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.
March 10, 2005 - The Library Catalog on Your Website
We get a lot of traffic on the library website -- about a million hits a month. And what's the number one destination of all that traffic? What do Douglas County citizens most look at?
Our library catalog. And why not? We have well over 600,000 items in our collection now. It's a huge asset, representing millions of dollars, and covering every conceivable topic.
I'm guessing that lots of the people who read this column work for organizations with their own websites. And I bet many of those companies serving Douglas County are looking for ways to add useful content to their sites. Ideally, they don't want to spend a lot.
Have I got a deal for you! Why not put our catalog -- one of the most popular destinations in the county -- on your website ... for free?
How? It's easy. In essence, you just need to insert this snippet of HTML code that lets you search the Douglas County Libraries right from your own page.
You can put it anywhere you like -- you'll get a blank text entry box, and a graphic that says "Search our Catalog!"
Here's an example to show how powerful this can be.
Let's say you are a minister, and when you launch your browser, it defaults to your church's home page.
You're reading a newspaper article about Karen Armstrong, former Carmelite nun, and author of "A History of God," among others. You hear she's written a new book about her life.
Because you've added the library catalog search box to your church's website, you just type "karen armstrong" into it and press Enter.
In moments, you're looking at a page from the library catalog. You see that there's a title called "The spiral staircase : my climb out of darkness," with a publication date of 2004. So you click on it.
Now, on the left side, you can click again on reviews of the book, or a plot summary. If the summary intrigues you, you can even go ahead and reserve the book, directing it to the library branch closest to you.
I tested this myself on my personal web site, and have found that it's come in handy many times. Anybody who combines writing and research -- teachers and journalists, for instance -- will find it especially useful.
Again, this code is freely available, and anyone may use it. Use of the library catalog, or this search box, does not, of course, mean that the library endorses the views expressed by the websites in which the search box appears. But the library connection is bound to help anybody offer a richer Internet browsing experience.
Meanwhile, if you do decide to make use of this new tool, I'd appreciate knowing about it. Feel free to drop me a line at jlarue @ jlarue.com.