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, December 15, 1999

December 15, 1999 - Harry Potter Donations

Back in March, 1999, I wrote a column on a book my family was crazy about. It was the first installment of the Harry Potter series -- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America, or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England. Since then, my household has purchased the entire boxed set, including Ms. J.K. Rowling's two other books: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I've read and loved them all. My 12 year old daughter has read them all twice. My wife is working on the third one right now.

For all my appreciation, however, I did not predict that Harry Potter would zoom to the top of the national bestseller lists -- all three of the titles are, after all, children's books.

I did think there would be local interest. But I underestimated that, too. Together, the library's Harry Potter books have checked out over 500 times. As of this moment (December 10, 1999), we have a total of 353 people waiting for them.

It is the policy of the library district to purchase 1 copy for every four holds -- the idea being that we don't want people to have to wait longer than 3 months to read something that's popular. And thanks to some recent donations, we do indeed have a ratio of 3.27 holds per title.

About those donations: I'm grateful to report that Castle Rock bookstore Hooked On Books, under the new management of Kathy Church, has graciously contributed two complete sets of the series to the Douglas Public Library District (see accompanying photo). This means we now have (counting those copies currently on order) 38 copies of Sorcerer's Stone, 36 copies of Chamber of Secrets, and 34 copies of Prisoner of Azkaban. Not that you'll find them on the shelf!

In part, this donation was in response to a recent Denver Post article by columnist and former Douglas County School District Board President Gail Schoettler. She encouraged people to help out their local libraries by donating books she felt were being suppressed within Douglas County schools.

But as a bookseller, Kathy Church has her own reasons for the gift. She notes that "The amazing phenomenon that is Harry Potter is unlike any other worldwide literary phenomena to date. "

Kathy told me how remarkable she finds it that "in this high-tech age of escape into video games; computers and alas, television ... this beautifully written and brilliantly imagined fantasy (and it is FANTASY), has created a positive tidal wave of incredible magnitude. ... For this, I stand and applaud what the Harry Potter books have stimulated and can only fervently hope ... this is just the beginning."

Certainly, fantasy is nothing new in literature and entertainment. Fairy tales, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, the Narnia Chronicles, Tolkien's Trilogy of the Rings, the recent video Prince of Egypt (based on the Biblical story of Moses), and even the surprisingly popular Shakespeare (see various current movies) all attest to the persistence of magic in our minds and imaginations.

Yes, some people have found Harry Potter controversial. But for librarians and booksellers, the news that our children are enthusiastically reading anything is good news.

While not all books are equal, they don't all have to be morality plays, either. Some things are just for fun. On the other hand, it happens that I believe the Harry Potter books have something fairly unusual in today's crop of literary offerings: a solid moral center buttressed by an exciting and deftly handled story.

In my professional opinion, the only way you can get hurt by a Harry Potter book is if somebody picks one up and throws it at you.

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