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, February 17, 2011

February 17, 2011 - weather outside is frightful

I was raised on the shore of Lake Michigan. During the winter, I went skating every night I could.

Often, it was minus 32 degrees. It really wasn’t that big a deal. You learn to dress in layers. That meant you wore a T-shirt, a shirt, a sweater, a coat, and a scarf. And gloves.

Although it was little uncool, in bitter weather you wore a hat, too. I had a great Russian one. I like hats.

But the truth is, after we skated around a bit, we took off the coat. We were young. We were burning up the fuel of our lives with abandon. Viewed from above on those frigid nights, we glittered like busy little embers in a fireplace.

In those days, I had a fantasy. When I died, I would be reincarnated as a big shaggy creature with hooves like skates. The whole world would be covered with ice. Symphonies of stars would sing around it.

Occasionally there would be natural fountains of hot chocolate. They would provide all that body's nutritional needs.

Doesn't that sound great?

But I digress. Later in life, I drove a produce truck through one of central Illinois' worst winters in a generation (1978). My motto: the kale must get through.

What I'm trying to say here is that cold weather doesn't seem that unusual to me. I know that people get out and get things done in it.

But here in Colorado, sometimes it seems to me that local residents, well, wimp out.

My own library staff, whom I know to be fearless in many ways, gets furrowed brows after just a few flakes. "Will the public be safe?" they wonder. Should we send our more far-flung staff home early? This concern is authentic and caring.

On the other hand, I believe we're supposed to put the convenience of our customers ahead of our own. All around us, post offices, hospitals, police, fire, grocery stores, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, even toy stores, all just do what they always do: stay open for business.

Surely we matter as much as they do.

So I say to my employees: I believe libraries are really important. I think we genuinely matter to seniors, moms, dads, business people, teenagers, and kids.

We're an essential part of the life of our communities. They expect us, quite rightly, to keep the doors open when we say they will be.

There are exceptions, of course. A few snowstorms have shut down the whole county for days. We closed, too.

One summer one of our libraries got hit by lightning, which made the building dark and powerless. It was so hot nobody could stand it. Once we lost water, which in a place with busy public restrooms isn't trivial.

When stuff like that happens, I close a library. I'm not crazy.

Let me restate that. I may be crazy. But not about that.

On occasion, I'll delay the opening of the library, or shut it down a little early. I'd rather do that than not open at all.

We always announce these things on our phone system (303-791-7323) and website (douglascountylibraries.org). I make the call by 6 a.m.

But you know what? In the winter, it gets cold. It snows. It's weather. Life goes on.

So unless things are genuinely weird, you should expect us to be open.

We ensure access to the intellectual content of our culture, no matter what kind of weather we face. It’s what we do.

We are the few. The literate. The tough.

The librarians.

LaRue's Views are his own.

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