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, March 25, 1998

March 25, 1998 - Service to Daycares

I don't get many complaints about the library. But when I do, I'm mostly grateful. Complaints are useful. Sometimes they point up areas of my own ignorance. Sometimes they highlight a shift in public use or attitudes. Sometimes they just give me the opportunity to fix something that went wrong.

This week -- between a full moon on Friday the 13th and the Equinox (which may not mean anything, but does feel inauspicious) -- I got two complaints on the same day. Both of them got to me, bothered me in a way that doesn't usually happen.

The first complaint involved a daycare provider who was very unhappy about our procedures regarding story times. She thought they discriminated against daycares.

She's right.

As we explain in one of our brochures ("Group Visits to the Library") we design our story times for general public visits. Usually, that means moms and a couple of kids apiece. We did not design them for large crowds.

Probably our average story time attendance is 15 pre-school kids, of various ages. When it gets much larger than 15 children, the quality of the program suffers.

Sometimes we reach the point when week after week 30 kids are showing up. Then we try to split it up, offer an additional program. So some week days we just have one children's story time. Some days we have two. Most of our libraries average 5 a week.

This is in sharp contrast, incidentally, to other libraries in the area, who limit the number of their programs to one or two a week. They also require parents to register their children for the programs well in advance, and once a certain number is hit, children are denied admittance.

It used to be that we didn't mind if daycare centers moseyed in, too. They brought another 15 children or so. But then we noticed that the regular moms started keeping their kids away. There was just too much pandemonium.

So our staff had a long talk. Just who were these programs for? The "general public?" -- moms and their children -- or for-profit businesses? Given the number of people on the staff, the number of hours in the day, and the demands on the rest of the library, we couldn't do both.

Part of my job is to determine priorities, to match up public needs with available resources. I chose to support the general public, not companies in the business of childcare.

So we told daycare centers that we would be happy to provide the occasional special program or a library tour. But we would need at least 2 weeks notice for such special programs, and we couldn't offer them weekly. We would also try to recruit a volunteer to go right to the daycare center and read.

What bothered me about this? I heartily approve of children being read to, and the desire of childcare centers to get children to the library. We really don't like to turn anybody down for service. It's particularly difficult to turn down a local constituency.

Yet I believe that in the long run, to pretend that we can serve both our individual and corporate customers, even when those demands conflict, is dishonest. We must choose. I have chosen the individual. Our policies, I believe, are correct.

But I've been wrong before. If you disagree, let me know. My phone number is 668-5742. Or e-mail me at jaslarue@earthlink.net. And let me know if you're an individual, or represent a daycare center.

Next week: a complaint about the Internet, pornography, and the "right" not to be offended.

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