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, January 27, 1999

January 27, 1999 - The Great Magazine Giveaway

Magazines tend to have two uses in public libraries. First, our patrons like to browse through new issues. People dip into a few articles, flip through photographs, and generally surf the waves of popular culture.

Once a magazine issue is no longer current, however, it has another life as a reference source. Older magazines are used by high school students doing papers, adults doing consumer research, and reference librarians tracking down recent facts.

One of the surprises of our 1998 statistics is that for the first time ever, the circulation (checkouts) of magazines is DOWN. Likewise, our use of pamphlets dropped since last year.

How come? I think people have discovered just what the Internet is good at: rapid retrieval of short documents on current subjects. Given the fact that we "subscribe" to more magazines in electronic format than we do in paper -- not to mention the fact that it's faster to search an electronic index -- it makes sense that the public is turning to the new format for research.

Besides, it's a snap to print out the article and take it with you -- easier than checking something out, or making a photocopy.

This trend raises an interesting question: do we need to hang on to paper copies as long as we have in the past?

At our Parker Library, we keep periodicals for three years: the current year, and the two previous years. Beyond that, the kinds of magazines we subscribe to don't have much enduring historical value. (There are exceptions: we keep National Geographic magazines, anything to do with Colorado history, and a sprinkling of others.) In years to come, we may move from three years of paper copies, to something less. (Just the current year? Current issue? I'm not sure yet.)

On occasion, patrons ask us what happens to the older magazines. The answer is that we put them in our booksales. If nobody buys them (and they do have a tendency to get lost in our sales), we usually throw them out. In this, libraries operate much the way your own household does: there comes a time when you can't make space for everything. So you only keep the things that are genuinely useful.

Sometimes people ask us to please reserve the older magazines in their name. We don't. In part, there's no easy way to track such requests. But also, there are issues of fairness. Who should get priority? Public entities? Private citizens?

This year, Patt Paul, the innovative manager of our Parker Library, came up with something she calls "the Great Magazine Giveaway." On Saturday, January 30, 1999, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., we're putting out most of our 1995 and 1996 magazines -- about 150 titles. It's first come, first served. The advantage to you: it's free. The advantage to us: we clear out space for the 1999 arrivals.

So all you craft, car, or travel buffs, you charter school, home school, or public school teachers, here's the chance of a lifetime -- the opportunity to scarf up hundreds of photographs, articles, advertisements, and artwork, all for free.

The essential purpose of the public library is precisely the fact that it pools public money to benefit private citizens far more than their individual resources permit. So I see this as just another way we give back to our public what they have already paid for.

Thank you, Patt, for a fine idea!

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