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 3, 2008

April 3, 2008 - we're building (virtual) communities

There was a time when people wrote letters to their friends and families, providing a highly detailed record of people's lives and times. Those letters are archived in libraries and museums today.

But historians are worried about something you may not be: how do we preserve the record of our own times? How do you archive a phone call? Who saves email?

Enter the "blog." The blog, or "web log," is an online journal, available for perusal and commentary by the public.

You might be thinking: okay, I can see why someone might want to keep a journal. But why on earth would you want to put it out on the World Wide Web? Come to that, who would want to READ someone else's journal?

Well, people can post responses to blog entries, or even subscribe to a "feed" to keep up with events in the lives of friends and family. Moreover, blogs let you link to other interesting things on the Web.

But there's more to it than that. For one thing, there's a lot of interesting reporting and commentary going on out there -- outside of the control of the corporate media giants.

For another, there's that issue of gathering and preserving information about our own life and times.

Recently, I spent some time with a demo of our utterly redesigned website. Our staff will get to see it first (in April); we have some testing and tweaking to do.

But when we roll it out for the public (in May, we hope), you'll see a site that is very like a blog.

By that, I mean several things:

* it will look fresher, more modern, and be much easier to navigate and search through.

* people can gather in small groups and interact using web tools and space that the library provides. Think of it as a virtual community center.

We're calling this part of our new website "Community Groups." The idea is to provide people a place to organize and interact around a hobby, event, or topic of interest.

One person from each group will be the moderator and will be authorized to "approve" all other group members. Groups will be provided a blog, wiki, poll, calendar, and a small upload space for images -- the tools of Web 2.0.

Who are we welcoming into our virtual community?

The list includes soccer groups, carpooling moms, play date groups, the Downtown Parker Development group, the church choir, the cub scouts, the quilters, the recyclers -- the familiar people that we see in our library meeting room’s everyday.

Take the parents of the Barracuda swim team. They would join the group and logon to post information such as swim meet locations and times, contact numbers, snack schedules, images of the last swim meet and a poll for end-of-the season coach gift ideas. The parents can sign up for RSS and receive new posts through e-mail.

With the addition of these blog-like features, the library website becomes something new: a library branch, open 24 hours a day, and run by the community itself. And in the process, it writes its own history.

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