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, February 27, 2002

February 27 , 2002 - Your input needed on County Cultural Master Plan

As far as I can recall, the first live performance I ever saw was in junior high school. When I was in eighth grade, I got to see my first orchestra. I was a freshman in high school before I saw my first play.

Elementary school field trips took me to museums somewhat earlier. I didn't get to an art museum, though, until I was a junior in high school.

It's a different story with our children. They visited the Denver Art Museum before they were five. They've seen ballet, Shakespeare, Celtic fiddlers, and orchestras. They've seen theater both local and regional.

But it does get tiring to have to drive to Denver so often. So I've been pleased to see that both at the county and the community level, there's a sudden swell of interest in the arts.

The other day, I started listing for my staff the many organizations that are focused on culture in Douglas County. It's getting to be impressive. Here are just a few: the Douglas County Cultural Council, the Douglas County Historic Preservation Board, the Castle Rock Public Art Commission, the Parker Cultural Commission, the Lone Tree Arts Council, and the Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association. We have at least four local theater groups, one historic band, and a symphony. We have historic museums. Our schools offer a host of plays. And of course, there's the Douglas Public Library District, with facilities and programs throughout the county.

Another encouraging sign for culture in Douglas County is the Douglas County Cultural Master Plan committee. They'll be sponsoring six focus groups, three on Tuesday, March 5, and three on Wednesday, March 6. Thepublic is invited. The broad topics and locations are as follows:

March 5 - 9:30 to 11:30. Arts/Cultural Organizations Cooperating and Coordinating. Highlands Ranch Recreation Center, 9568 S. University Blvd.

Noon - 2 p.m. Funding and Facilities, also at the Rec Center.

4:30-6:30 p.m. Arts Education, South Elementary School, 1100 South Street Castle Rock.

March 6 - 10 a.m. to noon. Individual Artists, Mainstreet Center, 19650 E. Mainstreet, Parker.

2 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Heritage, Festivals, and Special Events, also at the Mainstreet Center.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: General Town Meeting, Hearing Room, Philip S. Miller Building, 100 Third Street, Castle Rock.

On behalf of this county-wide group, several Rotarians (from the two Castle Rock clubs, and from the Highlands Ranch club) will be conducting surveys. You'll see us outside area grocery stores, libraries, and recreation centers over next weekend.

Please do take a few minutes to talk with us. Our questions are pretty direct. We'll ask you what cultural activities you currently enjoy. We'll ask what would you like to see more of in your community. We'll ask who you think should be charged with the development of such programs.

Your time and thoughtfulness will help all of us try to plan intelligently for a rich cultural climate for you and your families.

Children shouldn't have to wait years, or battle interstate traffic, simply to discover the magic of the arts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

February 20 , 2002 - Operating Report on Library's Web Site

Lately, when someone applies for a job with us, they seem remarakably well-informed about what’s going on in the Douglas Public Library District.

For example, they commend us on our circulation growth. They praise the deliberations of our Library Board of Trustees. They express amazement at the sheer volume of programs we offer each month. They speak with insight about some of the issues we and our communities are grappling with.

From whence do they gain their knowledge?

Answer: our library website (www.dpld.org). In addition to the usual links to various electronic resources, our website offers a couple of other major sections that say quite a lot about both our external and internal operating environment: "Your Community," and "About Us."

There was a time when the historical record even of public institutions was more or less hidden. You had to go there. You had to know what kinds of records were maintained, and where. No more.

Now it’s all right there, accessible to you even in the middle of the night, from the comfort of your own home.

"Your Community" includes links to local newspapers, including the columns written by library staff. It also has a section on the Library Board, which as of last year, also includes the minutes of Board meetings.

Another section of our website is "About Us." This features, among other things, a statistical report for last year. Assembled and analyzed by Rochelle Logan, Associate Director for Support Services, this report is worth a short summary here.

* The year 2000 marked a milestone for the District in achieving circulation of over two million for the first time. In 2001 we reached 2,650,638 for an increase of 31.67% over 2000.

* Individual branch circulation performance was:
· Roxborough +75%
· Highlands Ranch +32%
· Lone Tree +16%
· Philip S. Miller +12%
· Cherry Valley +11%
· Louviers +10%
· Parker +9%

* While we saw big jumps in various audiovisual formats, consider these increases in the area of young adult print materials: hardback fiction up 38% over last year, paperback fiction up 55%, biography up 177%, and nonfiction up 183%. Good news!

* Our largest single category of use is children’s fiction: 34%. Next is adult non-fiction (18% of all checkouts). Third is videos (14%).

* The volume of reference questions responded to by our staff was another area of significant growth: up 23% over last year district-wide.

* Programs offered by the district grew rapidly. We doubled the number of adult programs, and pulled in almost 5,000 people to them. Programming also increased for youth: both young adults, and children.

* Almost two million people walked through our doors last year.

But back to that website. An average of 8,430 unique visitors viewed an average of 99,830 library web pages per month. At this point, our website has become a sort of "virtual branch," an alternate service location for a new kind of library use.

Too often, these days, we read in the paper about all kinds of cover-ups. Many government sources of information are drying up, vanishing from public review due to a new concern for security.

Much is made of the falsified or hidden financial data concerning such companies as Enron.

I'm pleased that your public library, while not responsible for national security, nor the custodian of your 401 (k) retirement funds, still conducts its business right out in the open, where even the average citizen can see what's going on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

February 13, 2002 - Religion is a Complicated Thing

Every now and then I stumble across an author interested in the same things that interest me.

My latest find is Karen Armstrong. She’s a Brit, a former Carmelite nun who has taken to writing about a subject many Americans find hard to tackle without offending, or being offended. That subject is religion.

I’ve read two of her books now, and I’m listening to a third. The first two were biographies. The first is called “Buddha.” The second is “Mohammed.” The third is titled, “The Battle for God,” about the conflicts that have given rise to various fundamentalist beliefs among followers of the Christian, Judaic, and Islamic faiths.

Armstrong has a scholar’s mind. She mostly concerns herself with no more than the historical record provides. But as a diligent researcher, she mines that record with insight.

Her take on Buddha is fascinating. Here was a man who not only founded a religion observed by many millions of people around the world today, but lived into his eighties. During that time, he steered his developing community through many encounters with the prevailing power structure of the day., and the developing power structure among his own followers.

I find his management style instructive. Invariably, the Buddha sought not power, but a principled and compassionate peace.

He worked ceaselessly to prevent the establishment of a cult of personality. Over and over, he said that the only charge of the curious was to investigate the claims of Buddhism. If something didn’t check out, then the obligation of the newcomer was NOT to Gautama Buddha’s supposed authority, but instead to his or her own judgment.

Here’s the detail that sticks in my mind. Buddha managed to convert both his father and son to what became a new religion. His wife, the wife he abandoned to pursue the spiritual life, did NOT convert.

The story of Mohammed is also illustrative. He believed himself to have been touched by the presence of God. Given Armstrong’s research, I’m inclined to think he really was.

He too lived for many years, and in that time, proved himself to be not only a prophet, but also an astonishingly able politician. But here’s a telling detail about him. Soon after his establishment in Mecca, he was reviled by a wandering poet, the media of the day.

Mohammed had him assassinated.

Nonetheless, Mohammed had a deep and undeniable interest in the poor and orphaned. Like many of his desert peers of the time, he had multiple wives. But unlike them, he treated them with altogether extraordinary respect and regard. The clear focus of his young and revolutionary belief system, in that place and time, was the disadvantaged, the orphaned, the widowed, and the poor. He was an advocate for social justice.

It’s hard not to contrast all this with the story of Jesus, who died in this early 30's.

I wonder sometimes if so many things about our own country’s predominant religious beliefs don’t owe their origin to the fact that the founder of Christianity wasn’t there to guide it through its early organizational stages. Or that Buddhism to this date equates age and wisdom. Or that the followers of Islam still closely tie religious belief with politics.

Religion is a complicated thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

February 6, 2002 - Your Lucky Day!

This week's column is written by Rochelle Logan, the Douglas Public
Library District's Associate Director for Support Services.

Can you remember the last time you walked into the library, browsed the new book shelves and happened upon a bestseller you’ve been wanting to read? If you do, it was likely a happy occurrence. Now you have a better chance of finding that elusive bestselling novel with our new program called Your Lucky Day.

I’m a fiction reader and a 10-year resident of Douglas County. As much as I like to purchase the occasional bestselling novel to share with my friends, I much prefer to get my books from the library. If I want a bestseller, I have to wait on a holds list, sometimes for months. Even though the Douglas Public Library District is most generous in that we buy an additional volume for every four holds on a book, sometimes you just have to wait a while for a book.

Case in point – I want to read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. We own 43 copies of the book and 172 people are currently waiting on hold to get it. While I wait for my name to surface on the holds list, I can occasionally go check the new books shelf at my local branch to see if The Corrections might be there, hoping it’s my Lucky Day. We are now buying additional bestsellers that are “exempt” from the holds list. These bestsellers have a shamrock label on the spine. When a patron
reads a Lucky Day book and returns it to their library, the book goes on the new fiction book shelf for the next lucky patron to happen upon it. It can’t be placed on hold.

Another popular novel has been Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. The book has 242 holds and we own 67 copies of it. You might find a Grisham or a Follett with a shamrock on the label sitting on the shelf. The more holds a book has, the more we buy for both the regular holds list and Your Lucky Day.

Please don’t call your local DPLD library and ask the staff to check the new fiction shelf for you to set a book aside. One of our objectives of Your Lucky Day is to encourage people to come in to browse the shelves. Who knows, if the bestseller isn’t there you’ve been wishing to read, you might find something just as interesting. Library staff have been advised not to pull any of these books and hold them for patrons. However, you can check the online catalog on our Web site to see if your book is on the shelf. Right now I’m checking for The Corrections. I see that there is a copy on the shelf at Lone Tree waiting for the next lucky patron. Maybe I should jump in the car right now and head over to Lone Tree…

We started Your Lucky Day in December. A woman walked into the Parker branch at the beginning of a two-week vacation. She browsed the shelves for something riveting to read. Low and behold, there were two books she wanted just sitting there with a shamrock on the label. She was on the holds list for one of them. She couldn’t believe her good fortune and positively danced to the circulation desk to check them out. Since she found the Lucky Day book, her name was automatically removed from the regular holds list, freeing up the list for the next patron in line.

Who knows, it might just be Your Lucky Day. Check it out!