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, September 9, 1998

September 9, 1998 - Staff Day Ideas

On August 28, the last Friday of the month, the Douglas Public Library District held its 7th annual Staff Day. On that day, we close all locations and assemble our entire staff -- the 160 people scattered across the county.

The day follows a certain pattern. I get a short period to give a "state of the district" talk -- our notable achievements over the past year, our plans for the next. Then we have a series of workshops, lunch, service awards, more workshops, then we end with a real live author.

In past years, we've tended to bring in some "outsiders" to teach our workshops. But this year, with just one exception, we used our own staff.

They were great. Some talked about our "outreach services" -- for instance, the Adult Literacy Program, our use of Volunteers, our Books by Mail program for the residents of far-flung Deckers. Others talked about those tricky situations that pop up at the front desk, and how we like to handle them. Still others talked about computer trouble-shooting.

Our final speaker was Connie Willis, a science fiction author from Greeley. Connie has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than any science fiction author in history (5 and 6, respectively). Not only that, she has a wicked tongue, and peppered her talk with references to some half a hundred books.

At the end of the day, I heard our staff members spilling out saying, "I have GOT to do more reading." Not a bad attitude for library workers, in my opinion.

The other important thing I get out of the day is the direct opportunity to hear what our staff is really thinking about. I gave every one a card: what one thing would you change at your branch? At the district? I asked them to fill out the cards sometime during the day, then drop them off in a box by the door.

Almost everybody did take the opportunity. And a very clear message emerged. Our current system of telephones is breaking down. I don't mean mechanically. I mean that our traditional system of picking up the phone at the front desk has begun to interfere with our service.

What's the answer? A central switchboard? Staffed how many hours a day? An electronic telephone menu (ugh)? A rotating position whose job it is to keep the calls away from the circulation desk? At this point, I don't know. But we'll be taking a closer look at those calls to see the best way to handle it.

Another problem that came up was the relatively slowness of one part of our Internet connections: old Macintosh LCIII's, pressed into service once more, and this time, beyond their capacity. But we've budgeted for their replacements next year.

Yet another issue we spent some time on this year was around the persistent issue of inappropriate use of the Internet by some of our patrons.

To tackle that one, we'll be holding a series of what we're calling "Roundtables: Libraries and the Internet" -- part staff presentation on both the benefits and the dangers of children accessing the World Wide Web, part public commentary. We're taking another look at our policies.

Our first Roundtable will be held at the Parker Library, from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, September 24.

The second will be held at Highlands Ranch, also from 7-9 p.m., on Thursday, October 22.

The third and final Roundtable will be held the following Tuesday night (October 28) at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, again from 7-9 p.m.

I hope you can join us. As you can see, we try to pay close attention to what our staff and public tell us.

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