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 25, 2000

October 25, 2000 - Virtual Library and DPLD Newsletter

About a year ago, library staff were spending a lot of time looking at our statistics on the use of our web site. Someone made the comment that in some respects, our web site was a sort of virtual branch. It had its own door count (the number of hits). It had its own statistics on referrals (the clicks on pages linking to other pages). It even allowed for a place to renew materials.

Well, we overhauled the look of our pages. The new look debuted on July 15 -- coinciding with the opening of the new Highlands Ranch Library. And now we're about to roll out a couple of new services that take us even further along the path of the Virtual Library.

The idea for the first one came from the fact that we can e-mail patrons (instead of mailing or calling them) to let them know that books have come in for them, or are overdue. This service has been around for about a year, too. In that time, 11,766 people gave us their e-mail addresses.

It took us some time, and required some expert assistance, but we've installed and tested a program called "mailman." In essence, this allows us to send out an electronic newsletter.

The test message -- based on that list of 11,000 names -- went out last week from Katie Klossner, head of our Public Relations. In brief, she asked people if they wanted to stay on the newsletter list.

Here's the good news: most of the folks we contacted were both intrigued and delighted by the idea. Here's more good news: it's a lot cheaper to e-mail patrons than it is to print up and mail a newsletter. Our patrons immediately latched onto some of the other ideas we'd thought about: notification of reading clubs, possible onlinereading clubs, new database information, programming schedules, and even online reference services.

Here's the bad news: not all of those 11,000 e-mails were correct. Sometimes, we entered them wrong, sometimes the patrons have moved on, sometimes the patrons have another e-mail they'd prefer to use for this service.

And there's more bad news: our software made it a little tricky for the folks who didn't want the service to get out of it. Ordinarily, when people subscribe to the list themselves, they get a password that allows them to manage various options about the mail. But since we put everybody in all at once, getting your password is, frankly, a bit of a hassle (you have to log on, request a password reminder, log back on, and unsubscribe).

For those people who didn't want to mess with all that, we came up with a somewhat easier alternative: e-mail unsubscribe@mail.douglas.lib.co.us, and include your e-mail in the message. And weĆ­re sorry for cluttering up your e-mail that one time.

For those of you who haven't given us your e-mail address, but would be interested in the service, go to http://douglas.lib.co.us/mailman/listinfo/dpldnews and sign up!

One caveat: right now, we have turned off the ability of patrons to mail to the whole newsletter list. Only library staff can do this. But we're still intrigued by the idea of setting up some online communities of book lovers. We hope to do that soon.

A second new service is the online reference question. This interactive form can be found at: http://douglas.lib.co.us/e_reference/ref_form2.html. You can also find it by just choosing E-reference from our home page.

There is something about computers that seems to lead people to use them in the wee hours -- often when the library is closed. This way, we hope people can ask questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While we won't have somebody answering questions all those hours, it does allow staff to look at them early the next morning and get a good jump on them. Bottom line: faster, more convenient service for you.

I don't believe that the Virtual Library will ever quite replace the physical building. People do, after all, need to get out of the house or office every now and then, whether it's in order to attend a meeting, a cultural event, or just to browse the new books.

But it's clear that the electronic resources of today do make it easier to "go to the library" without ever getting out of your pajamas.

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