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 13, 2000

December 13, 2000 - The Next Planning Cycle

The Douglas Public Library District was formed in 1990. Since then, the Board of Trustees has worked through two five year plans -- we added hours, built and renovated buildings, grew our collection, and grew our staff hours and expertise. In the process we have become one of the busiest libraries in the state of Colorado.

As we enter the first true year of the new millennium, it's time for another plan.

There are several ways to go about planning. One way is to look at the numbers.

Thanks to a consultant study, we've determined that the populations of all three of our main service areas, roughly corresponding to Castle Rock, Parker, and Highlands Ranch/Lone Tree, will double over the next ten years.

Applying various standards of library space and library materials per capita, it's clear that we will need more library space. We even know where. We can also make some educated guesses about how much it will cost, which feeds into the Capital Construction piece of planning.

But there are several other planning issues that don't lend themselves to easy quantification.

One of them is technology. We know we'll need to upgrade our communications system to provide for the highest affordable speed. But it's difficult to predict what other new services or formats will come along with technological advances. (Not that we've given up!)

Another hard-to-measure planning issue is that a new public planning theme is emerging, not only in the Douglas Public Library District, but in many libraries. And that theme is: how can the library build community?

It's easiest to see this need in newer communities. People are looking for a place to hold meetings of local civic groups, home owner associations, various charitable projects, historical societies and cultural groups.

But consider all the cross-influences in our society, things that in fact destroy community. Long commutes leave many people too tired to do anything but eat a meal, and flop down in front of the TV. And there's television itself. Simultaneously bland and crass, television not only isolates families from their neighbors, but even family members from one another.

Then there's city planning that makes it impossible to walk anywhere, housing construction that emphasizes the single most important facet of American society: the automobile. Libraries -- particularly libraries that pull people together to talk about shared issues -- can help make the difference between housing developments and genuine communities.

Over the next five years, start looking for library staff to show up at all kinds of community gatherings. We'll be looking for ways to we help solve some of our community's problems. We see ourselves as a community asset, that at present, finds users only among those already aware enough to know of us. It is time to take the message to the streets, to forge a new place for ourselves in the hearts of our communities.

Yet another planning issue for me is who DOESN'T use the library. Thanks to the growth of Geographic Information Systems, the library is now able to tell precisely which houses in the county do not have a library card -- about 25 percent of them. In the next five years, I'd like to whittle that number down to less than 5 percent.

And THAT means not only directly communicating with the folks who don't currently use our services, but it also means putting together a palette of services that is irresistible.

If you have any thoughts along these lines, I'd like to hear them. Call me at 303-688-8752, or e-mail jaslarue@earthlink.net.

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