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, May 27, 1998

May 27, 1998 - Highlands Ranch Civic Green

I don't know what's wrong with me. I didn't watch the last episode of Seinfeld. What's worse, it wasn't a big deal to me.

But judging from the covers of magazines, front page stories in newspapers, and relentless promotion of the event on radio and TV, Seinfeld -- a show I am told is about nothing -- was very important.

Importance, of course, is a relative and highly individualized matter.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what's important to the people served by our library district. We're in the design phase of our Highlands Ranch Library, the first civic structure in the proposed Town Center. Our staff have been conducting focus groups, distributing surveys, and gathering comments on our web site dedicated to the project.

Based on those sources, many people believe that our new library (which replaces the small storefront library now serving Highlands Ranch) is very important. They hope it will set a standard for civic design in a community that does not now have a "heart." Moreover, in an area that has grown so rapidly, people want to belong to something, find a link to a larger social environment. Cultural institutions, it seems, have an important connection to quality of life.

The Douglas Public Library District has some experience in building good libraries. I know we can build another one.

But unlike our previous projects, this time the library must have a clear relationship with an adjacent property. That property not only doesn't belong to us, it is also outside our control. I am referring to the Highlands Ranch Civic Green.

The green, as currently envisioned, is immediately south and uphill from the library. How that green looks and works will have a big effect on how the library is used.

Let's start with the best case: on opening day, the library has a warm and seamless integration (through parking, walkways, and plazas) with an outdoor amphitheater, an imaginative sculpture garden, numerous shady spots for benches, and an open-air cafe. Every morning, people swing by to pick up a newspaper from a nearby vendor, and enjoy a cup of coffee as the children play on the green. Later, they wander inside for the morning story time. After school, young people swing through the library to do some quick research, then team up with some friends outside for an impromptu game of frisbee. In the evening, the whole family returns for an outdoor music concert. On the weekend, they come back for the art fair, and the library-sponsored lecture series on The Discovery of Perspective in Painting. The whole scene is enlivened by people walking everywhere.

Let's jump to the worst case: the library has a relationship with a shapeless lump of dirt, edged (near the library) by a plaintive welcome mat of grass. Cars come. Cars go. The sun beats on the pavement.

In both cases, we'll have a well-engineered library. But in the first case, it will be a vibrant part of a larger public space. In the second case, no matter how well we build it, the library will be just another isolated island in the suburban street scape.

I realize this issue won't get the same kind of coverage as Seinfeld. But I do hope those of you who find the issue of the civic green of some importance to YOU, will take an active interest in its development.

Shea Homes will be doing a public presentation on Town Center issues on the evening of May 28, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Eastridge Recreation Center. Your presence could be significant.

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