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, August 17, 2006

August 17, 2006 - back to school

I have a glad and broken heart. Our little girl doesn't live here anymore -- she's off to school in Europe.

I remember being surprised, when Maddy was wee, how much she brought back memories of my own childhood. When we put her on a plane for London (with all her buddies, who were headed off to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland), I suddenly remembered when my own parents dropped me off at college.

I'm guessing it's more fun to go to England, Scotland, then to school in Germany, than it was to be dropped off in Normal, Illinois. But this part was the same: Maddy didn't look back. It was all excitement and new beginnings for her. I didn't look back, either.

It has now occurred to me that, just possibly, my parents were sorry to see me go. They might even have been proud of me, as I am bursting with pride over my daughter.

But they had other children to love. And so do we. Our son, Max, is starting middle school. Here we go again!

I like shopping for school supplies. There is a great earnestness to the fresh notebooks, the new pens and pencils. There is even something charming about the backpacks. Let's pack up! We're off to the Land of Knowledge.

I like that our school has provided Max with an organizer: developing good habits of scheduling and project management will serve him his whole life long.

There's another school supply that you may not have thought of -- although many Douglas County schools have begun to add it to their lists. What's that? A public library card.

A library card is important for at least three reasons.

1. Homework. School doesn't end when the last bell rings. There are papers to research, and reports to write. There are assignments that will not be remembered until after the school library has closed. The library card not only gives the young student the ability to take home mounds of books, magazines, and other media. It also unlocks our 24/7 databases, allowing research to happen even after the public library shuts down for the night, but before tomorrow's first class, when the report is due.

The library also, of course, provides space to study, or to meet with friends. But you don't need a card for that.

2. Fun. Let's not forget fiction. For those children who learn to love books, books are part of a great thirst for life. By the time I was Max's age, I had already lived a life as a colonist on Mars (Heinlein's "Red Planet"), survived a plague that wiped out 99% of the earth's population (George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides"), and more.

I know there are many parents who worry about their children finding out about the difficulties and complexities of life too soon. I worry about them finding out too late. Reading "for fun" also has a serious purpose: building up a mental skill set, insights into people and situations, that will enable your children to survive, and thrive, even in chaos.

3. A reminder of the civic dimension of life. Our children are endlessly bombarded with advertisements for this or that product. It makes it easy to miss something else: the grown-ups in our society have invested in a variety of infrastructures designed to help all of us be smarter and healthier, to not only give us rich internal resources, but to make us stronger through community and connection.

School is one destination in the Land of Knowledge. But your library is a passport to many other countries, both in that hemisphere -- and beyond.

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