This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

February 11, 2004 - Roxborough bookmobile

It's been bothering me for some time. The last time the library district went back to the voters (1996), we promised a series of projects. All of those projects we completed -- and in most cases, greatly exceeded our promises.

But there was one promise we didn't fulfill: a library in the Roxborough area. We started out OK. We invested in an older bookmobile, which we parked (permanently) by the elementary school. Then, through the years, we kept trying to partner with various commercial ventures.

In my twenty-odd years of public librarianship (some of them odder than others) I have learned this vital lesson: libraries do not exist in isolation.

The Board and I hoped to create or join some synergistic arrangement with other players in the community. The advantages are many. Our libraries touch a solid 75% of all the households in the county, and the demographics of our users closely match the county in every category.

In short, the library is a powerful generator of traffic, infusing a regular, predictable pattern of bodies through an area. When we team up with others for parking, for landscaping, joining coffee shops and book stores and many other kinds of enterprises, that partnership helps not only to support a host of business ventures, but to make for a place that's more interesting.

Besides all that, Roxborough was clearly growing. It was obviously only a matter of time before commercial interests took off.

Only they didn't. The library negotiated with at least three developers for a commercial pad. The projects kept falling through. Another lesson I've learned is that whatever the challenges of public administration, they are more than matched by the travails of the entrepreneur.

We thought we had a deal last year. The lease had been signed. The developer had asked us to move our bookmobile because the dirt was about to fly. So we did, and it didn't.

I don't blame the developer. Sudden reversals of fortune are the name of the game in business. But our bookmobile wasn't really in much condition to be moved; we sold it. And when the developer discovered that finances and general business conditions wouldn't support the project, we -- and the residents of the Roxborough area -- were out of a library.

I'm pleased to report that that's about to change. On Thursday, February 12, 2004, we're going to roll a new bookmobile back into Roxborough. It will be back near the Roxborough Elementary School. It will be open Thursdays from 3 to 8:30 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number for the new bookmobile will be 303-886-6488.

This one is quite a bit larger and newer than the old one. That means it holds more items.

It also means that this one is designed to move. At this writing, we are in negotiations to establish a new service in another fast-growing area: Castle Pines North. If we are successful, we'll offer three day a week service there, too.

The bookmobile is a story in itself. I mentioned business reversals. Government has them, too. Our sister library to the north, Englewood Public, has recently suffered some extreme budget cuts. As a result, they were going to put their bookmobile in a garage for a year. We offered to rent it -- a good thing for both of us.

Meanwhile, we are now working with yet another developer in Roxborough to find a long term home as part of a new Safeway complex. This one looks pretty good.

I'll feel better when we get that promise fulfilled. Meanwhile, as Winston Churchill once put it, "My views are a harmonious process which keeps them in relation to the current movement of events."

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