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, June 10, 1998

June 10, 1998 - Retail Value of Public Library Services

After last year's round of visits to see my terminally ill father, I came up with a new set of requirements for a vacation: (1) you have to go somewhere you've never been before, (2) it has to be somewhere where you don't have any relatives, and (3) it must be beautiful.

The idea behind a vacation, of course, is to shake loose the daily doldrums. Stop thinking about work. Get away from it all.

Well, my most recent vacation started out perfect. I went to the Pacific Northwest for the first time. I have no relatives in that area. The forest, the islands, Puget Sound -- all were spectacularly beautiful.

Here's the part that takes some explaining. On the second day of my vacation, I went to the library. In fact, I wound up attending a library board meeting.

I realize this seems incomprehensible to many people. Vacations are to get away from work. But I rediscovered two things about libraries that I'd forgotten in the demands of the daily routine.

First, I really do have a deep, genuine, even passionate love for the public library. Where else can you just wander into an attractive public building and paw through its treasures? Want guidebooks? Right there. Need a new children's story for your youngest? Pull up a comfy chair, plop your boy in your lap, and start reading. Want to figure out what's happening locally? The newspapers and tables are right here by the window. Beyond all that, libraries are just packed with books. Isn't that cool?

So I browsed the Orcas Island Library District's charming building and found what I almost always find in libraries: interesting collections, intelligent staff, and thoughtfully planned spaces. I even scheduled an appointment to sit and chat with the director. Here I confirmed my impression from the board meeting: the issues of running a library, big or small, are pretty much the same. They vary only in scale.

Conclusions: libraries are nice places to hang out, even when you're on vacation; and the Orcas Island Library District is very smartly managed, with a Board that clearly cares about service, and a community that knows what a good deal it's got.

Speaking of good deals, I then came back and took a fresh look at some of the economics of our own library district.

First I calculated the costs of various retail services: the cost of a non-fiction hardback, a fiction paperback, a video, a magazine, a children's story time, a meeting room, and so on. Then I multiplied that cost by the number of times those items had been used by our patrons in 1997. Then I compared the retail value of the service with our budget.

Here's the conclusion: for every dollar of taxpayer money, the Douglas Public Library District returned $6.00 in service. A bargain!

If you're interested in seeing the entire chart, you'll find it at our web site.

P.S. And speaking of computers, after planning for 5 days of downtime for our hardware upgrade last week, I'm pleased to say the system was up and running after just a day and a half. That completes the first piece of the Year 2000 fix. June 22-25 is when we tackle our software upgrade. Let's hope that goes as smoothly! Thanks in advance for your continued patience.

No comments:

Post a Comment