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, May 17, 2000

May 17, 2000 - Library Adds New Sunday Hours

The Douglas Public Library District was created by voters in November, 1990. Before then, we were a department of the county.

In 1991, we made the biggest change in our services. Our three full service libraries -- one in Castle Rock, one in Parker, one in the area now known as Lone Tree -- adopted a regular 7 day a week schedule. Before then, some of our libraries were open only 3 or 4 days a week, and all of them were closed on Fridays and Sundays. Not only that, our branches had different schedules depending upon the time of the year.

In August of 1991, we added our Highlands Ranch Library to our roster, and it too was open every day of the week.

Since that time, we have launched many new services. Most obvious is the sheer number of materials. In 1990, we had some 65,000 items. Now we're closing in on 400,000.

We have added an astonishing number of story times. Many area libraries, when faced with a surge in demand for story times, tend to adopt a strategy of pre-registration. In effect, this limits the service. Our philosophy has been to add new story times. I believe we now offer more of them in a week than any library in the metro area.

More recently, we have beefed up our reference staff, and added children's librarians, bringing a much higher level of knowledge and expertise to our service desks.

DPLD was one of the first libraries in the state to connect to the Internet, and our web site (http://www.dpld.org) still has some of the richest content you'll find anywhere, both in the area of databases and local information.

All of these historical notes serve to explain, perhaps, why our library saw an increase of use over 20% from 1998 to 1999 -- roughly three times the average circulation increase for the Denver metropolitan area.

But -- and I know you're wondering -- what have we done for you lately?

Well, I'm pleased to announce several new services. Foremost among them is the first change in our hours of service in 9 years. One of our library Board of Trustees happened to stop by one of libraries at noon one Sunday, and was astonished to see the line already forming. This scene is repeated at most of our libraries. Clearly, she told the Board, there's a demand for more Sunday hours.

After some discussion, the Board made a decision: effective May 6, 2000, the Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Parker, and Philip S. Miller Libraries will all be open from 12-5 every Sunday. This brings DPLD hours of service up to 69 a week. Next year, based on the reaction to this increase, we may again adjust our hours upward.

I have also been fiddling with another new service idea: online reference librarians. Recently I stumbled across an interesting web site, www.formsite.com. In brief, this service allows even non-experts to build their own electronic forms.

We already know that many people dial into the library's catalog at night. They place holds for items they want, which they pick up later at their convenience. They also take advantage of our various computer reference tools.

But that's all self-help. Sometimes -- particularly after a frustrating search on the Internet -- people need the advise of an expert. Using formsite, we can set up brief questionnaires that would let our patrons ask a question of a reference librarian, then get the answer back via e-mail, ideally within 24 hours.

I'm not saying that I'll have librarians on call 24 hours a day. I won't! But this service would allow people to at least post a question when it is convenient for them, and not have to worry about drive times or phone queues. I hope to have this up and running within a month or so.

Sometimes I worry about the disappearance of down time in our culture. Administrators have to balance the provision of service with the demands on staff time. But the public sector takes some of its cues from the private sector, and our economy seems bent on 7 day a week, 24 hour a day service.

The library is one of the institutions that should be there when you need it.

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