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, December 31, 2003

December 31, 2003 - service overview

Every now and then -- and the last column of the year seems like a logical time -- I like to remind everybody what the Douglas County Libraries are all about.

First and foremost, we are an independent library district, dedicated to quality service. Where does our money come from? -- mostly, from property taxes. While we are not a part of Douglas County government, we do share the same boundaries.

How do we operate? The Douglas County Libraries hire smart people, provide them with lots of training, and encourage them to use their good judgment to fulfill our key mission. That mission is "to provide resources for learning and leisure to build communities and improve lives in Douglas County."

Among those services are almost half a million items. Most of them can be checked out. We have books galore, magazines and comic books, VHS and DVD videos, music cassettes and CDs, and children's kits (with several kinds of media).

Then there are our electronic resources. Our key resource is the catalog of all our holdings, accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Assuming an Internet connection to our site (www.DouglasCountyLibraries.org), you can browse our virtual shelves, look at reviews of popular books, put things on hold, see what may have come in for you from previous holds, and more.

Our website also contains loads of local information. For all of you newcomers to the area, this is a great place to start exploring Douglas County.

Another key resource is our subscription databases. Have you ever done a Google search and found 1,247,398 matches -- none of which had what you were looking for?

The databases we subscribe to, on your behalf, will give you just that handful of hits that actually contains relevant information. These sources cover everything from car repair to medical issues to homework help to up-to-minute corporate financial statements.

If you can't find the RIGHT database, you can always ask one of our helpful librarians. During the work day, you can talk to them in person. But we also subscribe to a 24/7 ONLINE reference service; so librarians can type back and forth with you, and even push web pages to you.

We provide public space. You can attend our programs (everything from big, signature events for adults, to daily storytimes for preschoolers), book your own group's meetings, take advantage of one of our smaller study rooms, or just stake out a table or a comfy chair to sit and read.

And finally, let's go back to where I started: our staff. These cheerful, well-informed, enthusiastic souls will direct you to just the right resource. You'll find them, and us, not only all over cyberspace, but also at any of our seven services locations (Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Parker, Louviers, Cherry Valley, and, in early 2004, back in the Roxborough area, but more news about that in future columns!).

This past year we spent a lot of time thinking through our mission and our message. Here's the catchphrase that captures most of it: Access: OnSite and OnLine. Translation: we help you find the thing information you're looking for, right here in one of our buildings, or in cyberspace.

We hope to see you in 2004.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

December 24, 2003 - A Gift Suitable for All Ages

For the past several years, I've been reprinting what I've come to think of as "my Christmas column" -- a tradition. I hope you enjoy it.


What we really need is an all-purpose gift that will satisfy everybody. It should be suitable for all ages. It should require no assembly. It shouldn't need batteries. You shouldn't have to feed it. It should last forever. It should be constantly entertaining. The more the recipient uses it, the more he or she should like it.

And of course, it should be free.

No such animal, right? Wrong. I'm talking about a library card.

I'll never understand it. Most adults these days carry cards of every description; most of them DON'T have library cards. So for the woman or man who has everything, why not offer everything else? -- access to the total accumulated knowledge of the human race, not to mention the most wonderful stories ever told.

Of course, the real winner of a gift like this is not an adult. It's a child.

Here's all you have to do to make your holidays a success. First, come down to the library and fill out a library card application for your child. Then, check out three of four books. Wrap the card and the books and set them under the tree. Save this very special package for last.

When the child rips it open, say that this unassuming little card will let him or her get presents all year long. Then read your child to sleep that night with one of the books.

After your children have gotten bored with all their expensive toys, read them (or have them read) the other books, then trot them down to the library in that slow week after the main event. Teach your children about exchanging one present for another.

At the library, every day is Christmas. Behind every book cover there are riches. After introducing your kids to a treasure trove beyond Aladdin's wildest dreams, why not mosey over to the adult section, and browse through the latest offerings yourself? You know you deserve it.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett urged every child to obtain and use a library card. It was good advice then; it's good advice now.

Besides, at prices like these, who can argue? If you are not fully satisfied after a lifetime of learning and pleasure -- I'll cheerfully refund your money.

Trust me, this could be the best Christmas card you'll ever send.


Note: all Douglas County Libraries will be closed from 3 p.m., December 24, to 9 a.m., December 26.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

December 17, 2003 - graphic novels

Some years ago, I was appalled to read that the soldiers charged with routine maintenance of various U.S. atomic weapons got their training from comic books.

I'm not being a snob. It happens that I like comic books a lot. But it seemed to me that really important training should be based on, well, really heavy textbooks.

I was wrong.

First, let me digress. Before the movies came out, I had read "The Lord of the Rings" series twice. Both times, I was enjoying myself and paying close attention. (The two often go together.)

But you know what? Later, I really couldn't remember much. I could remember parts, of course. But not all, not even MOST, of the twists and turns of the plots. I suppose that's one of the reasons I like to re-read books -- I read fast, but it takes a few times for me to get it all.

When the movies came out, I started to read the series again, and this time, when I was done, I found that I COULD remember them, scene and sequence, in great detail.

Why is that? Because now I could see it, could call up a sort of memory photograph. It didn't matter even if that scene hadn't been in the movie. I just filled it in, extrapolating from what I had seen.

This tendency to remember things that I see better than the things I just read or hear about, isn't a function of intelligence or education. It's just that I am, like most of the people in the world, a visual learner. It isn't the ONLY way I learn, but it's the quickest and the most enduring.

The same explanation is behind the runaway publishing phenomena called "graphic novels."

What is a graphic novel? Well, on the outside, usually it's a sort of high gloss paperback. Inside, it's a shiny comic book.

Most of the graphic novels, as the name suggests, are fiction. But that fiction often has a surprising twist.

Consider one of the first graphic novels to make it big. Called "Maus," it had the unlikely setting of Nazi Germany. But the characters were all animals. The Jews were mice. The Nazis were cats.

But this wasn't an allegory, like Orwell's "Animal Farm." The characters and events of "Maus" were drawn straight from history.

Recently, I saw my daughter reading a graphic novel about Ireland. I picked it up myself. To my distinct pleasure, it left in some of the juice of history -- as opposed to far too many books that squeeze it right out.

You may have noticed that many bookstores -- just like many libraries -- have growing graphic novel sections. Why? Because whether it's fiction or fact, particularly for those of us raised in the age of television, we just pick up things more easily if they are in color, if they are based on image. (Note to the excessively busy: graphic novels are also faster reads than traditional books.)

So if soldiers now find it easier to learn, and remember, how to accurately mantle and dismantle America's weapons of mass destruction, then I say, graphic novels are a Good Thing.

Even if they do look like comic books.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

December 10, 2003 – Robb

One of the last classes I took to get my library degree was an "administrative practicum." In brief, I had the chance to closely observe the local public library director, a man named Fred Schlipf. Schlipf had a Ph.D. in Library Science, and had taught a couple of our classes.

Much of the practicum consisted of me sitting in his office and taking notes. How to deal with this. How to deal with that. I also got to ask frank questions about why he had chosen a certain approach; in return, I got frank answers.

Then, he had me work in every department of the relatively small library (a single building, serving a single town) for a day. After that, he asked me to tell him where I thought there were any problems. I didn't find many – but I thought the archives department could use some firming up.

So he put me in charge of doing that. I got to call meetings, work up agenda, give some work assignments, and evaluate the changes.

It was a wonderful experience, showing me precisely the difference between theory and application in my new field. It served me in good stead for many years afterward.

Like so many things, the only way to pay back that experience is to pay it forward. At the end of last summer, I was approached by one Robb Heckel, a master's candidate at the Emporia State University extension program in the School of Library and Information Science. He was seeking an administrative practicum at our libraries. I volunteered to take him on.

In his over 200 hours with us, Robb got to see a lot. He saw policy changes, administrative changes, budget retreats and presentations. He observed Board meetings and committee caucuses. He sat in on state legislative strategy sessions. He heard some of the deliberations around key personnel issues, and what it's like to negotiate with and manage important vendors. He came to our annual staff day. He attended our "district roundtable" -- where our strategic decisions are made – and then got to follow those decisions down to the branch level.

He got, in short, a very top level view of how a large library district is run, good and bad, warts and all. I didn't hide anything, and did my best to answer his often probing and insightful questions.

But here's the surprise. While I have no doubt the experience was a valuable contribution to his education, it was also a big contribution to mine.

Bringing in a fresh pair of eyes to my job let me see some things I hadn't seen before. My job has changed. While I still have a hand in the facilitation of decisions in-house, and still have an important role in setting tone and direction, more and more of my time involves thinking about and making myself available to a much larger community.

I saw the many things I like about this place – the thoughtfulness and openness that goes into our decision-making. I also saw the places where our growth has begun to make us inefficient, or where we don't quite live up to some of our values.

In short, by working with an "intern," I not only got a new perspective on my job, but a sharp to-do list out of Robb's questions.

I bet that would hold true for other librarians. In fact, I bet almost anybody would benefit from having a curious student follow him or her around and ask apropos questions.

Teaching is a powerful way to learn. As I suspect one of my mentors, Dr. Schlipf, would agree, sometimes you do things for your profession that wind up doing YOU a lot of good.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

December 3, 2003 - meeting rooms

In the process of planning for our new Philip S. Miller Library, we conducted many focus groups. There was a consistent message: we needed more meeting rooms.

It was true. Our "big" meeting room -- about 700 square feet -- was booked every Monday through Thursday night, as much as a year in advance.

But there were, often, just three or four few people in each meeting. So our new building in Castle Rock, like the Highlands Ranch Library before it, offered lots of smaller spaces for people to get together.

For a long time, we have tried to make sure that non-commercial groups had first call on these spaces. That's what accounts for the high demand of use in the evenings -- everybody is at work during the day. In fact, we have often denied the use of our spaces for commercial uses.

Why the preferential treatment? Mainly, because we are a public institution. Businesses are more likely to have the resources to rent space for their gatherings. Our primary clientele, particularly as regards evening use, involves people volunteering for what I would call "community building" -- forming not-for-profit networks that invest in youth, and/or allow neighbors to come together around some common causes.

Gathering space, in Douglas County, is hard to come by. It furthers the public good for public institutions to provide it.

That process is very much in keeping with our mission, and in keeping with what librarians do generally: gather, organize, and make publicly accessible all kinds of resources. In this case, the resource we're gathering is each other.

We have also had all kinds of restrictions against commercial use of library space. Meetings had to be open to all. You couldn't charge admission. The serving of alcohol was very strictly limited -- to after hours, to donated beer and wine, and requiring the advance permission of the Library Board of Trustees.

But with the expansion of available space at all of our libraries over the past several years, we've begun talking about opening things up more. For instance, during the day, why not allow businesses to book the space for their private meetings? Businesses, too, are part of our community.

So I've presented a proposal, based on some careful consideration by our staff, about some changes to our meeting room uses. We're in the discussion phase now, so your comments are eagerly solicited.

Here's the first part of the new policy proposal. In brief, we will annually open our meeting rooms for booking, much as we do now. We will invite the not-for-profit community to book the space first. This space would continue to be offered at no charge.

But the second call will be open, on a first-come, first-served basis, to any community user. Here's the big change: commercial users will be charged a nominal fee for the use of our larger rooms. Why charge anything? Because although I'm happy to invite new uses, I don't want to undercut existing businesses that do charge for meeting rooms.

I'm also proposing that we open up the library to the use of groups that might want to charge public admission: music and theater performances, for instance. The logic is that the library wants to be a center of culture, and the absence of an affordable venue is a serious problem in this county.

By far the most sensitive notion is that of allowing the use, in some very carefully described ways, of alcohol in the library. My idea of an appropriate use might be a fundraising dinner for a local non-profit, for example, or a wine and cheese reception for an art exhibit. The restrictions would be: EITHER after hours or in the evening only (not before 7 p.m. on a night that we are open until 9 p.m.). Again, beer and wine only, and only if donated; it can not be sold. Such groups would have to have insurance, and would have to add the library as a named insured. They would also have to assure us, in writing, that someone would be carefully watching to make sure that no one other than adults had access to the alcohol. The Board would still have to approve each request.

What do you think of such changes? We are also considering holding a public hearing on this topic. Until then, please direct your comments to me at jlarue@dclibraries.org or leave a message for me at 303-688-7656.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

November 26, 2003 - Traditions

I had, depending on your viewpoint, the good or the bad luck of being raised in something of a religious vacuum.

For one summer, I went with my neighbor to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Later, my family belonged for about a year to a United Methodist Church, whose new minister greatly appealed to young people. He was a compelling and intense speaker, with a fresh, contemporary take on Christianity.

Everybody else liked him, too. They actually had to knock out the back of the church to add more seats. Then, after about six months of delivering fascinating, entertaining, and often deeply moving insights into the life and mind of Christ, he abruptly shifted his ministry. He called upon his congregation not just to admire Jesus, but try to follow His lead. That proved, alas, less popular.

Throughout my life, I've known Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians and members of the Greek Orthodox Church. These are all people with a rich and complex tapestry not only of belief, but of something that was pretty much absent in my house: ritual.

Of course, ritual isn't the exclusive province of religion. It seems that almost any human institution develops patterns of behavior that tend to become very stylized.

Some people find deep comfort in such ritual. The idea seems to be that things change in life, too many things, maybe. You get older. People die. Good things come to an end.

Ritual is a bulwark against change. It says, "This is something you can count on."

Ritual also promotes both community and conformity. Whether it's a ritual of dress, or speech, or of more subtle behaviors, rituals say, "I belong to this group of people."

This week's holiday, certainly qualifying as a uniquely North American ritual, is Thanksgiving. While it began as an entirely religious observance (in 1619, near what is now Charles City, Virginia), it became a national holiday in 1789. Interestingly, President George Washington expressed strong misgivings about this merger of religion and politics.

These days, Thanksgiving is mostly a secular observance. It was nonetheless an enduring ritual even in my childhood home. There were some dishes we had that you just couldn't hold Thanksgiving without (turkey, of course) -- and some of them distinct to my family ("24 hour salad," mostly canned fruit and whipping cream).

And despite my stunted appreciation of ritual, I have held onto Thanksgiving. I not only like to eat, I like the whole idea behind Thanksgiving. That is, that we should give thanks, that most of us live lives of abundance, and that as the days shorten and the nights grow colder (finally!), that we can greet the winter with snug and well-provided homes.

It is my hope that among those provisions, you have laid in a healthy and diverse collection of books, music, and film, all supplied by your local library.

All Douglas County Libraries will be closed on Thanksgiving. In fact, we will also be closed on the evening before, the better to allow our staff to prepare feasts for their families.

From all of us to all of you, thank you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

November 19, 2003 - obsessions

I was taking the dogs for a walk with my 9-year old son, Perry. He was telling me that lately he is obsessed with Bionicles. These are snap-together toy models produced by Lego. Perry has a lot to say about them.

I didn't follow it all. It went something like this: in 2004, they're going to make a new Bionicle movie called "Metru Nui: City of Legends." It includes six heroes. Unlike the first six Toa, they're going to be more powerful Matoran.

See, the Toa's helpers, the Turaga, each have their own masks. The new Matoran will have the masks of the Turaga, but will have switched the COLORS of the masks. Perry thinks that the Matoran will be tossed into death by Makuta's Shadows, but the masks will stay behind and become the Turaga's. The Turaga, incidentally, are not powerful enough to help the Matoran villagers, so that's why the Toa washed up on shore.

Got that? Me, neither.Still, Perry thanked me for listening. He said that not everybody else takes the time. He did get his sister, Maddy, to admit that there are many similarities between Bionicles and her obsession, Lord of the Rings. For instance, both fictional universes are based on what Perry calls "imaginative legends." Both the universes have their own alphabets. In this world, each has books and movies and websites devoted to them.

Perry asked me what my obsession was. Then he answered himself. "Computers. Linux."

Well, that is so completely not true. Children may have their obsessions. Grown-ups have ... interests. Hobbies. Pursuits. We do research for important reasons.

I HAVE been spending a fair amount of time lately spelunking in the caverns of Open Source operating systems. But there really is a reason.

If you spend any time on computer newsgroups at all, you know that there are certain almost religious aspects to operating system brand loyalty. It's Windows versus Apple. It's Linux versus BSD. And it's one jihad after another, flamefests that go on for years.

But here's the bottom line. Most of us don't particularly care. All that matters is what we DO with a computer. And for most of us, that's a relatively short list. We write and answer email. We browse the World Wide Web. We write short documents. We work up an occasional spreadsheet. Sometimes, we draw a picture or work on a database.

I have decided that by moving to Open Source software, we can capture most of the computer services we provide to the public. We'll be using Mozilla (see www.mozilla.org) for browsing. We'll be using OpenOffice.org (www.openoffice.org) for most everything else. And all of it will be running on Linux.

Why? Because I believe Open Source software will make it easier for us to sustain our investment in public computing. Linux, Mozilla, and OpenOffice.org are all freely available at no cost. On a new computer, that could be a savings of about $250 per machine. We have a lot of computers, and hope to buy many more.

At some point, some months from now, we may well host some public workshops on Open Source. I'd like to show people just how powerful this stuff can be. I also want people to know how to find their way around on our news systems.

Incidentally, there are many flavors or "distributions" of Linux. I'm writing this column on a machine that runs four different varieties, just to poke around and figure out which one works the smoothest. At work, I use another one. I've also tested a sixth.

By contrast, Perry has collected nineteen of the total (at this writing) 36 Bionicles. Kids!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

November 12, 2003 - from print to AV

I need some advice.

For over a century, libraries have mostly focused on the purchase of print. And indeed, in libraries all across the country, we have stocked our shelves mainly with books and magazines.

These continue, of course, to be a significant part of our business. Adding up all the categories of things we check out, in 2002 a full 75 percent of what people took was print. Forty-one percent of our checkouts were children's and Young Adult books, which I find comforting.

But all that does is reflect what we offer. That is, about 75 percent of our collection is print. People check out the things we have, in roughly the percentage we supply them. (Actually, that's not quite accurate. Forty-one percent of our collection is not children's materials. I'm simplifying things by emphasizing the difference between print and non-.)

My aim is not to bat about statistics, however. My question is this: what's the RIGHT percentage of print versus "audiovisual" materials? Here, audiovisual means Books on Tape, Books on CD, music CDs, and VHS videos and DVDs.

To be even more pointed, what do YOU, the library patron, actually want from us as far as preferred formats for bestsellers? Here's what we'd like to know from you:

1. In general, with respect to your personal use of library materials, do you read printed library materials (limit your responses to fiction and non-fiction books - don't count periodicals) or do you listen to recorded materials (again, limited to fiction and non-fiction tapes and/or CDs)?

2. Can you quantify your response (such as for example 95% audio v. 5% print)?

3. If you are a listener, do you prefer CDs or tapes, or doesn't it matter?

The answers to these questions could have some big consequences for the future of your local library. The first consequence concerns our buying decisions.

Right now, and somewhat counter-intuitively, the cost of books on tape and CDs is significantly greater than books. (The cost for producing CD's has to be cheaper, but there we have the mysterious forces of the marketplace.)

For example, consider "The Da Vinci Code." These are the retail costs of this book in the four different formats we bought:

Hardback: $24.95
Large Print: $26.95
Book on tape: $80.00
CD: $117.00

But the Douglas County Libraries has negotiated some remarkable discounts. For most hardbacks, we get a 43 percent discount (although that doesn't include our costs for cataloging and processing). But for audiotapes and CD's, the best we can do is about a 10 percent discount. That's true for all libraries. Again, we see the wisdom of the marketplace, meaning that so far the producers can get away with charging more.

Right now, when we get four requests for something (reserves or "holds"), we buy an extra copy. But we don't necessarily do that for the books on tape or CD. Why? Because of the difference in cost. (And also because we've noticed a pattern -- some people put holds on both the audiotape and CD versions to see which one they get first, which skews the demand.)

I've already directed staff to head in the direction of building a collection that is one third print children's materials, one third adult print, and one third audiovisual. But it will take us awhile to get there. Meanwhile, we'd like to know if the public would like us to apply similar standards for reserves to non-print materials as we do to print.

To weigh in on this issue, just leave me a message at 303-688-7654 or email me at jlarue@dclibraries.org. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

November 5, 2003 - library contribution to economic development

On occasion, I get glum about American culture. But then I remember some facts that make me feel better.

Here's my favorite: There are more public library branches in America than McDonald's. Truly -- we have over 16,000 service locations; they have fewer than 15,000.

Here's another: in a given year, there are more visits to the local library (Denver, for instance) than there are to all city sporting events combined. In fact, last year, there were over 1.1 billion library visits, or 4.3 visits per capita nationwide.

Don't you feel better now?

What do people come to us for? Some people think the Internet is our competition. But it could be part of our draw. As of 2002, some 92 percent of public libraries had access, and 83 percent made that access available directly to their patrons.

It might be the collections. Here's the order of subjects that have proven to be both the most popular, and generally account for the greatest number of public library purchases: Medicine/Health, How-To/"Home Arts," Biography, Arts/Crafts, Cookbooks, Travel, History, Computers, Business, and Self-Help/Psychology.

Across the country, children's materials, all by themselves, account for some 612 million items, or about 36 percent of total checkouts. (At the Douglas County Libraries, it's closer to 42 percent.)

Or maybe people go to libraries for the programs. Over 48 million children did, last year.

Or it might be that people come simply to meet each other. I'm convinced that the real story of public libraries over the past 10 years is that communities are rediscovering us as the long lost "commons," the public gathering place that doesn't charge a toll at the gate. You see this change in the explosive growth of public meetings, the quest for virtual offices, or even the casual conversations struck up over the new magazines.

And of course, some people just go to the library because they like the people who work there. In happens that in 2002, over 390,000 people worked in libraries across the country.

I've gotten interested in the economic development side of libraries. Some of our contributions to the local economy are obvious. Busy public libraries serve as anchor stores, generating a steady flow of traffic even when times are tough. In fact, the worse the business climate, the more traffic we get, which is undoubtedly a shot in the arm for our neighbors.

There are three kinds of publicly funded libraries in Colorado: academic, public, and school. As of last year, there were 57 academic library buildings, employing 1,340 people, and returning over $79.4 million to the economy.

There were 243 public library buildings, employing 2,489 people, and spending some $163.7 million on various services.

School libraries could be found in 1,437 buildings, providing work for 2,538 people, and investing $55.8 million in the education of our children.

Add it all up, and more than 1700 libraries employ almost 6,400 Coloradans and spend nearly $300 million annually.

Some would have it that government employees do nothing more than take your money. But that's not how it works for library workers. We spend most of our time adding value to those dollars, then pumping them right back into the communities where we live.

Libraries are good business.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

October 29, 2003 - new limit on renewals

When I was a kid, I used to go to a bookmobile.There I found a book called, "Me and Caleb."

I don't remember anymore what it was about (other than Caleb, which I thought then, and still think, is a cool name). But I do remember this: I loved that book, and two weeks later, I asked Mrs. Johnson, the twinkly-eyed bookmobile librarian, to let me renew it.

Two weeks later, I BEGGED her to let me renew it once more. It was against the rules, and I knew it. I told her that I read the book every single day, couldn't I please have it just one more time? Please?

I was young, I was (why deny it?) cute, and I was extravagantly earnest. She looked into my hangdog, baby blue eyes, and gave in.

She was a great librarian.

Unfortunately, and I'm not saying I'm proud of this, I was lying. Oh, I loved the book alright, but I wasn't reading it every day. Why?

Because I couldn't find it.

I'd looked everywhere. And my panic grew hourly. Mrs. Johnson, for all I knew, would lose her job over the sin of breaking sacred rules simply to accommodate a kid who had BETRAYED her. It made me feel sick.

Then there was the other possibility. I wasn't ever going to find it. My parents would have to pay for it. I would lose my library card!

Finally, miserably, I confessed to my mother. She said, after the smallest pause, "Oh, I know where that is," and in moments, set it in my hands.

A few days later, I solemnly handed it to Mrs. Johnson. "Thank you," I said. And I meant it.

My point, in case you're wondering, concerns an upcoming change in our rules. We've discovered that a good many of our materials go out to someone and stay out for a long time. Months. We now have literally thousands of books we haven't seen in half a year.

Nobody is breaking any rules. For years, we have let people renew their materials as many times as they want. After all, people are busy and may not get to something right away. Or they may be using it to teach a child, or take a class.

Sometimes people renew their books just as a matter of convenience -- finding it easier to renew everything all at once.

But here's the problem.

If one person keeps something out for months, then nobody else will stumble across it. Nobody else can fall in love with it.

It's true that people can place holds on long absent books, but that presumes that people find what they want through our computer catalog. We know from countless studies that that's not how it works. People may look up one title, but after that, they go to the shelves to see what's in.

So, effective December 1, 2003, I'll be imposing a limit of 5 renewals on our materials. If, on that day, you've already renewed something, you'll be automatically prevented from renewing it again. That means you have to bring it back.

That's not, I trust, an especially onerous restriction. But it will help us to ensure that more of our patrons have a chance to find the books truly destined for them.

Until then, start looking around for things. Oh, and if you get stuck, don't forget to ask your mom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

October 22, 2003 - Hennen American Public Library Ratings

All of us have done it. All of us have had it done TO us.

I'm talking about ratings.

The boys in my undergraduate dorm laughed at their ratings of the coeds in the cafeteria line -- placards held high with the numbers.

Those same boys cringed when the coeds rated THEM that evening at dinner. The women added ... comments. (Which just goes to show you, said the boys, how cruel and unfair women can be.)

It takes a while in life to learn important lessons. Here's one of them: Rate not, lest ye be rated.

Here's another. The rating is only as good as the people doing the rating -- and the standards they use to get there.

When I was young, I was often devastated by other people's negative judgments about me. These days, it only matters to me if I respect those people, and their knowledge. If I don't, who cares what they think?

Even if I do respect them, I've learned that nobody's judgment of my behavior is anywhere near as demanding as my own.

In the library world, there seem to be just a couple of ratings that matter. One of them is decidedly local: community support.

Community support for a library can be evaluated in several ways. The obvious one is use. Lots of people have library cards, or check things out, or attend library programs, or use the meeting rooms or Internet computers.

Another measure of community support is equally obvious: money. Some libraries win their bond or mill levy elections. They successfully lobby their cities or counties to get their annual appropriations. As a result, they have more books and buildings.

Yet another measure of community support might be the library's reputation. Do most people in the area respect the institution and its staff -- or hold them in disdain? Or worse, what if the community doesn't think of the library at all?

After the local community, the second big rater of public library service in the United States is something called the Hennen American Public Library Ratings.

If you've lived in Colorado for a year or more, you've probably heard of this. Denver Public has for a couple of years now been rated first in the nation for its population served (over 500,000).

Hennen, as it happens, is just some guy in Wisconsin (he does run a library system) with an interest in statistics. Almost as a hobby, he started using various stats on public libraries to come up with a list of libraries that were the "best."

Mostly, his ratings are based on a combination of things mentioned above: checkouts per capita, square feet of library space per capita, and expenditures (especially for books) per capita. It may not be complete, but it's all pretty reasonable.

Hennen has also been very successful in marketing his index in both the library world and the popular press.

There's about an 18 month lag in his ratings. So they are always a little behind the times.

For instance, he just published his latest index. Denver Public again won in its population category. The rating does not reflect the deep cuts Denver sustained the past two years. It won't win next year.

But guess what? Also appearing in this year's index of the top 100 is the Douglas County Libraries (still called Douglas Public Library District, since the data are based on two years ago).

In the 100,000 to 249,000 population category, your local library is rated number 3 in the whole United States. That's right. We're third best in the country.

I am, as all my friends will tell you, a truly gentle man, far more interested in collaboration than competition.

But let me say this.

Naperville Public, IL and Medina County District Library, OH -- watch your back! You're going down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

October 15, 2003 - librarian action figure

I am very proud -- smug, even -- to report that I am the very first person in the whole state of Colorado to own the soon-to-be-famous "Librarian Action Figure." I got it on Monday, Sept. 28, two days before its general release.

Even better, I got it, autographed, from Nancy Pearl herself, the Seattle librarian upon whom the action figure was modeled.

It's a beaut. I'm especially taken with its "amazing push-button shushing action plus BONUS Trading Card and Bookmark."

Now, this might surprise you, but it turns out that some librarians are deeply incensed about this bemusing new icon of American librarianship.

Why? Because they fear that the blue-suited, bespectacled plastic figure, action finger to smiling action lips, perpetuates an outmoded stereotype.

I couldn't disagree more. For one thing, it clearly states that at least one librarian has a sense of humor -- perhaps the most potent and vital tool for survival in the modern age.

For another, Ms. Pearl is something of an action figure herself. Not only is she an avid bicyclist, she is author of a recent paperback entitled, "Book Lust." Director of Library Programming and the Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library, Pearl is the one who first came up with the widely imitated idea she called, "If all Seattle read the same book."

Even the packaging of this prime collectible is crammed with interesting information. You'll find a brief history of libraries, stretching from 2000 BCE to today (when there are 400,000 librarians operating over 124,000 libraries).

Again in the best tradition of the field, the packaging asks, "Want to find a library near you?" See Yahoo's online directory for public libraries.

"Want to find a book club near you?" bookclubpartner.com

There's also a list of some of the famous librarians in history: Casanova, Ben Franklin, Pope Pius XI, Mao Tse-tung, J. Edgar Hoover, Jorge Luis Borges, and even Batgirl (better known to us comic book aficionados as her latest incarnation: Oracle). That's quite a spread of philosophies and personalities, underscoring the uncommon breadth of the profession.

In short, the Librarian Action Figure is an absolutely charming product with a great back story.

And you know what? If it makes people smile, that's fine with me. They may buy it on a whim, as a lark, or for a laugh.

But I'm confident that the longer they have it, the more they'll come to appreciate just how cool librarians can be.

As Nancy Pearl put it, "The role of the librarian is to make sense of the world of information. If that's not a qualification for superhero-dom, what is?"

(The Librarian Action Figure is available from www.accoutrements.com, and all the better stores everywhere.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

October 8, 2003 - Castle Rock Charrette

A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk with Stevan Strain. Stevan is one of our Library Trustees, representing the Parker area. Stevan also runs the Warhorse Inn on Parker's Mainstreet.

We strolled down Wilcox, the historic Main Street of Castle Rock, then back north on Perry Street. I'd been thinking a lot about the downtown area, so I was all set to illustrate, tour guide fashion, all the touches I thought made downtown Castle Rock so successful, so pedestrian-friendly.

Well, it turns out that Stevan had been thinking about these things even longer than I had, and more deeply. Every time I pointed out something, he'd point out out two things.

I can't remember when I've had such an interesting time. I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that most of us don't pay very much attention to our surroundings. Until you're really thinking and talking about all these things, you don't notice the subtle effect of a curb cut on how fast the traffic flows. You don't understand why some storefronts invite you, and others disconnect.

Over the past 13 years, I've seen how new libraries change the way towns and neighborhoods work. I've watched the way downtowns have developed in Castle Rock, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Sedalia, and Larkspur. Each community is different; each conducts different kinds of experiments.

Most of us just inherit our surroundings. Nobody asks us, particularly, what kind of feel we want for either public or commercial spaces. We take what we get, and all too often, what we get is soulless, tacky, cheap, and surreal.

Yet the shape of our surroundings does have an effect on us. It determines how people connect to each other. It makes it easier, or harder, to do our work well. At a deeper level, it also affects how we feel as human beings -- sheltered, encouraged, welcomed; or exposed, frustrated, and rejected.

Here's what I've decided: I want to live in a place I like. I want to be part of making wherever I am a place that's good to live in.

Fortunately, the Town of Castle Rock is giving me -- and anybody else with an interest in such things -- an opportunity to do just that.

This weekend, the Town is hosting something called a "charrette." With the able assistance of some urban design specialists from the American Institute of Architects, the public is invited to participate in a two-day process with the following goal: to generate some great ideas about the direction of the town's development.

But don't expect a dry planning committee. While there will be some brief updates on current projects, most of the time will be spent on brainstorming. There just might be some wild ideas -- Denver's 16th Street Mall came out of a charrette process.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 10, followed by a social event until 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, October 11, the charrette will run from 8:30 to 5:30. The location is at the new Philip S. Miller Library, 100 S. Wilcox.

If you're interested, we do encourage you to RSVP -- that way we can more accurately provide for munchies. Please call Loretta Daniel, Senior Planner for the Town, at 720-733-2232.

The results of these two days of planning just might determine what happens in Castle Rock over the next 20 years. Make a difference.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

October 1, 2003 - incomparable staff

I have now had the great good luck of opening several new libraries in Douglas County. Most recent has been our headquarters library, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock.

Much of our public activity acknowledges the countless contributions of the general public -- our many donors, our artists, our colleagues in other branches of government.

This column, however, is about the folks who too often don't get acknowledged.

Let's begin at the beginning. The Trustees of the Douglas County Libraries are community volunteers. It is they who set the policies to make sure we had enough money on hand to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move back downtown. It is they who adopted the mission of the library, which directs us to "build community and improve lives in Douglas County."

Then there were our architects. We always aggressively bid out our architectural contracts. And Humphries Poli keeps winning them. Why? Because they have the ability, time after time, to "get" what we need, to imagine new buildings, and re-imagine old ones.

Our contractors, Cambria Construction, also worked hard for us -- bringing in the project on time and under budget.

To the public, one library closed down, and just a couple of weeks later, a new one opened. I hope I don't destroy any illusions for anybody, but behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of staff activity, at times indistinguishable from panic. (Graceful panic, to be sure, but ... panic.)

The new library houses not only the circulation, children's, and reference staff of the library; it is also home to our Technical Services department (the folks who order, catalog, and prepare our materials for checkout), the Computer and Network Support Staff (who keep all our systems running), our Training staff, our Facilities department, our Community Relations Department, our Business Office, and a handful of administrative staff (Human Relations, Volunteers, Adult Literacy, my assistant, and me).

Over the past couple of weeks, I've seen a wonderful "jump-in-and-do-it" attitude all over this place. Catalogers have been slapping books on shelves. Trainers have been plugging in computers. People have been stuffing packets and lugging equipment, practicing tours, and setting up tables and chairs. Even the staff at other branches have pitched in, in an unending demonstration of support (and sympathy, as many of them have gone through their own Grand Openings).

From the beginning of our whole design process, to the final snipping of the ribbon, this library is the product of many minds, many hearts, and many hands. Yes, we pay them -- but this staff gives us not just their time, but their deepest and most conscientious commitment.

Here's just one example: on one of our moving days, Lynn Unruh, our Circulation Supervisor, tripped on a wooden ramp and tumbled. She wound up with a dislocated and fractured shoulder that required surgery. Lynn's response? She was sorry; she APOLOGIZED for the trouble.

While Lynn did wind up missing most of the fun, her good planning helped the rest of us get things done efficiently.

I have the extraordinary privilege of working with an absolutely incomparable staff. Library buildings are wonderful places. Books and magazines and DVD's are magnificent resources. But the library is more than all that: it is the people whose passion and intelligence give those things meaning.

Thank you, the staff of the Douglas County Libraries. Well done!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

September 24, 2003 - the Patriot Act revisited

I don't know what to think.

I've written before about the Patriot Act, passed in haste after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

The provisions were disturbing to librarians. Among other things, the Act:

* lowered the legal standard for obtaining a search warrant from "probable cause" to "suspicion;"

* allowed the FBI to get a special search warrant to retrieve records of library use;

* overrode state and local privacy laws;

* prohibited the library from notifying the patron, or the press, or anyone else that an investigation was underway; and

* granted expanded wiretapping authority to federal & state law enforcement agencies that allowed monitoring of public computers.

It's possible that librarians are a little more sensitive to the issue of patron privacy than most folks. But I think that makes us useful. We're like canaries in the mines -- the first to sense that it's going to get a little harder to breathe by and by.

To many librarians, the Patriot Act is a clear threat to the confidentiality of library use. But when I've talked about this to people I respect, they tell me that I'm worrying over nothing. Besides, don't librarians want to catch terrorists?

Well, sure. But I don't think  looking at our patrons' reading lists is the best way to do that.

More troubling yet is the fact that until recently the whole pattern of use of the Patriot Act has been "classified."

Librarians abhor that kind of information vacuum. So back in 2002, one year after 9/11, the Library Research Center of the University of Illinois surveyed 1,505 libraries; 906 responded.

According to that survey, in the year after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, federal and local law enforcement officials visited at least 545 libraries to ask for borrowing or computer use records. Of these, 178 libraries received visits from the FBI.

It's important to note that the USA Patriot Act makes it illegal for persons or institutions to disclose that a search warrant has been served. Fifteen libraries acknowledged there were questions they did not answer because, legally, they couldn't. (Not all of those requests related to suspected terrorist activities.)

My conclusion: it seems quite likely that the FBI, under the Patriot Act, was indeed visiting libraries and asking for patron information. Not just once, but many times.

Imagine my surprise to read in the September 18, 2003 Denver Post that Attorney General John Ashcroft that day disclosed, "The number of times (the provision) has been used to date is zero."

Somebody, it would seem, is not telling the truth. Librarians? Or the Attorney General of the United States?

Frankly, both of those are distressing prospects.

I do have my bias. But in this case it isn't political. Many of the provisions of the Patriot Act were in fact formulated if not instituted under Clinton; that's one of the reasons they were able to be rolled out so fast after 9/11.

The "intelligence community" is very much about security and secrecy. And there are times when such practices are indeed vital to public safety.

But the problem is not a new one. Who watches the watchers?

There is evidence that the law enforcement community is using the Patriot Act for purposes far beyond, and very different than,  those originally declared.

According to an Associated Press piece from September 14, 2003, federal prosecutors have brought more than 250 criminal charges under the law, with more than 130 convictions or guilty pleas.

That's about half. What about the other half? And what were they charged with?

We don't know. Classified.

The same piece reported that investigators used a provision of the Patriot Act to recover $4.5 million from a group of telemarketers accused of tricking elderly U.S. citizens into thinking they had won the Canadian lottery.

Using a new state law barring the manufacture of "chemical weapons," a North Carolina county prosecutor recently caught and accused a man of running a methamphetamine lab. If convicted, he could get life in prison for a crime that usually gets about six months.

The same piece quoted Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. "Within six months of passing the Patriot Act," he said, "the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases."

It’s possible that both Ashcroft and librarians are telling the truth, that no technical use of the Patriot Act's specific provision relating to libraries has taken place. Maybe all of those "visits" were done under other laws. The problem remains that it's almost impossible to know. And I still think that's wrong.

We need police. We don't need a police state.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

September 13, 2003 - manners

Some years ago now, there were two ministers living on my cul de sac. One minister worked for a fairly liberal Christian church. Another was the pastor of a more conservative, evangelical congregation. Each of them had a daughter about the same age as Maddy, who was then about 4 years old.

One day, while I was washing the dishes, I heard the three girls playing together. Then I heard the daughter of the conservative minister begin talking about Jesus. The daughter of the liberal minister chimed in. After they chatted for awhile, finally, one of them turned to my daughter, a little exasperated.

"What do YOUR parents believe?" she asked.

Maddy said, "My parents believe..." and I all but fell out the window trying to catch this, "in being polite."

I grinned for days.

I'm not one of those people who believe that everything is getting worse in America. I see many things to celebrate in our culture.

But that isn't to say that I see no problems at all. The one that bothers me most is what seems to me a growing tendency, especially in the political world, but elsewhere as well, to mistake rudeness for cleverness.

It's also true that I meet so many genuinely accomplished people who seem to me best characterized by a profound courtesy. They are slow to take offense, and slow to give it. They are inclined to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

They may disagree with someone else's opinion. But they have learned to be pleasant about it. They have learned to separate an opinion from the person expressing it.

I'm addicted to reading letters to the editor, and I'm alternately aghast or amused by the frequency with which people simply attack the motives or intelligence of someone, and believe they have somehow made a point.

This is the fallacy of "ad hominem" -- attacking the man, instead of attacking the argument. When people do that, they lose my respect twice: first, for being rude, and second, for dodging the real question or questions.

A 2002 study by the PEW Charitable Trusts called "Aggravating Circumstances," found that some 79% of the American public believes that lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem for our society and we should try to address it. While some feel that we've made progress with minorities and the disabled, many feel that in other areas, we’ve gotten significantly worse.

Here's a telling statistic: some 41% of the survey respondents said that they were themselves rude and disrespectful in public, and it bothered them a lot.

Recently, I re-read a book in my personal library: Robert Heinlein’s "Friday." In it, one Dr. Hartley M. Baldwin said something that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

"Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms .... but a DYING culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

September 10, 2003 - Philip S. Miller Library move

Back when I was working on my graduate degree, my parents moved. It was the house I'd lived in for most of my childhood. I went up for the last weekend before they packed, and it was very strange.

My childhood home was a two-story, brick gingerbread sort of house, surrounded by towering trees. I spent a nostalgic evening rocking by the fireplace, listening to the sound of the old water pipes popping and hissing. And that was the last time I was ever really able to feel like I was "home."

For the past 13 years, I have mostly worked out of the Philip S. Miller Library on Plum Creek Boulevard. In less than a week, we'll be moving to our new location at 100 S. Wilcox in Castle Rock -- the site of the old Safeway grocery store.

I am so excited I can hardly stand it. The building no longer looks like a Safeway. Our architects, Humphries-Poli, have made a truly interesting place both within and without.

You can also tell, from the outside, what is likely to be going on in the inside -- from our two-story glass Teen Tower, to our red brick children's room, to our quiet reading room, to our open and spacious conference center.
Coordinating the move from old to new, not to mention incorporating various other pieces from around the district, will be a little tricky. Some of you may have already picked up much of this information from the circulation desk in Castle Rock, but I thought it might bear repeating here.

Our timetable looks like this:

• Saturday, September 13, 5 p.m. The library closes as usual. Then the movers arrive, and we start unplugging things. The Philip S. Miller Library will then be closed until September 27 (except for returns, as below).

• Monday, September 15, and Tuesday, September 16, all day. We will be moving all of our central computer equipment. That means our catalog, our web server, and our Internet server will be down all across the entire district, not just Castle Rock. With any luck, Qwest will have live T1 lines to plug into at the new location. Pray for us. If all goes well, we will return to cyberspace on Wednesday, September 17.

• Tuesday, September 16 through Friday, September 26. We'll continue receiving and setting up shelving, followed by the transfer of the old collection to its new location. Then we've got time (barely) to get everything else plugged in, situated, tested, and shaken down.

• Saturday, September 27. Our Grand Opening! Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with the dedication of the building by the Masons. The children's parade, from the old to the new library, begins at the old location at 10:30 am. The big party at the new library, with guest Reggie Rivers, begins at 11:30 a.m. The doors will be open at noon! That night, we'll have a parking lot dance from 7-10 p.m.

During the period the Philip S. Miller Library will be closed, we have nevertheless figured out a way to allow you to return your materials. You have three options: the book drop at the new library (right by the entrance), our book drop by the King Soopers off Founders Parkways and I-25, and any other Douglas County Libraries location.

Except for the two days when our computers are down, you can also go online at www.douglascountylibraries.org and renew your materials as usual.

Finally, we've also figured out a way to let you pick up anything you may have placed on hold. Depending on how the logistics work out, we'll have a pickup and checkout location either just inside the foyer of the new library, or working from the new meeting room. We'll have signs outside to direct you to the right spot.

Whether you make it to our Grand Opening, or sometime afterward, we know it will feel like home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

September 3, 2003 - ISMS

When libraries across the country rolled out their Internet workstations, the truth is that we really didn't know how they would be used.

Sure, we HOPED people would see them as portals to the many databases we have purchased, full of all kinds of authoritative information.

We have topnotch commercial resources in a host of subjects: arts and culture, books and reading, business, careers, consumer advice, crafts and leisure, education, genealogy, health, history, and on and on. Lo and behold: a big percentage of our Internet traffic does indeed revolve around those resources.

But there are other uses. Email. Chat rooms. Interactive games. Online auctions and dating services. And of course, there are the tasteless, pointless, tacky and seamy websites without number.

Here's one of the ironies of Internet use. Once part and parcel of the much heralded "paperless society" (you don't hear that much any more, do you?), the World Wide Web is perhaps most notable for how much paper it generates. People love to print things.

Of course, they often print way more than they really want. People see the single paragraph that has just what they're looking for. So they hit the print key. Then, it seemed like maybe it wasn't printing, so they hit it again.

And a few minutes later, the printer diligently spat out both copies of the 80 page document surrounding that paragraph.

Many patrons, embarrassed, quietly gathered up the one page they wanted and slunk out the door.

Nonetheless, Internet workstations are popular. So popular, that some people would gladly park themselves in front of a terminal all day long. So we had to work out some time limits.

Most people follow the rules -- common sense guidelines for sharing a public resource. A few people don't. So library staff wind up serving as enforcers, wandering judges of civility.

Well, all that's about to change.

First, we're rolling out some new computers, beginning at our Highlands Ranch Library. These are Dell PC's with 18" flat screen monitors. They will all be running a browser to begin with; beginning in 2004, they will also run the full StarOffice suite, offering word processing, spreadsheets, and drawing functions.

Second, these new PC's will be governed by something called "izz-mizz" -- which is the acronym for our Internet Station Management System.

One computer will allow you to type in your library barcode and queue up for the next PC available. When your time comes, you'll sit down at the assigned machine and a 30 minute count-down begins, as attested by a very visible onscreen clock. When you've got just 5 minutes left, you'll be prompted to save your work to a disk. If no one is waiting for your machine, the time limits can be extended automatically; if someone IS waiting, the machine will log you off and wait for the next person in line.

That takes care of the courtesy enforcement -- itself a worthwhile end. But ISMS also does print job management.

When you select something to be printed, the software tells you how many pages will be printed, and what it will cost. At that point, you can back out, and whittle things down. Once you work that out, you tell it to proceed. Then you head to the network printer.

There, you pay at a coin machine (first ten pages are still free, and after that, it depends on whether you're printing black and white, or color). Only then does the print job get released.

Some of our sister libraries have reported that the savings in paper costs alone have paid for the rest of the system.

After we work out the process at Highlands Ranch, we'll be installing the system all around the county. Here's hoping that you find it useful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

August 27, 2003 - staff day

Douglas County Libraries just held its 9th annual staff day -- the one day each year when we pull all of our staff together for a variety of training workshops.

There's a lot on our plate. Technology continues to transform what libraries do -- hence our sessions on new electronic databases, features of our catalog, and more.

Technology also continues to make greater demands on our finances. At our library, we spend 60% of our revenue on staff, 20% on library materials (books, magazines, DVD's, etc.), and something approaching 10% on computers and telecommunications.

Then there are the fees over which we have no control. For instance, the county treasurer takes a percentage of what we collect in taxes. Our various kinds of insurance eat up a chunk of change. A certain number of our buildings can be counted on to have troubles -- HVAC units go out, roofs leak, and so on.

But back to technology. One of the ways we're trying to whittle down some of those expenses is by the adoption of Open Source technologies. We've found that our Linux-based servers (the machines that manage our catalog and our website, for instance) not only cost less to buy, but are also more reliable than other commercial products.

This year, the whole library is moving to a new "office suite." It's called StarOffice -- on which the OpenOffice.org project is based. You may be used to paying about $250 per machine for a Microsoft Office license. How about $79 for essentially the same thing? Now suppose that you just have to buy one copy per building, and you actually have permission to copy it for the other machines?

So one of our sessions last week was on just what StarOffice is and does. Frankly, I'm hoping to kick off something of a local government move toward Open Source software. As any business person knows, revenue is only one side of your operation; controlling expenses is the other side.

But there's more to a business -- or the library -- than computers and finance. So we devoted some time during our staff day to another topic: communication. That divides into all kinds of categories.

* Mission. Every now and then, organizations have to get together to remind each other what the business is all about. In our case, that's pretty straightforward: service. That's service to the patron first, then to staff -- and not the other way around.

* Planning. What are we going to be focusing on for the next couple of years? One of the answers to that one is marketing. We've changed our name. We'll be rolling out a new logo. We're working on cleaning up a host of internal "looks" and processes to send a more intelligently coordinated and consistent message to the public. We're also looking for ways to mobilize our resources to help the many other worthy organizations in the county.

* Organizational culture. The library district is one of the county's larger employees. We currently have about 300 people on the payroll. How can we make sure that our ability to make decisions doesn't break down, or get snarled in bureaucracy? There are lots of answers to that one, too: keep the decision-making ability as low in the organization, as close to the public, as possible. Work out lots of different ways to get a message both up and down the administrative structure. Make sure that people are encouraged to toss the rules out the window when they clearly don't work (and tell the rest of us why!). Talk to each other with the same courtesy and cooperativeness we demonstrate to our patrons.

At the end of our staff day, I realized what I realize every year. Libraries are good places, doing good work. And the people, our staff, are a pleasure. They're not only smart and capable, they are also funny. I'm proud -- and lucky -- to work with them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

August 20, 2003 - need new Board member

I've decided that there are just two kinds of libraries in America: the ones you can see, and the ones you don't.

The libraries you can see are the ones that relish their communities. You'll see library meeting room chairs at local plays and band concerts. You'll see library program fliers on a table by the volleyball tryouts. You'll see library staff everywhere -- any meeting of any group around. You'll see library buildings in the heart of downtown.

The libraries you don't see are the ones that just don't get out much.

Even those libraries can have a powerful effect on individual lives. One of the libraries I used as a kid was like that: off the beaten track, not much visited, a little musty, but still full of interesting people and intriguing treasures.

Part of the reason I liked it so much was that it was it was almost a secret. The staff were not only glad to see me, they were a little surprised. How had I found them?

The Douglas County Libraries work hard to be the kind of library you can see. We, too, have that ability to change lives. But we have something else -- the ability to change communities.

The point is to bring one more community asset to the table. Library participation can make the difference between a school outreach effort that works, or almost works. We can make the difference in public awareness between a crime prevention program that people know about, or that no one knows about. We can help the many good people in a community find each other. We can make a town a nicer place to live.

But to really make that happen takes something very special. It takes leadership. I'm not just talking about the leadership of library staff. I'm talking about citizen leadership.

It happens that we have an opening, right now, for a member of the Board of Trustees. This is the governing body of the Douglas County Libraries. There are 7 Trustees. They have terms of 3 years -- and if you like it (and are doing well!), you can sign up for a total of 4 terms.

The job description is pretty straightforward: to adopt policy, to set direction, to approve the budget, and to guide and evaluate the director (me).

Trustees are recommended for appointment by the rest of the Board. (They invite candidates in for an interview first.) The appointing authority, however, is the Board of County Commissioners. Each of the three commissioners may appoint two Trustees. The seventh is "at large," and is appointed by whichever commissioner represents that person.

The current library trustee vacancy is in Commissioner District 2 (Jim Sullivan's district) -- which encompasses all of Castle Rock, and most of the southern half of the county.

Right now, for the first time in the 13 years I've been here, we've got an imbalance of gender on the library board: 5 men, and just 1 woman. While there aren't any real rules about this, there are certainly far more women who USE the library than men.

So this is a call to some enterprising, community-minded women with an interest in helping the library help the people around it live richer, deeper lives.

What's in it for you? Well, we can't PAY board members. But we do feed you at least once a month. And as long as you're a board member, you're exempt from fines. To the genuine library user, that's as good as a tax rebate.

If you've got the interest and the time (between 4 and 20 hours a month, depending upon what's up), and you really do want to make a difference, then please, by September 3, 2003, send a letter of interest, and a resume to

Board Applications
c/o Douglas County Libraries
312 Wilcox
Suite 204
Castle Rock CO 80104
Or email powendelay@dclibraries.org

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

August 13, 2003 - no joke

Recently,  I was listening to the library's Fresh Air Laughs tape (from the NPR program hosted by interviewer Terry Gross).

One of the 14 interviewees was Drew Carey. How, Gross wanted to know, did Carey ever learn to write jokes in the first place?

She was astonished to discover that he started where he said he always started -- at the library. He just checked out a book that told him how to write a joke. It laid it all out for him, he said. There were other books that gave examples.

There are so many subjects in the world. Some of them may be of great interest to you. But where to start? Learning to fake your way through a song on the piano. Learning to speak Russian. Learning how to build a deck. Learning how to throw a successful party for kids.

Once you get started on this list it's hard to stop. (And wouldn't making such a list be great fun the next time you gather around the table with your family?) How to raise rabbits. Win at chess. Make prize-winning pies. Make a business plan.Travel through Europe on $10 a day. Braid hair.

After that, wouldn't it be at least interesting  to try to follow up? If you have a son who really, really wants to draw comic book heroes, why not take him to the library and ask the reference librarian to pull together a stack of books that might help your boy get started?

Or maybe it's your daughter who has always secretly longed to explore Celtic mythology. Or henna tattoos.

Or maybe it's you who wants to know more about Lyndon Baines Johnson, or Marilyn Monroe, or evolution, or railroads, or body-building, or diet, or urban design.

Here's the whole secret to a fascinating life. Ask yourself what interests you. Use the library to begin exploring some subjects. Drop the things that don't hold your interest. Dig deeper into the things that do.

Before very long, you just might find that those books, or DVD's, or magazine articles that started as nothing more than the way to scratch a vague curiosity, wind up unlocking the door to a whole new passion.

In other words, those library materials might pave the way to other learning environments: classes, clubs, hours of happy practice and experience. Or, for your children, it might be the kind of thing that turns them into regular reading program participants. Some of you may be practicing that already -- certainly, we have had over twice as many people in this year's reading programs (wrapping up this month) as last year.

But what's my point? Using the library can improve your life. And that's no joke.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

August 6, 2003 - libraries stand for something

In our neighborhood, Louis Yarc was the king of the hill.

When we all got together to play the game on some bales of hay, Louis was the undisputed winner. I still have vivid memories of him, in the midwest summer twilight, fending off the regicidal lunges of as many as 8 other boys. He'd dance around them, hoist them over his shoulder and toss them off, or just muscle them down.

But you know what? I could take Louis. Not once, but over and over. I wasn't anywhere near the oldest kid, or the biggest, or the strongest. But that was the whole point. I'd lurk behind him, then, just after he'd wrestled somebody away, and paused for breath, just slightly off-balance, I'd hurl myself into the back of his knees. Down he'd go.

That was the first lesson I learned: it doesn't matter how good you are, there's somebody -- and it doesn't have to be somebody big and obvious -- who can get you.

I should point out, however, that just because you can take down the king, doesn't make YOU the king. If I'd scramble up to the top, one of the bigger kids would just shoulder me aside, or even more humiliating, pick me up bodily and set me aside. By then, Louis would be up and fighting. So I'd jump back behind him and lurk some more, waiting for the right moment.

Probably nobody thinks of librarians as king of the hill. It's not our style. We are not engaged in a ruthless struggle to outmuscle the masses for our greater glory.

On the other hand, if Louis stood for something -- a magnificent spirit, a certain animal vigor -- we stand for something, too. Here's the short version: librarians think people have the right to read what they please, and that that's nobody else's business. In the jargon of the profession, the first one is "intellectual freedom," and the second is "patron confidentiality."

You might not always agree with that. In fact, not all librarians do, all of the time. There are extenuating circumstances. Free speech isn't an absolute, even in the library. If someone comes into the library yelling at the top of his lungs about some political point, whatever the point may be, we'll ask him to be quiet or to leave.

There are certain situations where librarians promptly comply to legal requests for information. I’m thinking of a case where a library book was found near the place where a snatched child was last seen.

Librarians were the first to protest laws that allowed the government to block internet content through filters. Recently, we lost that one -- got muscled right off the hill by the Supreme Court.

Librarians were among the first to speak out against the Patriot Act, calling for citizen oversight of what could very well turn into unprincipled snooping into the reading habits of innocent Americans.

I remember how much I always irritated Louis -- how did this sneaky little kid keep toppling him?

But I admired HIM tremendously. Knock him down, and he'd struggle his way back to the top, every time. He stood for something: a refusal to give up, a gallantry.

Librarians will keep struggling, too. We may not always win. But at least you know what we're fighting for.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

July 20, 2003 - hitting the bullseye

My son, Perry, is 9 years old. Not long ago, we went through a period when we played a lot of darts.

We'd make up various scoring systems, based more or less on our growing expertise. You won if you got the greatest number of darts to actually stick. Then you won if you got the highest number of darts within the broad inner circle. Finally, you won based solely on the number of bullseyes.

It was fun, and Perry got really good. I can't help but think that it's smart training for business.

I'm serious. Whether you're in the business of business (to make money) or the business of service (government or non-profits, for instance), there are lots of parallels. First, you have to understand what "winning" looks like.

Then, the trick is consistency. Perry's progress came down to learning how to nail down more and more of the variables: distance from the board, placement of feet, the grip, position of elbow and wrist, force.

People often complain about "bureaucracy." Really, what they object to is the heavy emphasis on rules. "We do what we do because that's what we've always done." In business, the idea is that we're supposed to innovate, become more productive, endlessly reinvent our processes.

But the truth is, any organization that leaves everything up for grabs, year after year, never really learns how to do anything. It can't track its progress, because it can't compare this year to last. Successful organizations aren't necessarily the ones that innovate; they're the ones that have learned to remember, and build on, the things they do well.

I think about how our library system has grown. In 1990, just about all we offered was a circulating collection. So we focused on that, learned to do it in a way that was standardized throughout the county. This service became predictable, and therefore sustainable.

Then we moved on to the next thing: establishing "reference" service around the county. We learned what kinds of skill sets to look for; we built core collections and databases; we identified essential equipment needs and job performance standards.

When that became more standardized and predictable, we moved on to children's services. Once again, we hired, trained, tested, built support systems and standards.

The most recent service area in the library to receive this kind of careful staging and development is marketing -- the combination of programming, public relations, community information, and public communication strategies generally.

None of this is to say that once you get these things figured out, you're done. There continue to be significant changes in how we operate . Technology offers us a whole bag of new options every year. The audience or market for our services is also in flux. Each generation discovers its own ideas of the value, and the demand, for the library.

Finally, our staff are themselves a major force for innovation. They tweak our processes, find ways to simplify, or invent whole new approaches.

But whether a new start-up business, or an institution that has endured for a hundred years, finding a precise, unvarying system for some basic functions is vital if you want to hit, not just once, but over and over, the bullseye of success.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

July 23, 2003 - Pueblo Library

Recently, I was asked to facilitate a staff meeting in Pueblo. My task was to help them "process" a lot of change in a short period of time. This is their story.

Act I. When I first arrived in Colorado some 16 years ago now, I learned that the consistent winner of the Colorado reading program awards was the Pueblo City-County Library District.

Later on, I met Chuck Bates, its director. He was a good leader. Here's how you tell: staff keep doing great things. Pueblo was one of the early adopters of an innovative automation system. It was one of the first independent library districts, well-supported by its community, as tested by several elections.

Over the next decade or so, I had a chance to work with Chuck on several statewide library projects. He was a pro. And his library continued to rack up one success after another: lots of use, lots of new buildings, lots of good people doing useful and impressive work.

Chuck was also a swimmer, a man in excellent physical condition. So it came as even more of a shock when he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it for several years, bravely and with dignity. At last, after 22 years of effective leadership, Chuck succumbed. He died in Denver last year.

Act II. When someone is fighting a terminal illness, he or she must of necessity disengage, pull back from some things to focus on the essential business of life. In Chuck's case, this created two power gaps: one at the staff level, and one at the board level.

On the staff side, Richard Lee, the Associate Director, stepped up. Pueblo was working on a big library project, and Richard had extensive construction management experience with libraries. Richard is a gentle, humorous man who got things done. Staff liked him. After Chuck's death, Richard was appointed Acting Director, then offered the permanent job. The transition looked as if it had gone with surprisingly smoothness.

On the Board side, the power gap was filled by the Board President. He was a high-powered fundraiser -- and in fact had been instrumental in getting a $4 million pledge from the local newspaper publisher for the new downtown library.

The problem the new library director faced was this: the Board president was also getting some $6,000 a month from the library for marketing services. State law says that library board members can't get paid; but presumably, he was being paid for other services. Richard began to set that bill in front of the Board every month for approval, believing that the situation raised some ethical issues.

That's when Richard's problems began. His contract wasn't signed. Conflicts seemed to be escalating between the Board President and him. Attorneys began to be involved.

Then, one day, Richard showed up at work to find an unsigned piece of paper informing him that he had lost his job. No explanation, no severance pay.

The library staff went through a range of emotions: shock, outrage, fear. But then something unexpected happened: they got organized. About 80 of the 100 staff members got together at a rally and discussed their options. They kept meeting regularly over the next three months. They wrote letters to the paper, they attended city and county commission meetings, and often spoke, with both emotion and intelligence. They were interviewed on television.

The issue became one of the hot topics of the town. Independent investigations revealed that more money that had been steered to the Board president -- over half a million in contract kickbacks.

In succession, the Board President resigned. Then the whole board resigned. Then a new board was appointed. Then, finally, the new board offered Richard Lee his job back.

All of this, to my knowledge, is completely unprecedented in the library world. For one thing, library boards are pretty upright. But when faced with significant breaches of process, ethics and public finance, this particular staff risked a great deal -- their jobs, not to mention the challenge of speaking out publicly against some very powerful people. And they won.

During the three months this was going on, however, Richard did have to feed his family. He had applied for other positions, and got several offers. Finally, he accepted one in Illinois.

So he agreed to come back for just a few weeks, as an interim director, trying to leave the library in as good a shape as he can.

Act III. What happens to the library now? Well, it will recruit another director, who will find a staff that can rise, once again, to greatness.

But what's to stop them? They've done it twice before.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

July 16, 2003 - help save lonely librarians!

This week's column was written by Naioma Walberg, of our Parker Library. Not only is it charming, I means I get a week off! Enjoy. - Jamie

During the summer months things tend to get a bit quieter here at the library. As librarians, whose job it is to help people, it drives us down right crazy. So we are asking for your help in the campaign to save our sanity, because, quite frankly, librarians running amok in your community truly would not be a pretty sight. And you can help with just one visit to check out all the really awesome things here at your library and it will go a long way in saving us lonely librarians.

Getting ready to take a vacation? We can help with guidebooks, videos, web sites, maps, currency exchange rates, weather and even airport floor plans for anywhere you want to go in the world. Or if not in this world…we can give you contact information on companies booking reservations for outer space. And if you need a book on tape for the long trip, we have that too.

Staying home this summer? You may not know it but librarians know where the best fishing holes are, all the great scenic drives as well as the most amazing hiking and biking trails through out the state. But before you take off for a fun day outdoors, make it even better and check out some of the hundreds of guidebooks that offer identifying information on just about anything you want to explore from bugs to rocks. My dear I believe that is….

Did you know that librarians are purveyors of some of the finest concerts in the world? Beethoven, Bach and the Backstreet Boys, Dolly and the Dixie Chicks or a little jazz to sooth your soul are just part of the thousands of music CD choices available at your library. So grab your boom box, the most comfortable lounge chair and head all the way out to your backyard for an outdoor concert – every star filled night.

Pick a series any series for a nice lazy summer of good reads. From trilogies and tragedies of the ancient Greeks to Star Trek (enough volumes to fill any intergalactic library) series have been around for a long time. Stop by and we will be happy to get you started on a wonderful relationship with an interesting character.

Gourmet grilling, tiling a kitchen, gardening without water or climbing a fourteener – the library can help enhance the pleasure of all your summer activities. What ever your plans your first stop should be to see a friendly librarian who will help with all your information needs as well as be happy to fill your arms with a choice of good reads, great
music and movie or two.

And you will move the campaign to save the lonely librarians one step ahead.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

July 9, 2003 - Internet filtering

People are still talking about just what the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Internet filtering really means. It seems to boil down to this: if public libraries accept federal "e-rate" reimbursements for Internet access, Congress has the right to require those libraries to use software "filters" on all Internet workstations.

The intent was to protect minors from pornography. However, the Supreme Court also said that those filters should be capable of being instantly disabled at the request of an adult. So far, there haven't been any other features required: number of sites blocked, how arrived at, frequency of updates, etc.

"E-rate" is a federal program funded by the Universal Service Fee we've all been paying on our phone bills for years. In essence, it provides a discount on various telecommunications costs for qualifying public entities.

Douglas County Libraries, it happens, does NOT apply for e-rate reimbursements for Internet access. Right now, it appears that the ruling does not apply to us. (We do request e-rate reimbursements for what the feds call "Plain Old Telephone Service," which is for us the much higher bill.)

For the past couple of years, we have had a software filter installed on all of the Internet terminals in the children's areas.

Couldn't we extend it to include all terminals in the adult areas as well? Yes, but there's no easy way for us to disable them on the spot -- it requires some technical fussing by network administrative staff. We didn't know, at the time we did our research into the options, that this particular feature might be required by the federal government. Nor, as noted above, do we know what new features may be required, which makes it difficult to shop for a replacement.

Like several other Supreme Court decisions this year, this one has precipitated a lot of posturing by the usual suspects, both liberal and conservative. I find those approaches tedious and divisive. Here's how one librarian sizes it up:

1. Libraries do have a basic job description. It is to gather, organize, and provide public access to what I call "the intellectual capital of our culture." That means books, magazines, movies, music, local organizations, databases, websites, and more.

2. Librarians, like everybody else, have to follow the law.

3. Librarians have no more desire than any other citizen or parent to push pornography at anybody, much less children. Public viewing of pornography may not be unconstitutional, but it is certainly lewd, crude, and rude.

4. Librarians have some real concerns about filters. We've tested a lot of them, and every filter we've looked at blocks access to a disturbing number of things that don't seem to have anything to do with pornography. Some of them block access to ANYTHING on the National Organization of Women's website. Some of them stop people from looking at the Focus on the Family website. It seems to many of us that these significant, often secret biases of commercial software directly contradict our basic job description.

5. According to various news reports it appears likely that the Colorado State Legislature, which provides no money to public libraries at all, will seek to mandate filters for all terminals in public libraries.

I admit that I'm troubled by what seems to me to be a trend. I just discovered that the Internet search engine Google routinely tracks and stores your searches. Under the Patriot Act, the federal government may, without your permission or knowledge, seize those profiles.

In that context, new limits on what people can search for or see at their public libraries is worth thinking about. Sometimes, as at the fourth of July, people get so caught up in the fireworks, they forget about the meaning of Independence.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

July 2, 2003 - Toronto Round-Up

From Friday, June 21, through Monday, June 23, I was in Toronto for the combined meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Canadian Library Association.

I don't usually go to the annual conferences -- I think I've attended just 3 times in 13 years. But I'd never been to Toronto before. Besides, this time I had the offer of an outside agency to pay my way as a presenter.

That offer came from a surprising source: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For the past several years, this foundation has been responsible for handing out thousands of Gateway computers, preinstalled with Windows and various Windows products, to public libraries around the country. (Douglas County was not among them.)

Recently, however, the Foundation has realized that there's a significant problem in this country: in a couple of years both the hardware and software distributed through the Foundation will start to look a little long in the tooth. Many of those recipients won't be able to upgrade. The issue is "sustainability of public computing."

The presenters were asked to speak about a variety of "best practices" that helped to ensure financial viability. Some of us spoke about partnerships; others about the technology planning process; I talked about marketing and fundraising.

I was frankly surprised to have been asked, as I have been a fairly outspoken critic of some Microsoft practices, and in fact have directed our own technology planning toward Open Source products.

Imagine my surprise when one of the Foundation employees told me that in one case, they funded an entirely Open Source project at a library in Ohio. Why? Because library staff made the case that they COULD sustain the project from the savings in licensing fees.

I complimented the Foundation employee, who said, "Hey, I'm a librarian, not a salesman."

Toronto is an incredibly diverse and international city. I can't remember when I've heard so many languages. At times, it felt very familiar. But then the little things would catch you.

Money, for instance. I have to say that the Canadians have this one right: they have done away with the one and two dollar bills, and replaced them with coins. The one dollar coin is a Loony (for the image of the loon on the back). The two dollar coin is a Toony. I taught myself to distinguish them by touch, which is the work of a few seconds. The other coins are like ours: penny, nickel, dime, quarter.

Loonies and Toonies are comparatively recent, the result of the realization that although paper bills are cheaper to produce (in America, a one dollar bill costs about 4 cents, versus 8 cents for a coin), they don't last as long. A paper bill lasts about 18 months. Coins average closer to 30.

America needs Loonies and Toonies.

I attended a variety of other sessions, most of them focused on technology. I met with the President of Dynix, the company that provides our public catalog, and we talked about Open Source and the acquisitions process. How could we make things better, faster, cheaper? I got some good demonstrations, probably a year away from installing in Douglas County.

I had a chance to hobnob with the new leadership of ALA. They're good people.

And then, when I got home, I immediately contracted a summer cold. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have thought much about it -- but the symptoms of a summer cold are distressingly similar to SARS, which is indeed in Toronto, although greatly exaggerated as to scope. (The odds of contracting SARS, in fact, were about 141,000 to 1 against.)

After a few calls to my health care provider, the helpful people at Littleton Hospital, and the Center for Disease Control, I decided to stay home for a few days. I regret to report that I do not have SARS; a 10 day quarantine didn't sound too bad, if I could lay in a sufficient supply of reading material. (I did have a chance to plow through the latest Harry Potter -- the Canadian edition, snapped up in Toronto.)

And then the Supreme Court made its decision about Internet filtering. But more about that next week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

June 25, 2003 - Your Memories Are Safe With Us

I guess it was about two score years ago now. A fellow named Walter LaRue, from Springfield, IL, was visiting Mountainburg, Arkansas. He was in quest of genealogical information.

He came strolling up the hill to one Margret Trentham LaRue (wife of Christopher Columbus LaRue, mother of Jesse James LaRue). She looked at him and said, "I've never seen you before in my life, but I can tell by your ears you're a LaRue." (Many LaRues do indeed have outsize ears. The better to hear you with, my dear.)

Well, Margaret invited Walter in to sit. Before long, she realized that many of the things he was interested in were right there in her family Bible. There were births and deaths and names and notes. "Just the other day," she said, "I started wrapping up that Bible to send it off to the library. Nobody else in the family seemed to care about it. But I tell you what, I'd rather give it to kin."

So it was that Walter, a sort of fourth cousin, made off with the family Bible.

I found out about all this when I got interested in genealogy myself. I happened to be living, of all the places I might have been living, in Springfield, Illinois. Walter was still around, still had the Bible, and after we chatted awhile, even offered to give it back.

But he had been a good custodian. He was also a far more active genealogist than I was ever going to be. So I settled for making some photocopies.

Not long after that, I moved, and I hear that Walter has since died. Now I'm sorry I turned him down.

The truth is, my great-grandmother was right the first time. That Bible should have gone to the library. When Walter offered to give it back, I should have taken it, and passed it along to the library where I worked.

A keen interest in family history sometimes skips a generation or two. The current custodians break the chain of key belongings, especially the ones like family histories and photographs.

Then, when the next genealogist comes along, everything has been scattered to the four winds. The chain is broken. The stories are lost. The key connections between people of one time to another are dissolved.

When a library gets hold of such bounty, things are different. We are the welcome mat of many a community for visiting genealogists. People who start with the library often find manifold riches.

Take, for instance, our own Douglas County History Research Center. We have thousands of old books, documents and photographs, tenderly preserved in acid-free boxes. Soon, in our new Philip S. Miller Library, they will be moved to a climate controlled environment, with its own special sprinkler system that won't destroy materials even while it douses a fire.

Moreover, we work diligently to describe, to index. We organize the past to better serve the present -- and the future.

Some libraries have helped reunite whole branches of families, just because we happened to have the right wedding announcement, the right photograph, the right microfilm of an obituary.

So when that great-nephew of yours strolls in fifty years from now, we'll still have it, it will still be in good shape, and we'll be able to lay our hands on just what that young man will want to know.

The next time you're thinking about getting rid of something that you don't care about, but some other kinfolk, some day, just might -- think of the library.

Your memories are safe with us.