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, July 10, 2008

July 10, 2008 - Libraries- Necessity or Luxury?

by Sharon Nemechek, Manager, Lone Tree Library

[I was having a conversation with the manager of our Lone Tree Libraryrecently. The topic was "what do people need?" This literate andengaging essay is Sharon's eloquent answer.] - Jamie LaRue

Can you identify the necessities in your life? Stop and think….are youable to distinguish the necessities from the conveniences and theluxuries? Most of us would agree that our basic needs include air,food, water and shelter. But, what about books?

In "Man’s Search for Meaning," Viktor Frankl, who was imprisoned infour different concentration camps during WWII, observed that it wasnot necessarily the strong, fit laborers who survived the starvation,torture and hard physical labor in the camps, but those prisoners whohad travelled and read books. For the few hours they were idle theyescaped the daily horrors of the camp and in their minds visited theplaces they had seen in life or in literature. That mental escape wasessential to their survival.

As a librarian I find this fascinating. I know that books help usunderstand our universe, but is it possible that they satisfy somebasic human need, that without them we might not survive? And if so,what does that say about the place of the library in our lives?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow and economist Manfred Max-Neef each workedto define a system of human needs. While Maslow believed that needs arehierarchical, Max-Neef proposed that human needs are constant acrosscultures and time periods and that true needs are few. Both agree thatbasic physical needs include air, food, water, shelter, and protectionfrom danger. What I find interesting, though, is they both suggest thatwe also have some basic emotional needs that must be satisfied,including the need for affection/intimacy, a sense of belonging,respect, understanding, recreation, creation, identity and freedom.

Is it possible that these basic emotional needs that Frankl, Maslow andMax-Neef observed can be satisfied with a visit to your local library?Well, let’s take a look…..

Affection/intimacy. Although this one has been attempted at thelibrary, I wouldn’t recommend it. But, you can find resources on how tobe a better partner or parent. And, some libraries have singles nights.

A sense of belonging. The library has been described as a "thirdplace," a place in addition to your home and workplace that’sintegrated into your daily life. In one study libraries equaledStarbucks and grocery stores for number of repeat visits by patrons perweek. In Douglas County 80% of households have at least one librarycard. The library has truly become our community "living room."

Respect. Library staff respect the reading preferences, interests andinformation needs of all patrons. This is one of the guiding principlesof our profession.

Recreation. Reading or listening to a good book is not only greatentertainment, but it often provides a much needed escape. During mydivorce, a stressful and emotional time, I devoured all the "escapist"fare I could find. Immersed in a fast-paced story I found respite frommy almost constant worries.

Understanding, Identity. We gain a deeper understanding of ourselvesnot only from Wayne Dyer and Dr. Phil, but also through the beautifullytold stories of Willa Cather, Ha Jin, Wallace Stegner, Jhumpa Lahiri,Cormac McCarthy and many, many others.

Creation. Do you want to start a small business, build a robot out ofLegos, plant an herb garden or turn some beads and wire into abracelet? The library has books, DVDs and classes to show you how to doall this and more. Recently my son checked out a DVD on how to build aquarter pipe. Now he's inspired to turn our garage into a mini skatepark.
Freedom. What greater freedom is there than access to any book you’llever want to read? What greater freedom than the journey into a greatstory?

Is the library necessary for survival? After air, after food, after shelter. Absolutely.


James LaRue, Director
Douglas County Libraries
100 S Wilcox Street
Castle Rock CO 80104

"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." - A. A. Milne

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