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 21, 2007

June 21, 2007 - A LIFETIME IN THE LIBARY, by Cindy Malone

Do any of you remember when you checked out a book in the "old days," i.e. the Sixties? They would take an actual photograph of your card and the removable library card pasted into the book. You would stand there at the checkout counter, and the librarian (complete with glasses and a bun) would step on a foot pedal, triggering the bright light photo and a neat 1960’s mechanical noise, taking the picture, so as to trace you if you became overdue or worse.

I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet. I know that because they moved my neighborhood library in southeast Denver down a few blocks to a wonderfully larger space. My first memories are of the old library, and of going home and playing with the stacks of books my mother checked out for the whole family. I would open the book’s cover, where the library card holder was pasted in, then step on my imaginary foot pedal. I’d make the picture sound myself, then "stamp" the library card, and put it in the book. I’d go through the entire stack, then hand the books to my imaginary mother (who was no doubt, making dinner or polishing the furniture in the house. These were the 60’s, you know.) "Thanks for coming in, Mrs. Hopko," I’d say to her. Then I would proceed with the stack to the nearest heating vent (our tri-level was cold in the wintertime!) and curl up with those books, adult and children’s.

I could read most of the words. My mother tells me I started reading at age 3, as she was helping my kindergarten-aged brother to read. I remember I caught on much more quickly than he did, and I would blurt out the correct words as he was trying to piece together G and O in "Go, Dog, Go!" by P.D. Eastman. My brother has dyslexia, but no one knew what that was then, and in a way, his drawback was my opportunity. I remember the exact moment I figured out the words, Dog, and Big Dog, Little Dog in the book, like a Helen Keller-like revelation, and at the same time my mother telling me not to read out loud because my sibling was trying so, so hard to figure it out on his own.

As an awkward, very shy teenager with no figure and glasses, the library and everything in it were my haven. Other kids, including my brother, were out riding bikes, playing kick-the-can, but I was curled up in my dad’s recliner, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew. Later on, I read Charles Dickens, then T.S. Elliot, John Steinbeck and Shakespeare, sometimes over and over again.

As a TV reporter in Great Falls, MT, the library was one of the first places I looked up in town. It was a haven then, between busy hours of constant work, and what seemed was always winter. I started reading biographies of people in the West, especially women, understanding a little bit better how isolating that kind of life was, even though I was surrounded by 50,000 other souls, the smallest place I had ever been for an extended period of time.

Now, twenty years later, the library isn’t just a haven. It’s a bonding place for myself and my children, two little girls. My youngest can’t read yet, but loves to look at all kinds of books, and now, of course, the computer. My second-grader and I have spent many of our most happy and content times at the Philip S. Miller library looking for the newest Magic Tree House books, looking for the biographies of Abe Lincoln that she found on her own for her class report. She’s shy with adults, but has no problem asking the librarian for information on anything.

My husband and I take the girls there just about every Sunday. It’s a new family tradition. The best feeling I can have is seeing my 8-year-old daughter’s eyes as she looks for books, DVDs, books on CD, Leap Frogs or CD-ROMs. Or when she proudly looks something up on the library computer and finds it herself, then settles down to read it. I know that glow.

And have since I was three years old.

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