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 3, 2001

October 3, 2001 - Time for DPLD to Look Forward Again

The Douglas Public Library District was formed, by direct citizen vote, in November of 1990. Before then, we were a county department. Since then, we have been an independent taxing entity, funded largely by property taxes.

In the past ten years, we have gone through two five year plans. We've built libraries, bought books, established services. In 2001, we will check out more than 2.5 million items. In this year alone, we have offered literally thousands of storytimes for children. Tens of thousands of people have attended our programs or held meetings in our facilities.

But now it's time to look forward again. What happens next?

We have gathered a great deal of population data, extrapolated for the next ten years. According to our general standards of space needs (about 1 square foot per capita, half for library space, half for parking and landscaping) we're in good shape in Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock. If the population projections hold true, we'll need another regional library somewhere between Lone Tree and Parker, but we have several years to plan for it.

In short, it seems to me that Phase I of our library district -- the rapid expansion of facilities, the launching of key services, is over. We've done a good job of projecting and managing expenses. We're about where we thought we'd be. Now it's time to tackle Phase II.

But what will that look like? Our need now is not just things. It is people.

Mainly, I've been thinking that it's time to flesh out the staffing of some recently established services. We've run very lean for many years -- part of that aggressive savings program. Now it's time to grow DEEPER into our community.

We've used a phrase the past couple of years that captures what we've been about: "We're not just building libraries. We're building community." Recent library surveys suggested that one of the key patron activities is just that: connecting to the community. People meet friends here, attend meetings, seek referrals to local agencies. Since September 11, this has even greater significance.

But there's a new tension to our mission, as well. The job of the library is to provide public access to the intellectual capital of our culture. To accomplish this, we collect widely: many authors, many formats, many perspectives, many offerings. Historically, the public library is predicated on the individual dignity of inquiry -- the right for anyone, of any age, any background, to ask questions, to explore library offerings, sometimes with the assistance of library staff. That "dignity" also includes patron privacy.

We're entering a time, I believe, when the pressure on that mission will begin to build. Some will seek more information -- on terrorism, on the Middle East, on Islam, for instance. Others will seek to suppress that same information -- as unpatriotic, as discomfiting, as just plain unpleasant. Others will push for ever-greater assurances of protection for children.

Our traditional support for intellectual freedom could easily turn to a push for intellectual conformity, for the illusory security of being always watched.

The public library will be squarely in the middle of that debate: a part of the community, an advocate for information. And our staff will have their own views, as we too are parents, citizens.

In short, the second Phase of the Douglas Public Library District's development will have its challenges. I look forward to your continued participation in our collective story.

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