For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
May 7, 2003 - New Website
I'm pleased to announce the third incarnation of the library's website.
The first one went up, I believe, in early 1997. We were at that time the first website in the county, and one of the first library websites in Colorado.
Some years later -- around the year 2000 -- we rolled out a new version, more graphically sophisticated.
Since then, our website has grown larger and more complex by the hour. Moreover, each web page was created -- and thus needed to be maintained - separately. At first, that was do-able. Eventually, all the thousands of pages, with all their references to the World Wide Web, and to each other, grew too unwieldy to manage easily.
The latest version, premiering for the public last week, involved a radical change. We now have a database-driven website. Instead of creating each page as if it were a separate document, with constantly changing links, we now just enter the links and the characteristics of the data. Each page is built on the fly, by the computer.
This should allow us to better distribute the tasks of web management. If one of our reference committees finds a new link, or needs to make a change in an existing one, we can make a single change to a data record. All the pages that refer to that link will be automatically updated. This makes us far more efficient.
What does that all this mean to the public? Two things.
The first is a new look. Instead of the old format -- with a navigation bar along the left vertical edge of the screen -- we've adopted a more horizontal, tabbed approach. This is very much in keeping with the way the library catalog displays on the screen, making all of our pages feel more consistent.
Second, it means we have the time to explore some new services. For example:
The Reader's Forum. Here, you'll be able to respond to columns like this one, and talk about new books, movies, or music. We're also thinking about a Teen Area. These spaces have the potential to be true online communities.
Speaking of teens, there's Shout DC. This is a project of Leadership Douglas County, class of 2002. It was a joint effort, led by Lone Tree librarian Deb Margeson, and involving assistance from the library, the Douglas County School District, and Ponderosa High School (especially high school students Ben Clark and Nick Swanson, who formatted the data).
The purpose of Shout DC is this: it lists county (and some metro-based) organizations that welcome teen volunteers. Teens can fulfill their high school graduation community service hours through these organizations. We're hoping that high school counselors and parents will use our website to help students find good matches for their interests.
Douglas County Community Resources databases. Using our same database driven model, this resource will eventually allow each organization to keep its own information current. Here again, our intent is to provide a comprehensive and definitive directory of all kinds of local organizations.
We're also teaming up with Douglas County and the Arts to Zoo web pages to provide a link to all the arts, culture, and heritage organizations in the county, and beyond. This will also let the public track a calendar of activities by those groups.
Finally, you'll still have access to all the topnotch commercial databases bought by the library on your behalf. Thanks to a new package we've purchased, most of these databases will now be available to you from home: just type in your library card one time, and all of the subscriptions will open up for you.
I'd particularly like to thank Moira Ash, Nancy Gassen, and Linda Sturgeon -- library staff members whose intelligence and diligence have brought you these improvements. They've worked hard, for many months, maintaining two websites while the new one was being polished.
Expect more announcements about our automated services soon.