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, June 23, 2005

June 23, 2005 - our future

The Douglas County Libraries have gone through two phases. The first ran from about 1990 through 1996. This was the period in which the district was established, and began to grow.

The second phase was from 1996 through 2005. This was the period of our adolescence, when we began to resemble our more mature neighbors. Specifically, this meant the spread of departmentalization. We launched reference departments at most of our branches. We added children's departments. At Highlands Ranch, we added a Reader's Advisor station; at Philip S. Miller, a Teen Tower.

We are, and our statistics back this up, among the best suburban library systems in the United States. By that I mean that of libraries serving communities of our size, we are not just in the top ten, but among the top two or three. We are a very good library.

It's also the case that our revenues have begun to flatten. The demand for our services has not.

We have begun to talk about what it means to become a great library. This is not, incidentally, all about money. The private sector counts its success by dollars. The public sectors reckons its Return On Investment by something quite different: the depth and breadth of its service.

I've learned some important things in my time here. When I was first starting out as a library director, I thought of communities as essential tools to build libraries. Now, I think of libraries as essential tools to build good communities. That's a big change.

Our future -- of library holdings, of library buildings, of technology, of staffing patterns -- cannot exist in isolation. We will succeed only to the extent that we assist in the success of those around us. Those around us include not just government, but also education, and business, and all those private concerns that add up to local life.

To help us plan for the next phase of our development, the Library Board of Trustees has decided to do some surveying. Over the next several weeks, we'll be conducting a series of telephone interviews.

Some of the questions will indeed be about money -- we're at the limit of what we can do with what we've got.

But most of our questions are about something more important. What really matters to you in your quest for quality of life? What do you really want from your library? It's just possible that what you want isn't something MORE, but something DIFFERENT.

Our questions aren't about what makes a library better, but what improves your community. The library is just another means to that end.

So if you get a call, it's legitimate. The people asking the questions are being paid by us to help us systematically, scientifically, get a read on what our taxpayers are really looking for in Douglas County.

Please, take the time to answer. The future you'll help us craft is not just ours. It's yours.

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