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 4, 1999

August 4, 1999 - Highlands Ranch Library Closed Due to Smoke Damage

I'm very sorry to report that until further notice, our Highlands Ranch Library, located at the Convenience Center on Springer and Broadway, will be closed.

On Thursday evening, July 29, there was a fire at the sandwich shop a few doors down from us. Apparently, the fire occurred somewhere between 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. It was mostly put out by 10 p.m. -- a testament to fine firefighting.

But a lot of smoke, and some water, did find its way into the library. At this point, we have no utilities in the building. Right now, it seems that we probably won't have power until August 2.

By Friday morning, we had folks from a group called Disaster Restoration, Inc. on site. (One man's disaster is another man's business opportunity.) DRI had generators set up, and a handful of enormous fans to blow out the smoke.

Some water had apparently seeped along or under the floor, so they also had to vacuum that up.

Since no staff had been injured, my first concern was the status of our collection. Since 1991, we have been rapidly buying materials to keep up with the ravenous demand in Highlands Ranch. By next summer, we hope to have our new library open, and we are going to need every book, audiotape, and video we could lay our hands on.

Right now, we've got over 75,000 items in the building. I'd estimate the value of the collection at at least $1.5 million. But it also takes TIME to build a collection of any distinction. It's hard to put a price tag on eight year's worth of collection building.

If you've ever been given a book that had been recently handled by a heavy smoker, you know the problem: some odors can't easily be removed from paper. My fear was that we would have to replace all of the affected items.

It's too soon to say just how bad things are. We won't know until we get power again, and run the "air scrubbers" through their paces. I'm cautiously optimistic, however, that most of the collection is OK, or at least salvageable.

In the meantime, we've had to do some shuffling around of services. Highlands Ranch Library users are being directed to our Lone Tree Library to pick up materials on hold (only for items that came in on July 31 or after). We'll have staff stationed outside the Highlands Ranch Library from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. week days to provide maps to the Lone Tree Library, and also to distribute a temporary story time schedule. We've beefed up the daily number of programs for the duration.

Incidentally, our Lone Tree Library is our newest building, and is worth a trip for its own sake.

We also ask that patrons who have items due at the Highlands Ranch Library to just hold onto them until further notice. No fines will accrue for them, and we simply don't have any place to store them. I'd rather have things being used than stacked somewhere.

I realize that this can be tricky. Sometimes people request books that come from somewhere other than their local branch. So you might, for instance, pick up a Parker book at Lone Tree, or a Highlands Ranch item in Castle Rock. So let's try to keep this simple: if you picked it up at Highlands Ranch, figure it's a Highlands Ranch item. I'm not declaring a fine free period for all libraries, just for the one that people can't get to. If you get an overdue notice or bill in the meantime, just call the Lone Tree staff at 303.799.4446 and explain the problem. Emergencies make messes. But if everybody is patient and polite, we'll sort it out.

Again, right now, I can't predict when the building will be up and running again. We've had building inspectors and structural engineers looking at things, and do have to put public safety first.

But I'm touched by the outpourings of sympathy our staff have gotten from patrons. Highlands Ranch residents seem genuinely saddened. On behalf of library staff, I'd like to extend my gratitude for the kind words and comforting gestures of our many library friends.

We'll get back in business as soon as we can.

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