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, April 26, 2000

April 26, 2000 - Dennis and Telecirc

The library has a new employee. His name is Dennis. We paid about $30,000 for him, which isn't cheap. But we only have to pay him the first year. After that, he works for free.

And work he does. Dennis is on the phone for the library from 9 in the morning to 8 at night, Monday through Fridays. On Saturdays and Sundays, he works from 9 to 6.

One of our patrons, viewing his Caller ID, called the library and demanded to know just who this Dennis is, and why he kept calling our patron's wife.

Well, Dennis is nobody to worry about. He's no body at all. He's actually part of a software package that happens to be connected to a computer server and a couple of phone lines.

Dennis' job is to free up the $90,000 a year we were spending in a combination of staff time and postage just to let people know that the items they'd placed on hold had come in.

Dennis not only handles all that, he also calls people to let them know all kinds of other things. For instance, he tells them the first time one of their items is overdue (if he can't reach someone, THEN we mail the notice).

The good news is, Dennis has freed up a lot of staff time to do more useful things -- such as actually helping people find items at the library. So I forgive him his occasionally very mechanical speech. Speech technology is getting better all the time, but Dennis still mangles names and words from book titles sometimes. In about a year, he's supposed to get a little better. I guess he's taking the electronic equivalent of speech lessons.

Dennis is part of a program called Telecirc. And there's more to it than phone calls from a virtual nobody. If you call 303-663-4683 -- and that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- you can do all kinds of things. They are (and they're listed in just this order):

1. You can renew your items (unless somebody else is waiting for them).
2. You can get a list of everything you currently have checked out.
3. You can list or cancel any holds you might have placed. 4. You can find out how much you currently owe the library for fines.
5. You can find out what overdue items you might have checked out.
6. Finally, if you don't like the way Dennis says your name on the phone, you can record your name in your own voice. Or you could replace your name with a name you prefer. How about, "Hiya Handsome?"

I should point out that not just anybody can do this. When you call Telecirc, you have to have your patron barcode number, and know your phone number. So have those items handy yourself.

Incidentally, we have noticed that a few people -- those with such services as "no solicitation" blocking -- sometimes confuse poor Dennis. If you're getting incomplete messages from him, call Telecirc to see what Dennis might have been trying to tell you. Then consider adding the library's phone number to your "accepted call" list.

After all, just because he's virtual doesn't mean he doesn't want to talk to you. He LIVES for conversation.

It's all he has.

P.S. I apologize for the short notice, but our renovation of the Philip S. Miller Library is about to commence. In a tight labor market, you have to act when everybody and everything shows up, and we have been blessed with an immediate opportunity to schedule the work. For the next several weeks, we'll be recarpeting, expanding our Local History area, and adding a new children's story room. At this point, we think we've figured out a way to keep the library open. Come to our meeting room for a sort of mini-library. You'll be able to pick up your holds, return books, and ask us to fetch new ones for you. I understand that there will even be cookies. Again, my apologies for the inconvenience, but we do think you'll like the results.

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