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, January 3, 2008

January 31, 2007 - let's grow authors!

About a year ago, I pitched an idea to one of our vendors: give us tools to grow new authors!

I'm not talking about the library abandoning our core business. But more and more of our tools are electronic. Maybe we could leverage those assets to capture folks who don't want just to consume new books and articles, but to create them.

How might that work?

Step One: Recruitment. Our website would have a banner: "CALLING ALL (would be) AUTHORS!" You follow that link, and it says something like this: "Got an idea for an article? A poem? A book? Or do you just have to get that school paper written? Follow this link!"

Step Two: the Interview. Now, a series of questions would help the budding author narrow things down. OK, it's an article. General audience, or professional? Formal or informal? Research-based or opinion?

Or if it's a poem, we would ask if it is formal (academic or structured, e.g. a sonnet), or humorous, or a more free form, personal statement.

I'm not suggesting that this interview would be conducted by a live person, by the way. Instead, I envision an automated decision tree -- the kind of diagnostic software you're beginning to see in doctor's offices.

Step Three: Templates. Other screens would guide you to sample outlines for producing some specific kind of document. That might be the skeleton of a process: here's a checklist of some recommended steps to writing (for example) an article for a general interest magazine. Print out the guide -- or maintain it online as you work through it.

Or it might be a collection of "Best Practice" documents -- some models of generally accepted quality in the area of book abstracts, short stories, and so on.

Step Four: Research. For non-fiction works, maybe now the library presents some guidelines to our resources. That might be a subset (health, science, education, business, etc.) of our online magazines files. Or it might be a pre-structured catalog search for certain kinds of books.

For fiction, we could offer (for instance) a recommended reading list of romance or science fiction short stories.

Step Five: Networking. Once you get a draft together, you want to share it. We might offer some options: come to one of our writers groups and meet your colleagues!

Or, "here is a list of local readers who would be happy to read and comment on your draft" -- possibly professional readers or copy editors, maybe for a posted fee. The idea is to connect you either to an amateur or a professional community of people who also want to write, or help you write better.

Step Six: Publishing! Again, there are several possible outcomes. Perhaps the completed work is submitted to an agent. The tools might have all kinds of tips about marketing your work. Maybe we have links to agents, or places where agents can scout sample bits of somebody's work. Some sample contracts and fee arrangements would be useful.

Or suppose the library becomes the publisher! That might be actual print, in partnership with a publisher or local print shop.

Or it might be online only -- cataloged, downloadable to an eReader of some kind, or just available from our website. And from there, the public (or publishers or agents) might again track down and comment on the works.

So you tell me: would such a tool be a good thing for libraries to push?

Here's what I think: it WOULD encourage thoughtful readers to discover the best libraries have to offer.

But it might do something better. It could be that the greatest writer of the 21st century is right here in Douglas County. Maybe she, or he, just needs a little nudge from a trusted party.

Your local public library.

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