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 4, 1998

March 4, 1998 - Lying on Surveys

I hate to admit this so soon after Washington’s birthday, but I’ve decided that I cannot tell the truth.

It started when I got three “survey” phone calls in two days. The first was at work. Someone was calling to ask for the name of the person who orders our computer supplies. It wasn’t a sales call, he explained. He was just updating his company’s database.

My second call was at home. This person wanted to know about some consumer and marketing issues. Did I drive a foreign or domestic car? What year was it? What was my most recent major appliance purchase? Computer purchase?

The final call, also at home, was allegedly a political survey. Did I think it should be a crime to commit an abortion unless the mother’s life was in danger? Was I opposed to any tax increase, particularly if it had anything to do with education? And so on.

Call me paranoid, but let me cycle through those calls again.

* Updating the database. Exactly this sort of thing was how several libraries got caught in a photocopier toner scam. The first call, giving a fictitious company name, gets the name of the person who has authority to make purchases. Then a box of toner (cost: $612) shows up, with that authorized person’s name on the invoice. Accept the box, you accept the purchase.

* Consumer calls. We have two players here: the owner, and the thief. Thief: “Got anything worth stealing?” Owner: “Let me run through the list for you!”

* Political survey. Take your pick. Call up, at home, all the public officials you have suspicions about, and grill them on whatever your issues might be.

It’s all perfectly legal. Ask people a question on the phone, and they are often so flattered that anybody even cares about their opinion, they’re liable to give it. They don’t even ask who you are, or what purpose you intend to put the knowledge to. Nor do you have any idea, as recent national news sources have hammered home, if the call is being recorded, or with whom it may be shared.

On the one hand, it’s kind of nice that most of us are trusting enough, believe in the benevolence of the universe enough, that we’ll bare our souls to total strangers.

But anymore, I’m not one of them. If somebody I don’t know calls me on the phone and launches into an inquisition of my private possessions or values, I ... lie.

What’s the name of our order person? Hieronymous Jones. Let me spell that for you.

What’s my latest appliance purchase? A toaster. I got it a garage sale in 1976, I think. It doesn’t work very well.

My political perspective? I believe in the right to privacy, in the inalienable right to keep my opinions to myself when I don’t know anything about who’s asking for them.

Oops! Told the truth that time! Working at a public library, you get into the habit.

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