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.
January 14, 2010 - what's 'it' all about?
You may have noticed, over the past several months, teasing posters and ads around the county talking about a mysterious red-lettered "it." Now the mystery can be revealed.
This little campaign, done very much on the cheap, and depending on the generosity of our many community partners (all sworn to good-natured secrecy), is about ... the Douglas County Libraries.
Yes, we are it!
Why bother with a library campaign? Well, it's not just to grow use. We know how to do that. Recently, I reviewed trend lines of virtually every service we offer. They all have been climbing sharply over the past twenty years -- consistently outstripping population growth.
But in the business world, increased activity means more revenue. In libraries, increased activity means more expenses. That is, our revenue is not tied to how busy we are. Indeed, the less money people have, the more they need and use us.
That makes the connection between love of the library and the value of the library a little hard for people to grasp. Even our most ardent patrons seem unclear about what we offer, and how we pay for it.
So our intent in this campaign is to try to shine a little light on what we do, why we do it, and just what our citizens get for their investment in this institution.
For individuals, libraries feed our curiosity about stories and ideas. Whether you're a toddler enthralled by one of our master storytellers, or a high-powered attorney addicted to the comforting escape of romance novels, or someone learning how to cha cha by video instruction, or someone deep into home improvement projects, or a student working through community college or online master's programs, or someone with a passion for World War II history, the library is mostly definitely it. For you.
To put it another way, the library is where you pursue your dreams and your passions. Not because somebody told you to, but because it's what interests you. We're an institution that customizes your education precisely to your keenest fascinations, providing millions of dollars of materials and other resources, not to mention professional guidance in the form of library staff, on demand. Nobody else does that.
One topic of interest for me lately has been brain development: not only from birth to 4 (a period of explosive growth and understanding), but from 27 to 50, and from there on into your second century of life. No matter how old you are, your mind, the healthy brain, absolutely depends on exploration, experience, and stimulus.
And do you know where you can find it? That's right!
But libraries also contribute to a smarter community. When it comes to anchor stores, it's all about the library as community center. We did an exit poll once, asking people to describe all the reasons they came to the library that day. Number one and two were checking things out and bringing them back. But number three was a surprise: to meet somebody.
That meeting might have been a study date. It might have been a business meeting. It might have been a civic group. It might have been a Spanish language conversation group (for English-speaking folks about to take a trip). It might have been just a convenient place to meet to walk over to lunch, visible and known to all. But in any of those cases or more, the library was it. In 2009, our door counters clicked over 2 million visits.
Imagine that. An institution that both encourages you to follow your dreams, and connects you to all the other dreamers and builders in your community. The Douglas County Libraries -- maybe this is a good time to take a closer look at "it."
LaRue's Views are his own.