Daily Archives: August 9, 2012

Jamie LaRue & Colorado Public Libraries

I know Jamie. We were on the Board of BCR together for awhile – before it was absorbed by LYRASIS. Jamie is the Director of the Douglas County (CO) Public Libraries. When I ran across his blog post yesterday, I was eager to read what he had to share about the Colorado Public Library Directors Retreat from last June.

I’ve followed Jamie’s initiatives at Douglas County since I first met him, and I must say he is a true leader in the profession, as well as an innovator. (Digital Discovery – A New 21st Century Library Skill) So, it didn’t surprise me to read that the other library leaders in Colorado are thinking very much in a 21st Century Library context.

Among the trends Jamie reports, there were two that especially struck a chord with me. They are:

* community focus. I’m not sure I know all the reasons for this. Part of it is the influx of Millennials, who are generally more community-minded, both as users and as new library workers. Part may be the recession, which encourages people to look around for a little more social support. Another explanation might be the rise of library districts in Colorado, who depend upon public support, which means a greater awareness of the need to demonstrate value to funders. Whatever the reasons, many libraries were shaking themselves out of too strong an internal focus, and taking more direct interest in what is going on, and what is needed, in the larger environment. There’s some amazing public programming going on out there, including a session on “yarn bombing” (where people, under cover of darkness, adorn public structures like statues, fire hydrants and streetlights with crocheting, knitted hats, home-stitched scarves, etc. — a kind of crafts-based graffiti). A number of libraries reported efforts to be a force for increased civility and open discourse in their cities and towns, and even to address the issue of bullying in Native American reservations.

Colorado has generally been known for progressiveness and young blood. If indeed the “influx of Millennials” has prompted the increased community focus, then their influence is beginning to be felt, in significant ways. Older librarians need to embrace the future through the eyes of the generation that will soon be the leaders. In my estimation Jamie is DEAD ON that funders want to know how the money is being spent, and whether or not it is used effectively – outcomes, outcomes, outcomes – with a refreshed outward focus.


* library cooperation. There was a lot of talk about this. Colorado libraries team up in many ways: sharing materials through a statewide courier system, providing statewide online reference assistance to students, sharing computer catalogs, and negotiating large cooperative purchasing agreements for subscriptions to various electronic resources. There’s a sense that things may be changing: not so much a growing unwillingness to share, but the need to re-examine some of those projects to figure out where we get the best bang for the buck. We worked up a team to look at that issue of shared online reference work.

Not only is library cooperation smart in the present economic climate, it is healthy for strengthening the profession and fostering innovation and development of a new library service model. Questioning the status quo and seeking service improvements is always a good thing. Understanding how your library can better serve your community is essential to your library’s survival.

Thanks for sharing Jamie.

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