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, November 13, 2002

November 13, 2002 - Board Vacancy

Wanted: a library Trustee. Could that be you?

Maren Francis, founder and former owner of the Hooked on Books bookstore, longtime library Trustee, and past President of the Library Board, will be stepping down at the end of this year.

Maren has seen a lot of change in her time with us (11 years, I believe!). Over the past decade, the library district has built or renovated a library every year, all paid for without debt, out of our carefully husbanded savings. Our staff has grown from about 35 people when she came on board, to over 265 today. The Internet arrived at the library. We've launched reference services and children's services and community programming.

When Maren arrived, the Douglas Public Library District was near the bottom, statistically, of library performance. No more. We are now the fourth or fifth busiest library in the state, and first in many categories.

Here's how the library board is set up.

The Douglas Public Library District has 7 Trustees. They are appointed by the County Commissioners: two from each of the three Commissioner districts, and one at large. We already have two more representatives from the southern Douglas County district, so this vacancy is an at large position, which means it can be filled from anyone in the county.

Trustee terms are 3 years, and Board members are limited to three terms.

What do Board members do? They are responsible for the policy governance of the institution, for oversight of the budget, for contracts, for deciding what library issues need to be taken to the public through a vote, and for the hiring, evaluation, and (God forbid) termination of the Library Director. Three of our Trustees also serve as the governing body of the Douglas Public Library Foundation.

In recent years, the Library Board has moved to something very like a corporate decision-making body. That is, their focus has been on long term planning, on financial modeling, and strategic decision-making. They keep their focus on the future, not on day-to-day operations.

The Library Board is non-partisan. The only agenda it has staked out for itself has revolved around two issues: quality service, and good stewardship of public funds. In my opinion, it has been highly successful in both these areas.

Last year, the Board adopted a new mission statement, and 7 key strategic directions. The focus of their vision has been “building community.” To fulfill those, we are looking for some key skills in new Board members. In particular, we are seeking Board members with strong and deep connections to their communities.

The Douglas Public Library District serves the entire population of the county. But it does so most successfully when it is deeply engaged with all of its neighborhoods. We need people who can represent emerging trends and interests of their communities to the library, and represent the extraordinary asset of the library back to those communities.

Here are some particular areas of expertise that might be useful, tied to our strategic directions.

The library website is everyone's favorite bookmark. We have long been a technological leader in Douglas County -- the first website to come up, and one of the most heavily used. What can we do to enhance our electronic offerings to the business community, to average citizens, to young people?

“We are an Arts and Cultural Showcase.” It might be useful to have people with connections to the visual, performing, dance, or other cultural and artistic world.

“The library supports lifelong learning.” The library serves a strong support role for preschool, elementary, secondary, college, and post-college education. Moreover, we serve as the “People's University.” This is role that could, and should, be enhanced.

What's in it for you? Based on a recent exercise we conducted with the Board, members feel a real sense that they give something back to the community. Others appreciated the educational aspect of the experience: Trustees get involved in everything from construction projects to community planning meetings. Some Trustees appreciate the chance to work for the library ideals of free and equal access to information, to work with other people committed to the same causes, to help shape the direction of an institution. And of course, there's the fact that library Trustees, although they are not paid, are exempt from fines!

If you are interested in applying for a position, please send a letter to: Nominating Committee, c/o Trustees of the Douglas Public Library District, with a letter of interest and a resume. The Board will schedule interviews for top candidates by the end of the year, and seek to make the recommendation for appointment by January, 2004.

If you need more information, give me a call at 720-733-8624, or email me at jlarue@jlarue.com.

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