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 12, 2012

Last column

January 12, 2012 - read, dammit

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading this column. I have been writing it, every week, since April 11, 1990. I've missed a week or two every now and then. But not many.

Mostly I wrote about libraries. That's not surprising, since I have the great gift of doing work I love. Libraries are what I care about.

My perspective - LaRue's Views - is unique to me. Mainly, I speak for no one but myself.

Eventually, I realized that the job of any sentient being is not only to feel but to think. Thinking about libraries has led me into lots of other topics. I discovered that everything connects to everything else.

Sometimes my thoughts have found resonance in the minds and spirits of Douglas County residents. Sometimes, as the Letters to the Editor page attests, they have not.

I find myself at a point in my life when I am weighing things up. I am considering how best to spend my remaining days.

On the one hand, I am very proud of the institution I have helped to build. With my very astute Board of Trustees and a series of extraordinary staff we have taken what used to be a county department, ranked as the worst public library in the state, to an independent library district ranked as the best in the nation.

We earned it.

Moreover, the Douglas County Libraries is now blazing a path to the future not just in Colorado but in the profession, particularly in the area of the management of digital content.

I remain deeply engaged with this institution and its vital mission. I remain profoundly committed to the idea that public libraries do and should illuminate and advance their communities.

On the other hand, I believe our example stands in stark contrast to a decades-long trend. At too many levels of our nation, mostly under the multi-layered leadership of my generational cohorts, our society has been either passively neglecting or actively dismantling almost every aspect of our civic, educational, and even physical infrastructure.

I still want to write. I have to, I think.

But over the past couple of years I've done a lot of professional speaking. I've spoken to library, not-for-profit, and even some corporate audiences. I've followed people writing about similar topics on blogs and other social media.

I've concluded that I need to spend some time to deeply consider, then refocus, my efforts.

All of this is by way of saying that I'm not going to be writing a weekly column for local papers anymore.

I still have opinions about many topics (boy, do I), and from time to time I'll offer them to the Douglas County press.

For those of you who have followed my musings, and often stopped by to chat with me about them, my sincere thanks.

A library colleague (Patricia Hodapp, now director of the Santa Fe Public Library) once told me, "There's more to library advocacy than just standing on a corner and saying, 'Read, dammit!'" But it's not a bad place to start.

A mostly complete archive of my columns can be found at LaRuesViews.blogspot.com. Future writings will be linked to my website at www.jlarue.com.

Thank you for your attention.

LaRue's Views are his own.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012 - youth initiative a success

Back around 2002-2003, I believe, the Douglas County School District conducted a survey of its student body. The results were disturbing. Many kinds of "risky" behavior (drug use and sexual activity, among others) were on the rise. Many students reported that they felt that they were not respected or valued by adults in the community.

In 2003 the Partnership of Douglas County Governments (founded in 2002 with its original members of the Towns of Castle Rock, Parker, and Larkspur, the City of Lone Tree, and the county) brought the school district into its membership.

In an effort to address what appeared to be growing unrest among our youth, the Partnership launched something called the Douglas County Youth Initiative. The idea was to establish an approach to youth issues that focused on "assets" -- what worked right -- rather than on the more punitive interventions of criminal justice.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the hiring process of their first executive director, Carla Turner. She started in 2005.

It happens that Carla resigned from that position at the end of 2011. It's a good time to look back and see what this innovative program has done.

First, the DCYI sought to increase youth, and youth service provider access to useful resources. The Douglas County Youth & Family Resource Guide, which can be found on the Douglas County Libraries website (follow the Community>Youth/Family Resources tab) now contains almost 300 pages of contacts.

Second, the Youth Initiative tried to provide a path for young people to participate in the adult world -- to give voice to their concerns and see how things work. The first Douglas County Youth Congress was held in 2008; four more have followed. At this event, young people meet with elected representatives, consider issues of the day, and then talk with legislators and others to test potential solutions.

The Youth Congress planning team for 2011 decided to coordinate a Youth Day of Service on April 20th, 2012. This will give youth an opportunity to give back to their communities -- and with any luck, establish a history of civic awareness and engagement.

Third, Carla introduced a program called "Wraparound." The idea is this: suppose you have a family that's in difficulty. Things are getting worse. Your son is getting wilder, your daughter feels threatened.

In the normal course of things, the usual systems can't really do much for you until there's a crisis. The son gets arrested. The girl gets attacked.

At that point, all the usual apparatus of criminal justice steps in with its confrontations, penalties, multiple levels of costs, and ongoing stress.

But suppose, instead, you were able to assemble a team of friendly supporters (friends, family, and professional consultants) BEFORE things blew up. Suppose you were able to build on the things that weren't broken in the family and head off the crisis.

Wouldn't that be better? It would certainly be less expensive.

Wraparound now has six facilitators (largely funded through grants) and a family support partner serving families across Douglas County. An amazing 81% of the families who start the process (which typically takes about a year) report success. They go from "in immediate danger" to stable.

That isn't all the Youth Initiative has done. But it's impressive. And the last youth survey showed significant improvement in virtually all measures.

You don't often read about a program that works. It's worth celebrating.

My warm best wishes to Carla Turner, and for the continued success of this remarkable program.

LaRue's Views are his own.