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.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

April 13, 2005 - teens and the library

I can't remember if I was 13 or 14. I do remember that I was playing a lot of chess.

Back then, a lad could wander downtown, stroll into the old library (the new library was a couple of blocks away) and face a series of old guys over a chessboard.

It was timed chess. When you made a move, you slapped the clock.

I fought my way to "expert" status. One of the people I played was a charming, near-bald, older gent with the uncharming name of Bevier Butts.

It turned out that Mr. Butts, before his retirement, had been something of a civic tour de force. And one day, when I talked with him over a game about the need for a place for teens to gather, he suggested that I try to do something about it.

So I did. I scouted out an abandoned lunch dive on Sheridan Road, overlooking Lake Michigan. (Well, not really. Its BACK was to Lake Michigan.)

I put together a team of teens willing to clean it up. I talked to the owner, and figured out what it would take to make rent. I got close to a 20% discount.

I talked to a local soft drink distributor willing to cut a deal on supplying teen beverages. He would set us up for free the first time, then charge us just his cost for replacing the inventory. I thought we might even make some money.

Then I started to line up some bands. I was thinking: dance club.

I reported on all this at the next chess tournament.

Then Mr. Butts invited me to a City Council meeting to make a pitch for some subsidy. But he didn't just set me up. He stood before Council and made the case for me.

"Here," he said, "we have a teenager who isn't just complaining about things. He's trying to do something to make this community better. Let's support that effort!"

I got a glimpse about how civic things got decided. You figured out what you wanted. You put together a plan and a proposal. You presented it to the people whose money you needed to set you up.

And sometimes, you lost. I was, truly, very impressed with Mr. Butts. He made a good case, with passion, with eloquence, and with a sound business analysis.

They didn't buy it. I never got to open, as a teenager, a downtown business. I never became a big name music promoter.

But that may have been the first time someone of an older generation reached down his hand to me, as a teenager, because he subscribed to the belief that I lived in a town that belonged not just to everybody else, but to me, too.

Readers, this is a call to you to talk to your teens. And if you're a teen reading this, it's a call to YOU.

The library wants to serve Douglas County teenagers as well as we serve pre-schoolers, elementary students, and as well as we serve adults.

To do that, we need teens to answer some questions for us.

They can find an online survey at http://fs8.formsite.com/douglaslibraries/form215842611/index.html.

You have to respond by April 15, 2005.


Your move.

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