they’re due. The idea is to remember that other people want to see what we've got, too. A month should be long enough for anything. So I’d be inclined to double our basic overdues from five cents a day to a dime a day.

The pattern of most public libraries is that when serving populations of under about 25,000 people, books go out for 2 weeks. Ours did too, a few years ago. But in 1995 (if memory serves) we bumped it to 3 weeks. That matches most libraries our size. It bought us some time and some space, and I do believe that most people found it easier to work through their materials.

Four weeks is usually only found in very big libraries (Denver Public, for instance) or university libraries. But then, most libraries don’t have quite our space crunch or population pressures.

So it’s clear that a four week checkout is a staff convenience, at least in the short run. My question to you is what best serves the public interest? Or more particularly, which loan period serves YOUR lifestyle better: 3 weeks for most materials, or 4 weeks?

Please let me know. If I make such a change, I’d rather it be near the beginning of the year. Give me a call at 688-8752, send a fax to 688-1942, write me at DPLD, 961 S Plum Creek Blvd, Castle Rock CO 80104, or e-mail me at jaslarue@earthlink.net.

Thanks for your help.

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