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, August 11, 1999

August 11, 1999 - Lone Tree Limerick

It all started with a letter on February 24, 1999. It was addressed to "Reference Librarian / Oakes Mill Library" in Littleton, Colorado. (This branch is now the Lone Tree Library, in the newly incorporated city of Lone Tree.) The letter was from a man, let's call him Mr. Smith, in upstate New York.

It read, "I am writing to see if you can help me locate a poem entitled, 'Little Lem Fitch,' which begins, "At Littleton Station lived Little Lem Fitch....' I have searched through local libraries and have not located it. I thought perhaps your town of Littleton, Colorado, might know of this particular poem."

Our reference librarians pulled out the stops. But by March 20, they had to report that, "We were unable to locate the poem entitled 'Little Lem Fitch.' We looked through the Douglas Public Library District catalog; Granger's poetry indexes, the Internet; many poetry anthologies; and queried a reference librarian's Internet site to no avail. We also called several local libraries including the main branch of the Denver Public Library. No one was able to locate this particular poem.

"We didn't want to disappoint you completely so one of our creative staff members made up her own version of 'Little Lem Fitch.' We humbly offer it for your consideration.

At Littleton Station lived Little Lem Fitch
He lost control of his Bronco and slid into a ditch.
The SUV was history
But Lem phoned Frank Azar*
And now he is rich!

* a local personal injury attorney who advertises incessantly on television here."

Mr. Smith responded by March 30 with "Thanks so much for the delightful little verse, 'Little Lem Fitch...' It was splendid and it certainly made me chuckle."

We were even fortunate enough to receive a phone call from Mr. Smith. He let us know that although most of the libraries he had contacted (there are several Littletons in the country) had done a thorough and professional job of research, we were the only ones who, well, made UP an answer.

I hope it will shock no one to learn that sometimes we do in fact fail to answer a question. I have a friend, also a librarian, who once suggested to a reference book publisher that what we really need is a book of questions for which no answer exists. It would be nice to point to an authoritative resource that said, for instance, "No one knows why Napoleon stuck his hand in his blouse for his portrait."

The problem with reference services is that until you know that no definitive answer can be found, you believe that just one more book, just one more e-mail inquiry, will nail it. But our patrons usually need the answer by a particular date. So at some point we have to call off the hunt.

But I'm very proud of our staff, particularly Kathy Schnebly, for putting something more than the impersonal face of bureaucracy on our library's response. Real people ask us questions. And real people scramble to answer them.

But only at the Douglas Public Library District, by golly, do we crank out a limerick when we need one.

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