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.
June 24, 2010 - once upon a time there was a princess
Former county commissioner Melanie Worley told me recently about her first job. She was a fairy princess.
A local movie theater hired her, gave her a gown, cape, and wand, and instructed her to supervise the frequent hordes of children. Sometimes, she said, she had to bonk them with her wand.
It was excellent training.
Years later, when conflicts were running high between various government agencies, she suggested the formation of a group now known as the Partnership of Douglas County Governments (PDCG). It is comprised of representatives from Douglas County, the towns of Castle Rock, Larkspur and Parker, the cities of Castle Pines North and Lone Tree, the Highlands Ranch Metro District, the Douglas County School District and the Douglas County Libraries.
In brief, the PDCG makes it easier for governments to play well together. How? By introducing everyone to each other, and giving them a chance to share what is going on in their worlds.
Another countywide group - created in large part by now State Representative Carole Murray, Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce Director Pam Ridler, and ably assisted by Melissa Moroni - is called Leadership Douglas County. For the past eight years, a group of applicants has learned about the issues of the county, and, often, then stepped up to leadership positions. Such positions - on boards, commissions, and task forces - are always in need of new talent.
When Melanie Worley was termed out of her commissioner seat, she moved on to become the director of communications for Developmental Pathways (developmentalpathways.org), which "is dedicated to individuals with disabilities." She moved from public service to human services. (She would say, "it's all human services.")
And that's a nice parallel for the story of leadership development in the county. The 2010 class of Leadership Douglas County, in partnership with the Douglas County Community Foundation, recently produced a report called "Human Needs and Services in Douglas County: A Stakeholder's Assessment."
After conducting a series of interviews with 27 nonprofit and Douglas County human service agencies, and 46 surveys of community stakeholders, the report authors found the following:
- Human services needs have increased significantly. Douglas County has among the lowest rates of poverty in the nation. But let's put that in human terms: "Nearly 12,000 residents of Douglas County are living at or below federal poverty levels. Thirty-one percent of these are children." That's more people than live in either Castle Pines North or Lone Tree.
- Poverty, homelessness and reports of child abuse have more than doubled in the past three years.
- Stronger partnerships and even nonprofit mergers may be necessary to achieve sustainable service.
- Volunteers in Douglas County have demonstrated a keen ability to directly assist people in need. But there's still a shortfall of revenue.
- Charitable giving remains stagnant. Money to address human service needs comes from philanthropy or taxes. Douglas County lags both Colorado and the nation for charitable giving as a percentage of per capita income.
Nonetheless, the final finding is this:
* Optimism about sustained quality of life in Douglas County is high. And why not? We have much to be grateful for.
Yet, business, government and nonprofit leaders all agree that if we, as a county, fail to address these growing needs, the quality of all of our lives will suffer.
I commend the Leadership Douglas County class of 2010 for raising the important issue of the need and state of human services in our community. Fixing it will take more than waving a wand.
LaRue's Views are his own.