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, March 28, 2001

March 28, 2001 - Library Building Community in Downtown Castle Rock

As you have no doubt read elsewhere in this paper, the Philip S. Miller Library is moving back downtown. The library, as well as our technical operations and administration, will occupy the old Safeway building on Wilcox. If all goes well, we'll be in there by fall of 2002.

What I'd like to do this week is give some background information. Newspapers tell you what; I'd like to tell you why.

The Douglas Public Library District has done a good job of keeping up with growth. But that growth has required us to build, or renovate, at least one of our facilities every single one of the past ten years.

And here's a surprising fact: small building projects are as time-consuming and finicky as big ones. Once a library district reaches a certain size, it is actually easier to build a large library. The institution accommodates more public and organizational needs at a single pass.

Last year, we hired out a population study. Neighborhood by neighborhood, this study told us where we were going to experience the greatest new demand — and that demand follows closely on the growth of population. The challenge of the library is how best to fund an expansion of our services with existing resources.

In the library's 1996 mill levy campaign, we promised to be able to build and operate a series of facilities for the money we asked for. We've just about wrapped up all those promises. But we think it would be an even greater accomplishment to go to the next stage of our growth by leveraging the money we have, rather than by asking for more public funds. Taxpayers like that; and library Trustees and employees are taxpayers, too.

Our Highlands Ranch Library, we believe, will last us through the next ten years of growth. Our Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, our Lone Tree Library, and our Parker Library, will not. There is nothing wrong with the buildings; they simply are not large enough to house the new materials and services our growing public will seek from them.

There are two models for library service: regional center, and neighborhood center. In the regional center, the library is set up to offer the fullest possible range of services to a broad area. In the neighborhood library, the services are more precisely tailored to local developments. Both have advantages and limitations.

In some locations, it makes sense to add new neighborhood libraries. For instance, we hope to construct a Roxborough Library, probably also in 2002. The area is distinct enough not to fall naturally into another service area. (When that library opens, we will investigate moving our Roxborough bookmobile to another location, perhaps Castle Pines North.)

In other cases, as in the Parker Library, the current location has particular local meaning. We are in the heart of the town, a thing of great value both to the people we serve, and to us. We cannot expand that particular building; thus, in order to serve projected growth between Parker and Lone Tree, we are probably looking for a new location, although that may be some years away.

As you might imagine, of course, it costs more to open multiple libraries than it does to run one larger one.

Every once in a great while, an opportunity falls into your lap. The old Safeway was exactly that: the opportunity to more than double the space available to us, all on one solid floor, right on the community's Main Street — Wilcox.

The shell of the building, and the existing parking, are ideal for our purposes. Their existence saves us a tremendous amount of construction money. By selling the existing building, we will not only recoup much of the purchase costs, but (we believe) also pay for the renovation of the new space.

In the end, we will have leveraged our existing assets to create a much larger regional center, capable of serving the whole southern half of the county for the next decade. Our Technical Services area — which orders, receives, and processes over 100,000 new items per year — will be able to serve the entire district from this location.

This expansion, not coincidentally, also keeps a host of jobs right downtown, helping to provide some momentum and focus to the civic life of Castle Rock.

We keep saying this, but that's because it keeps being true: we're not just building libraries, we're building community. And that's the best part of my job.

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