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 31, 2000

May 31, 2000 - Governor Signs Historic Library Legislation

On Friday, May 26, 2000, I had the privilege to be present at the signing of historic library legislation. On that day, at the White Branch of the Pueblo City-County Library District in West Pueblo, Governor Bill Owens signed Senate Bill 85 into law.

This bill, State Grants for Libraries, provides for per capita grants from the State of Colorado to three kinds of publicly supported libraries: public schools, public libraries, and public universities and colleges. The money has a clear purpose: it is dedicated to the purchase of intellectual content, educational resources.

Mostly, that means books. The annual $2 million appropriation, librarians estimate, will put some 100,000 new books each year into the eager hands of Colorado readers.

For all these libraries, the roughly twenty-five cents per capita (or per full time student) will be welcome. But the big winners will be rural libraries.

There are libraries in this state that have just $50 per year to spend on new materials. Under Senate Bill 85, the minimum grant is $3,000. That's sixty times as much purchasing power. The direct beneficiary will be Colorado children.

Until last Friday, Colorado was one of only five states in the Union that provided no direct state aid to libraries at all. Now it has moved to the very forefront of library awareness.

Other states provide such aid to public libraries alone. SB85 recognizes several remarkable facts. First, in many ways, all of Colorado's libraries work very closely together, providing something like a seamless web, a statewide "virtual library."

For instance, we have long used our Interlibrary Loan program to borrow books from one library for the patron of another. More recently, we added the Colorado Library Card, cutting out the middle man. This program bridges library types: public library patrons check out materials from nearby state universities; elementary school students borrow from public libraries across the county line. It's all free.

Finally, there's our Access Colorado Library and Information Network. ACLIN -- the nation's first state wide library network -- let patrons from even the most remote and rural areas of the state "go to the library" electronically. That's free, too.

Second, recent research has confirmed that one of the best predictors of school academic achievement is the presence of a resource-rich library. In many cases, this key community asset is more important than such things as class size, or even the income or educational attainment of the parents.

Third, library use of all types is on the rise in Colorado, far eclipsing even such popular activities as sporting event attendance. Colorado NEEDS more books.

The bill's deft and persistent Senate sponsor, Pueblo's Gigi Dennis, was all smiles at the May 26 reception. She thanked Governor Owens for his support of the bill that she believed would do so much real good for the state. She also thanked the articulate House sponsor of the bill, Colorado Springs's Doug Dean.

Governor Owens praised the bill as well, and the hard work of the Colorado Library Association in crafting language acceptable to so many constituents.

Then he addressed himself to the 60-odd children who had gathered to see a new law come into being. "Even when school is out for the summer," he said, "remember the importance of literacy. Keep reading!"

Thanks to his signature, they'll have a lot more to choose from.

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