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, April 23, 2003

April 23, 2003 - You're Never Too Old

Last Saturday morning, I attended a workshop on "boardsmanship," put on by Pat Wagner of Pattern Research (www.pattern.com). With me were Mark Weston, President of our Library Board of Trustees, and Stevan Strain, head of our Board's Personnel Committee.

There were also public library board members and directors from several other libraries around the state. There were about 40 of us, all together.

Pat is one of Colorado's best presenters and facilitators, with lots of good advice, clearly presented models, and a relaxed, humorous style. I warmly recommend her for similar presentations for groups of almost any type or size.

As Pat put it herself, the American system of lay review of many governmental functions, as well as our incredible bounty of volunteerism, is very unusual in the world. Moreover, it's effective.

Yes, there are cases of public boards failing in their oversight. There are some boards that can only be described as dysfunctional. Nonetheless, most public entities do very well. And very few have the sort of corruption and cronyism so prevalent elsewhere in the world.

Our system works -- and kudos to our own Board members for seeking the training, on their own time, to be even more effective.

What most struck me, though, was one of Pat's stray comments. She said that something she was putting up on a flip chart represented her " current thinking." "Ask me next week," she said, "and I may think something different."

Maybe it's just this particular time in my own life, but I've become increasingly appreciative and admiring of people who keep reading and thinking about things, and in the process, come to a deeper and different understanding.

There's plenty of evidence of this. Take, for instance, the explosive growth of book discussion groups around the country. We're not just talking bestsellers here -- people gather to tackle some tough titles on some tough subjects. Whether it's Great Books groups immersed in Roman playwrights, or church study groups reviewing titles on the particulars of raising boys, there's something reassuring about adults willing to explore new subjects.

Suzanne, my wife, had long expressed a wistful longing to play the cello. Several years ago now, I got her a rented cello for Christmas, and worked with a local musician to find a teacher. To Suzanne's great credit, she through herself into the task with gusto. She's gotten pretty good, too.

The example is a good one. Now my son is also taking cello lessons, and my daughter is studying the viola. They even play together.

I was chatting with a woman at a high school play the other night who told me that she has started pushing for a new kind of family vacation. Now, she says, she encourages her teenage children to take up something new. She's a new golfer. She seeks new hiking trails. She's started going to plays.

What's the common thread? She is building new skills that she and her family can enjoy for years, together.

While sports can be a wonderful experience, and it can be lots of fun going to games to watch your children compete, few families will keep playing soccer, or football, or LaCrosse, TOGETHER.

Learning bridge, or golfing, or chess, or music, or attending cultural events, or taking classes, is something that can both challenge and bond a family. Any of these open doors to whole lifetimes of interesting days in each other's company.

Whether you're in your teens, or midlife, or in your eighties, it's never too late to take up a new interest. If you're looking for ideas, why not start at your local library? And feel free, as you start exploring, to change your mind about things.

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