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, September 26, 2001

September 26, 2001 - Religious Fundamentalism or Just Plain Bullying?

The library owns a graphic novel called "My War with Brian," by Ted Rall. It wounds me every time I read it. It's about a boy who got brutally bullied by another boy, all through junior high school. Repeatedly, the victim appealed to his teachers, his principal, and his parents. Nothing worked. Instead, he was left to his own devices, day after day.

Between the end of junior high and the beginning of high school, the victim suddenly grew up, got a big surge of height and muscle. Back at school, when the bully taunted him for the first time that year, something snapped.

The bully was hauled away in an ambulance. That ended the bullying. I have heard stories from several people in the intelligence community about the former USSR's response to terrorists. Like the embassy of the United States, the Soviet embassy in Iran was captured by a violent mob. Unlike us, the Soviets ended it in days. How? By mailing to their captured embassy, in small packages, the severed body parts of terrorists' relatives.

The message was clear: your family has attacked my nation. My nation will now attack your family, and is prepared to match, and exceed, your every barbarism. Moreover, we have resources far greater than yours.

War offers terrible choices. Do you meet terrorism with terror? Will anything else suffice? Does this just breed more of the same? Or to put it another way, how many innocents must die?

Like most Americans, I am outraged by the soul-searing damage inflicted on my country. I am also very troubled by the potential for picking the wrong targets for our grief and rage.

Then, too, I've come to realize that I know very little about the people that may have been responsible for the September 11th attack. The media has declared that this is the work of "Islamic fundamentalists."

We don't know, just yet, if that's so.

But let's say it is. I find that I have a host of questions.

Just what DO Muslims believe?

How many "Islamic fundamentalists" are there? To put it another way, do the followers of Mohammed have as much diversity as the followers of Christ?

Let's be frank: both currently and historically, not only have Christians mounted wars against those of other faiths (the Crusades), they even have wars with members of, technically, the same faith (Catholics and Protestants). Some Christians have been known to commit terrorist acts. But that's not TYPICAL of Christians.

Is this parallel to the situation in the Islamic world? Surely, to be religious is not necessarily to be a fanatic, or a terrorist. By labeling our attackers, "Islamic fundamentalists," are we setting the stage for religious war, for the murder of people not because of what they do, but because of what we believe THEY believe?

Toward the goal of greater understanding, the library is offering an educational program on Sunday, October 7, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. Our speaker is Ibrahim Kazerooni, the Amman (or spiritual leader) of Denver's Islamic Center of Ahl-Al-Beit.

He has told me that he views the events of September 11 as "an atrocity." I have asked him to come and speak about the beliefs of Islam. He has graciously agreed to do so.

I hope you can join us for this very interactive question and answer session. Our nation's response to this tragedy should begin with knowledge and insight.

Locally, this is a good place to start.

Ultimately, however, I don't believe that the terrorist attack has anything to do with religion. I believe that this is about something else: a very few people believe they have the right to be bullies.

They're wrong.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

September 19, 2001-Disaster Relief Resources

Librarians have been assembling some resources to assist our patrons in trying to make sense of the senseless.

First, I understand that there have been some scams related to "relief" agencies that in fact do not exist. This one, from the Red Cross, is real:

The United Way of New York and the New York Community Trust have established a fund to help the victims of the attacks and their families. The September Eleventh Fund will provide immediate support to established emergency assistance agencies. Anyone wishing to contribute may send their donations in care of

United Way
2 Park Ave.
New York, New York 10016
or call (212) 251-4035.

Donations are also being accepted on United Way of New York City's website: uwnyc.org/.

Second, the American Library Association offers this series of Internet resources on the September 11, 2001 tragedy to help children and students. Remember that the library does have free Internet workstations, if you do not have access from home or work. You can find the complete list at cs.ala.org/faq/faq.cfm.

From the Federal government:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
with a link to a bibliography of books for kids on a variety of mostly natural disasters at

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
"Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters". www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/violence.cfm#viol8
This has an extensive bibliography for practitioners.

From private organizations:

The National Association of School Psychologists has prepared "Children and Responding to National Disaster: Information for Teachers" www.nasponline.org/NEAT/terror_eds.html.

Connect for Kids has gathered a few resources for adults to help children with their fears and grief: www.connectforkids.org

Parenting Press has compiled resources for media and parents:

Third, here are some other useful links:

A great round-up of general "help" sites, whether to report possible conspirators, or to post that you were near the WTC, but are OK.

Helping Children Cope with Stress and Fear
This page from PrepareRespondRecover.com site contains material on
children's needs and recognizing stress in children adapted by Dr. Karen DeBord, Child Development Specialist with North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. The material came from the Stress and Coping with Disaster manual from University Extension in Columbia, Missouri developed during the Flood of 1993.

The World Trade Center -- www.costargroup.com/wtc -- info about the building and tenants.

Good Colorado donation, volunteer and information links.

ALA has also prepared a list of books for kids and their caregivers on the topic of terrorism:

Nonfiction titles:

Political Violence and Terrorism Ed. by Mary Hull.
A worldwide perspective on the problem of terrorism

Terrorism by Anne G. Gaines
The focus is on the Middle East with some insight on how the U.S. is affected.

Silent Death by Kathlyn Gay
This focuses on chemical and biological weapons and warfare and terrorism.

Why Do They Hate Me? by Laurel Holliday
Accounts of children caught in conflict in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.

Caught in the Crossfire by Maria Ousseimi
Words and pictures of children around the globe whose lives have been altered by civil war, terrorism and violence.

Fiction titles:

The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
England in WWII is the setting for this novel, in which a group of youngsters find a machine gun and decide to use it to defend their city.

Flight of the Raven by Stephanie Tolan
A serious message about two young people who come together in the face of terrorist violence in the U.S.

After the First Death by Robert Cormier
Hijackers take a busload of children; the action unravels through the perspectives of the
terrorists, the children, and others involved.

Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi.
In the midst of violence in the Middle East, a young Arab boy from the West Bank becomes friends with a Jewish boy.

Finally, here is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, "If we are to achieve real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children."

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

September 12, 2001 - Reference Help? Just Ask

This week's column is courtesy of Naioma Walberg, a reference librarian at our Parker Library. It captures wonderfully well just what happens at this vital service desk.

Librarian…Reference Desk… nouns that bring up shuddering images of long forgotten term papers, dusty boring books and trying to find magazine articles in the endless shelves of the fungi green volumes of Readers Guide to Periodicals.

We hear many of the same reasons over and over on why people do not want to stop at a reference desk or ask a librarian. I am here today to address those reasons and tell you something about our work, place and responsibilities within your library system.

"I don't need to stop at the Reference Desk ? I'm not doing research." Our job is to get the right information to the right person at the right time. If the information you need is what is the next book in the Hornblower series, that is just fine with us! We can find out what it is, if it is on our shelves or where to get it ? be it another branch or the Maryland State Library.

But if you are doing research that is where we shine, show off and gurgle happily. We have a world of information at our fingertips and our job is to research, locate and retrieve the information that you need. I think that people doing family history research were one of the first groups to realize the extent of the information available to them from their local library. We can provide you information from a copy of the May 23, 1841 Altoona Penn. Daily News, a copy of a family history in which only 50 copies were published in 1923, magazine and journal articles, internet sights as well as recommend other avenues for their research such as the U.S. Census, marriage records, passenger lists and a wonderful list of web sites.

"I know how to use a library so why stop at the reference desk?"

One of our jobs is to find and accumulate information in a variety of formats. So a stop at the reference desk may help save you time. If you need Title 10-4-11 of the Colorado Revised Statues, I can quickly go into the computer, pull up the proper web site and print the Title for you. However if you need to look at all of the civil penalties in regards to insurance my text version with a user friendly index is the way to go. Through a process called the reference interview librarians seek to find exactly what you are looking for and the best way the information can be presented.

"Anybody can find a book."

Well, especially in a library. But if all you are looking to find out is if the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a real dog breed or if someone is pulling your leg you could waste a lot of time in the section about dogs. A quick chat with a librarian will get you "The Complete Dog Book," a publication of the American Kennel Club which provides information on all recognized breeds. A part of our job is reviewing and updating materials. By testing materials when we receive them, with questions from patrons and evaluations from colleagues a reference librarian can create sources that can be tapped into quickly.

"There is nothing here on my subject."

Sometimes a librarian's job is a lot like a detective's. We pry into encyclopedias, snoop through magazine indexes, dig into worldwide databases and case websites. All of our training is geared toward finding the information you want - be it obscure or down right impossible. The universal war cry of librarians is " there is always something on the subject!"

"The librarian looks at me like I'm stupid."

Shame on us! Our job is to assist anyone regardless of race, gender, age, IQ or if you are from Alpha Centauri. Our job is to assist everyone no matter what their question without bias or judgment. We provide you with the basic American right to information and the privacy to pursue that information.

"The librarian looks too busy to help me."

Never, never, never. We are at the reference desk waiting to help you. While we are waiting we may be weeding the collection, researching for new titles, planning a program, doing committee work, processing book request, getting Value Line into its binder or writing this speech ? It all stops when a patron needs help. The Castle Rock reference desk has a sign that says "Please interrupt me" and every librarian means it because the patron really does come first.

Thursday, September 6, 2001

September 6, 2001 - Parker Library Legacy

In 1995, we opened our renovated Parker Library in a former bowling alley. Our architects, Humphries Poli, did a brilliant job of responding to a key public concern: how to make a building on the west side of Parker Road feel like part of Mainstreet.

How did they do it? By making the first internal corridor of the library feel like a street. We had lamp posts and storefront windows and cafe tables.

And we had paving bricks.

The bricks were sold as fundraisers for the new building, and funded a host of library amenities. On those bricks were various sayings. One, pulled I think from a Batman movie, was "Never rub another man's rhubarb." Others used the bricks as memorials. A few used them as advertisements.

My wife and I bought a brick for our kids. It has their names on it, and a statement appropriate to the children of two librarians. I was proud to make a personal contribution to a key civic structure. But there's another dimension to this. Now the library feels like home. When I walk in the building with my daughter and son, the first thing they do is run to find their names. The Parker Library has become a touchstone for them.

Well, over the past five years, we've filled up the Parker Library. Now we're going back to do something we planned from the beginning: finish some internal space we "banked" for the future. Over the next several months, we'll be shuffling things around as we add some 4,000 square feet to the library. We do ask for your patience. Internal construction can be a little messy.

By the end, we'll have an expanded and much improved children's area, as well as various other amenities.

Because our fundraising efforts were so successful last time, we'd like to give the community the opportunity to make a difference again. Ask at the library for our Parker Gift Catalog, also available online at www.dpld.org/about_us/parker/.

In brief, these are the projects we're looking to add, and how much money we need to do them.

* Children's Room - $20,000. Your gift can significantly enhance what we offer here. The children's room, incidentally, will have its own story time area, which will free up another community meeting room.

* Reading Sanctuary - $15,000. Think plush chairs.

* Life-size reading sculpture - $13,500. We've had a charming sculpture on display that shows a young girl reading on a bench. Why not make it a permanent part of our collection?

* Children's Fantasy Wall - $12,000. This one is taken! Thank you, to our stalwart Friends of the Parker Library. (An aside: I've noticed that there's a growing interest in public art. What better combination than art and reading?)

* Conference Room - $2,500. This is a quiet meeting area, suitable for small gatherings and presentations.

* Outdoor reading benches - $1,000. Our Reading Garden is a lovely place to sit. It is an excuse to linger even longer at the library.

* Bike Rack - $750. Let's make it easier, and safer, for people to bike to the library.

* Personalized brick - $150. We're offering, again, this wonderful chance to put your name, or the name of people you love, in an enduring public place. (Note: the deadline for this has been extended through September, 2001.)

So whether you're interested in creating a quiet family remembrance, or your business would like to make a statement about its continuing investment in the community, the Parker Library will welcome your attention.