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 29, 1999

September 29, 1999 - Seduced by AOL

[Three weeks ago, I wrote a column about a survey we mailed out. Called "Why did you leave us?" it was an attempt to find out why a surprising number of people who recently got library cards, never checked anything out again. Below is the altogether marvelous response of one of the people who received that survey. It is a tale of seduction ... and perhaps of redemption. I am deeply indebted to the author for her permission to reprint it.]

Dear Douglas Public Library District:

Thank you for the enclosed survey.

When I pulled that out of the mailbox this evening, I felt as if I'd just been informed that I hadn't bothered to contact my best friend in six months. Rather, I had turned my back, resolutely walked away, ceased contact, and never given that loyal friend another thought.

I needed your reminder that that's a lousy way to treat a friend, and I sincerely thank you for taking the time to ask why I haven't used my library card in six months. In this day and age of databases, everybody's-a-number, and faster-smarter-moreinyourface-internet access, it's nice to know that somebody out there still cares whether or not I've cracked the covers of a book lately.

I shamefacedly admit the truth: I succumbed, as so many Americans have, to America Online. Just about...well, six months ago, to be exact. In that time, I've traded real, paper letters for e-mail, lapsed a Denver Post subscription in lieu of 'downloading' it every Sunday morning (and let me tell you, lingering over a cup of coffee and a computer screen on a lazy Sunday morning is NOT as satisfying as wrestling back the pages of that oversized weekend edition), stopped reading magazines altogether (why bother when you can 'interact' with them on the 'net?) and even sunk so low as to shop at Barnes and Nobel's bargain book table without ever leaving my desk. Clicking a mouse is nothing compared to the sheer joy of finding that copy of William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream, way down at the bottom of a pile of cookbooks, for five bucks. I've done all this in the guise of 'progress' and 'simplifying' my life, and in the process of that, I've driven right past the library quite a few times.

I've just gotten too busy with all this instant information to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading (and I used to read, and read voraciously, and read so much I kept a reading list throughout the year, just to see how many books I could finish in a year), and until I got your survey, I didn't realize how much I'd missed it.

I have no desire to settle in before a warm fire this winter and send e-mail.

I'd much rather read a good book.

So thank you for the reminder, the much appreciated human touch of asking where the heck I've been, and why I haven't used my card. It meant so much to read that, and it touched my heart so much more than that come to think of it downright annoying "you have mail..." I come home to every day.


Kathryn Jennings-Hancock
Elizabeth, Colorado

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