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, October 6, 2004

October 6, 2004 -Bulgaria, Part I

For the past 2 weeks, I have been out of the country.

But the work of the library district goes on without the library director. In my absence, library staff managed a "migration." This is the complete replacement of one library computer system (Dynix) with another (Horizon).

The move wasn't entirely optional. Our old system was an orphan, no longer actively developed.

But the timing was our choice. And we were prepared. My thanks to the many people whose thoughtfulness brought up a fiendishly complex system -- and who continue to tweak and customize it. Well done, all!

As with most projects of such a size, we've had some unanticipated problems. Most significant was the utter collapse of a telecommunications line at Highlands Ranch -- but I hope that will be fixed, too, by the time you read this.

And now ... Bulgaria, part 1 of 2.

This is both truth and symbol: I had unhappy feet.

None of my shoes fit anymore. All of them were old. But the problem wasn't them. My FEET were old. I needed a change.

My feet were unhappy for another reason. I was restless. My wife traveled both western and eastern Europe as a young woman. My 17 year old daughter had just come back from a tour.

I had been to Indiana, once. To Europe, never.

So when the opportunity suddenly arose to take advantage of a US Department of State grant to travel to Bulgaria (lecturing on librarianship in the US), I jumped on it.

For me, the journey began at Park Meadows Mall. I found a stand where they were selling what looked like plastic gardening clogs.

In fact, they were Crocs. See www.crocs.com for more info. I tried on a pair. In that moment, my life changed.

I told my 10 year old son: "I'm wearing a pair of orthopedic marshmallows!" (This made him laugh.) It was instant, springy comfort. My feet were abruptly and astonishingly ... happy.

The color of the shoes was a little unusual. Green-blue, I guess. To the folks at Crocs, it was "emerald." My alternatives were off-white, pink, or yellow. There are no sedate crocs.

So I bought the emerald ones for a modest $40.

As Lao-tse said, "a journey of ten thousand kilometers begins with a single pair of crocs." I am, of course, taking some liberties in translation. But the need for such freedoms is one of the things I learned from my travels.

The purpose of the grant was both modest and clear: to deliver a 3 day workshop that would result in 7 Bulgarian libraries establishing a "community information center."

Which meant? Well, the Community Information Center is a collection of both materials and staff organized around a local problem. It's a good idea in any country, and a potent notion for any public library.

But my trip wound up being about much more than that. To my profound surprise, I found myself on a 2 week mission that involved meetings with many levels of local and regional government. I spoke with embassies, Supreme Court jurists, Bulgarian newspapers, radio stations, TV reporters, and Internet news agencies.

I was to be The Diplomat With Emerald Shoes.

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