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, October 27, 1999

October 27, 1999 - Communities that Care Follow-up

Some 70 people showed up on October 15, at the Douglas County: Building Communities that Care community forum. The highlight of the day was Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar's discussion with 12 Douglas County high school students. Salazar was an amazingly sensitive facilitator. Our students were articulate and impressive. It's clear that we should give their views -- and the opportunities to express them -- more attention than we have.

For instance, there was strong consensus among the students that physical security measures do not tend to make young people feel safe. Rather, such measures make them feel like inmates of a prison.

The community forum was the brainchild of Rich Bangs, publisher of the Douglas County News-Press, and had two purposes. First, it sought to raise awareness about the environment in which our youth find themselves. Second, forum planners urged the adoption of a formal model for assessing and improving the communities of Parker, Castle Rock, and Highlands Ranch. (These areas were chosen by broad high school "feeder" area.)

Parker has participated in the Communities that Care model for the past year, allocating Town resources to the task. Castle Rock, to date, has not. Highlands Ranch lacks a municipal government, but members of the Highlands Ranch Community Association, the Metro Districts of Highlands Ranch, and board members of the school district have all shown an interest in the program.

But as one of our presenters made clear, the issue of too many risks and too few supports for our young people touches all of our communities in Douglas County, whether or not community leadership has gotten around to admitting or doing anything about it.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Metro Districts, the News- Press, and the Douglas Public Library District all offered to send interested community members from Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch to leader training in the Communities that Care model. The training will be held in Littleton on November 9, 1999, from 8 to noon. The slots have been filling fast, but if you're interested, call the Metro Districts at 303-791-2710, extension 237, the News- Press at 303-688-3128, or the Douglas Public Library District at 303-688-8752.

Since the October 15, meeting, I find that I've been thinking about our communities in a different way. The defining characteristic of Douglas County in 1999 is growth, meaning the rapid influx of people. But I've come to realize that such growth often overwhelms existing social patterns (in the case of a small town), or finds a void (in the case of a brand new one). The smallest and most durable social unit is the family. But what else is there? Well, there are neighborhoods, and neighborhood associations. On the other hand, when the defining home architectural style involves three car garages, operated by remote control, it can be tough to make a connection to your neighbors.

Other choices include: civic groups, recreation centers, churches, schools, libraries, political parties, and various job associations. But all of these have their drawbacks: sometimes the sheer number of people using them makes it almost impossible to develop a genuine contact.

The more I've thought about this, the more I'm convinced that the most pressing problem of the new millennium will be the balancing act between freedom of speech and action VERSUS the need to belong to an integrated and mutually supportive social web. It's the tension between individualism and the public good, and there's no easy answer. But talking to each other (and reading about it) is a good place to start.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on this newspaper for future developments and coverage.

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

October 20, 1999 - NetLibrary

By Holly Deni

I'm here to report that rumors of the demise of the paper and ink book, in my opinion, are wildly exaggerated. It is true that electronic books are out there, lurking on the pages of the mail order catalog and taking up air space in the information cloud that now rings the earth. And do you know what? I'm surprised to say that I kind of like them.

Here at DPLD, we've recently "gone live" with our first public experiment in the world of electronic publishing. We've subscribed to a service called netLibrary (sic). netLibrary is a Boulder-based company on the cutting edge of the electronic publishing revolution. They've negotiated with many, many publishing houses to acquire the rights to publish books that can be seen on screen rather than in print.

netLibrary has presented us with the opportunity to build our first e-book library right on our Internet terminals. Basically, the way it works is that a patron will come into any DPLD branch, go to our home page and click on the "library catalog and state resources" link. One level down from here, you'll see a place to click on netLibrary. From there, if you wish to use this product from your home computer, you'll need to take a few minutes to fill out a very short patron profile (all information given is confidential, just as all your library records are).If you do so, in a few minutes you'll have an open door to the world of electronic books.

Why, you might ask, would you want to explore an e-book when the print version has served perfectly well up until now? One reason might be that all the print titles we own on a particular subject are already checked out by others. Another reason might be that an early-winter snow squall has rendered you housebound when you have a presentation due first thing the next morning. Going to the netLibrary page will give you a way of getting instant access to books, 24-hours a day, in an electronic format that exactly duplicates the print version (down to including the dedication page, footnotes and all pictures and charts), from your home Internet connection while still in your pjs.

Not only do you get instant access, but there are some really cool things that an e-book can do that the print equivalent can't even attempt. For example, you can go to the index of the e-books at netLibrary, find the word or phrase you're interested in, click on it and go directly to that page and that word instantly. You can enter a search phrase or a name and search across the entire DPLD netLibrary catalog for occurrences of same. You can move quickly from highlighted phrase to highlighted phrase throughout the book. You can even download an image or a chart to a gif file and re-paste it into a paper you're working on or a power point presentation you're developing (provided, of course, that you comply with copyright law by making the proper citation to the source).

You can simply browse through titles and tables of content, stopping to take a brief look at a few section of text, or you may virtually check out the title for a 4 hour period (seems like a short use period, but really, just how long can you last, reading from a computer screen). At the end of your four hour window, the book will disappear from your home electronic library; if no one else has asked for it, you can check it out again... and again.

You can develop your own set of library shelves that will house information on all your favorite titles. Best news of all - there are no fines!

Of course, because this technology is still pretty new, you can count on netLibrary to go through several permutations in the next year or so. Right now, DLPD's netLibrary consists of about 250 titles. We'll be adding a few more this year, then we'll wait to see what the public response is. The subjects of the e-books we've chosen to buy include: Colorado history, natural history, computer software, information technology, sports coaching, business and personnel management, small business information and social issues. So far, there are no fiction titles, but those aren't far down the road.

Come by and ask any of our reference librarians to give you an introductory tour of the netLibrary world. Then go home and brag to all your friends that you've just experienced the 21st century firsthand.

Holly Deni is a guest columnist and the Associate Director for Support Services at DPLD.

Wednesday, October 13, 1999

October 13, 1999 - Library Commercials and Signs

Some months ago, I was asked to give a career talk to some local elementary kids. I couldn't help but notice that nearly everybody went to see the cops and firefighters. Librarianship just didn't seem to generate as much excitement as a career option, at least for that age group.

But one of the kids that joined me had something important to say. I commented that it never ceases to amaze me that very small children -- and I mean 2 years old and under -- can spot a McDonald's, but often seem clueless about the whereabouts of their local library.

The young man in my career session put his hand up. "It's simple," he said. "Libraries don't advertise on TV. And you don't have signs you can see from the highway."

Well, I think he's right.

That's why I'm heartened to report that the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recently announced the winners of its 13th annual government programming awards. According to their press release, "The Awards recognize excellence in broadcast, cable, multimedia and electronic programming developed by municipal agencies." There were over 700 entries nationwide this year.

In the category of "Public Service Announcement (Operating Budget to $200,000)" the winner was (envelope, please) ... "The Game (Library)" by Douglas County Television. (Applause!)

You may remember that I reported back in March of this year that Douglas County Television shot a truly zany series of library commercials. The locale was out at Bob Schultz's historic saloon. You may have caught these on our own local Channel 8.

The production team at Douglas County TV DESERVES the award. Furthermore, it is my hope that by demonstrating that the local public library can be a place just packed with pulse-pounding drama, we will encourage more municipalities to cast a promotional eye on our services. That goes for Chambers of Commerce too -- let's not overlook the big contribution to the quality of life from an intelligently staffed and well-stocked library.

And speaking of drama, I'd also like to encourage people to check out the Castle Rock Players' Masquerade Murder Mystery Silent Auction Gala. This interactive murder mystery will be held on Saturday, October 30, 1999 from 5:30 p.m. to Midnight. The location is Kirk Hall, on the Douglas County Fairgrounds. The event also features a meal, catered by the Carrabbas Italian Grill. For tickets, call 303-814-7740 or www.crplayers.org. The prices are $30 for single attendees or $50 per couple. For those of you who haven't attended a live mystery before, it's an exciting way to match wits with cast and your fellow diners. It's also a wonderful excuse to dress up in costume. All proceeds will benefit future productions of the Castle Rock Players, a youth-oriented theatrical group. It happens that your local library director will play a truly modest role at the conclusion of the event -- hauling off the miscreant(s).

So the library is doing its bit to break into show business. Now to get cracking on that 75 foot library sign. I'm thinking neon.

Wednesday, October 6, 1999

October 6, 1999 - Scientific and Cultural Facilities District

I was raised just north of Chicago. Unlike most of my friends, I have to say that I really didn't like the city. It was too dirty, too cold, and too dangerous. But there were three things I did like: the Lake, the el (the "elevated train" used by commuters), and the museums. When I was a high school kid, sometimes I'd combine all three: hop the el, then ride along the Lake toward either the art museum (Impressionists!), or Chicago's absolutely staggering Museum of Science and Industry.

Now that I'm in Colorado, I have to say that I genuinely do like Denver, a cleaner, warmer, and far more tolerant place than the Windy City. I've traded the Lake for the Rocky Mountains. Although the light rail is no match for the el, it's a step in the right direction. And I do very much enjoy Denver's art museum, zoo, and Natural History Museum.

But lately I've come to realize something else. First, culture costs money. I run a library district, which I consider a cultural institution, and have learned that it takes a reliable and sufficient income to open our doors every day.

Second, while culture is a pleasant amenity for adults, it is something far more to our children. Most tangibly, it is a sign that adults can, if they put their minds and their pocketbooks to it, build some pretty interesting places for kids, our malls and discount stores notwithstanding. Significant cultural institutions change lives, develop lifelong interests, and contribute to something that doesn't get much advertising: the development of a rich inner life.

I raise all this because many Douglas County citizens are facing a vote this fall: whether or not to join the Denver metropolitan area's Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. Highlands Ranch and Parker already belong, and as a result, collect some $128,000 annually, funding (among others):

* the Colorado Children's Chorale
* the Colorado Scottish Festival
* the David Taylor Dance Theatre
* the Douglas County Children's Chorus
* the Golden Eagle Brass Band
* the Imagination Makers Theater Company
* the Parker Area Historical Society
* the Parker Community Theatre
* Speaking of Dance, and
* the Town Hall Arts Center.

If successful, the vote this fall will decide whether or not Lone Tree, Acres Green, Castle Rock, and other points south of Castle Pines North will also qualify for arts grants from the SCFD, not to mention participating in existing cultural programs that now skip over us.

The vote is on the establishment of a new sales tax for those areas: a penny on every ten dollars. If the voters approve, the amount of money available to Douglas County residents will jump to over $300,000 a year.

Some people have objected to the disproportionate flow of revenue. About two-thirds of the tax stays in Denver. But that doesn't trouble me. For one thing, it was the citizens of Denver that built these institutions in the first place, not the citizens of Douglas County. For another, every time I buy anything outside of Douglas County I pay the tax anyway, and get nothing local to show for it (I live in Castle Rock). I don't object to supporting the sort of world class institutions that make the Denver metropolitan area such a wonderful place to live.

Moreover, if the tax IS established in those parts of Douglas County currently outside the district, then all of those people who come from elsewhere to buy goods at the Park Meadows Mall and the Castle Rock Factory Outlets will also be contributing to OUR local culture. And I happen to know that several Douglas County communities are having discussions about the need for performing arts space.

To me, participation in regional districts that provide quality of life services makes good planning sense.

The issue with all tax questions is the same, however. Those people who bother to show up at the voting booth are making a simple choice: do I believe that what I spend is worth what I'll get?

To put it another way, how much do Douglas County citizens value culture?