Showing posts from 2010

Amazon lending program - what should libraries do in response?

A self-published author recently forwarded this email to me. It's intriguing on several levels.

From: "Amazon DTP"
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:47 PM
Subject: Announcing Amazon’s Kindle Book Lending Program

Dear Publisher,

We are excited to announce Kindle book lending ( The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.

All DTP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details…

Library Journal highlights eDiscover the Classics project

A nice article here about CLiC's wonderful project. This Monday, we had about four people per hour coming to the reference desk asking for help with their new ebook readers. Thanks to the eDiscover the Classics project, and the wonderful how to guides posted by our staff here, we were able to help them. We have more to do in this area, but I believe it was vital for the library to appear ready to help our patrons with this new technology - or risk losing them altogether.

New computer

I got my HP a520 Pavilion computer in May of 2004, and used nothing but Linux on it. Eventually, the fan gasped, memory chips were dying, and using it was getting painful. So I upgraded it for Christmas. I am now running a little System76 desktop machine, 2 gigs of RAM, prebundled with Ubuntu 10.10, "Maverick Meerkat." It's a 64 bit machine, but I can't say as it feels blindingly fast. Much faster than the old HP, for sure. It cost under $400, and will probably last me another 6 years.

It didn't take long to set up. It found monitor and printer with no problem - no setup necessary. I was stumped for a bit until I realized that what I thought was a flash drive was in fact the wireless modem. Nifty. The work of maybe half an hour to grab all my other programs, set things up for multimedia.

I fiddled around with Evolution (Outlook for Linux) for an unnecessary period of time, trying to get it to use my Google contacts and calendar. The trick seemed to be to start th…

The Nook and public domain books

Through the good graces of the the Colorado Library Consortium, my library added about 500 Project Gutenberg titles, mostly classics, to its catalog. In the past week, I've used that to read several books on my cell phone. Today I found a good review of the Barnes and Noble Nook Color ebook reader, ("It ain't heavy, it's my e-reader," by Nate Anderson") and was struck by this:

If e-book readers have done one thing for me above all else, it's getting me to read some terrific public domain books. In the last two weeks, I've been plowing through The Education of Henry Adams, Thoreau's wonderfully over-the-top essay on "Walking," Kafka's "Metamorphosis," Byron's Don Juan, and a late Victorian translation/abridgment of The Arabian Nights. I wouldn't have read these on a computer screen, I wouldn't have printed them out, and I wouldn't have bothered to purchase them—but I'm enjoying each of them tremendously.

Castle Rock Arts Center

Produced for NewsTeam Boulder and TV Newsgathering class at the University of Colorado. Many thanks to Greater Castle Rock Art Guild and Front Range Theatre Company.

Look carefully, and you'll see the famous Tuna Boys at the beginning, and my "giddy as a school boy" dance for Scrooge.

Conclusion: I should grow back my beard.But it's good to see this big step forward for the Castle Rock fine arts community.

Douglas County Libraries' "it" campaign

This video archives some of the cool posters we did highlighting our remarkable staff!

The visibility and invisibility of librarians

An article solicited from me and edited by Library Journal's Josh Hadro showed up as today's "Library Link of the Day." The article itself is based on a panel talk I gave at BCR's 2010 Reference Renaissance, entitled "The Visibility and Invisibility of Librarians."

There are a few comments on it already. I did another version of this that will be coming out in a book of conference proceedings at the end of the year. I love the souped up chart they did from my original one.


I enjoy seeing good people and good libraries thrive. Click here for a link to a wonderful story by Norman Oder, formerly of Library Journal, about my neighbor to the north.

Post-election musings

On election night, I came back from rehearsal (for "The Education of Mister Scrooge," by the Front Range Theatre Company) and checked Douglas County's website. I saw that Amendments 60/61 and Proposition 101 were going down overwhelmingly. Given Douglas County's conservative bent, I figured that was decisive, and went to bed. As it happens, of course, the measures were defeated in every single county in the state by close to 70%.

There were lots of reasons for that defeat. Among them was the good work done by many librarians on their own personal time. Aspen Walker, a librarian who happens to work as my assistant, made a major contribution in her Bad3Bad4Libraries effort.

The defeat of the measures was good in many ways. Yet I woke up mildly depressed. A few days later, I realized why. I've been involved in three elections in four years (2007 and 2008 for the library, and in opposition to the Bad 3 this year). The first two lost. The success of this one did nothi…

National Children's Study

This is about the attempt to do a 20 year study mapping environmental factors to childhood well-being. Ambitious! I serve as chairman of the citizen advisory board. Click here for a link to the project website.

There's also a video. That link is here.

Wonder Girls: Nobody but You

I feel a little guilty about this. But if you somehow escaped this utterly infectious smash hit from the South Korean girl band the Wonder Girls, then you must be made to pay. The weird thing is that its appeal continues for me.

My daughter, who taught in Taiwan, tells me that EVERYBODY knew this, all ages. That was almost a year ago now. But these Wonder Girls are just so dang cute.

Oh, and here's a bonus link, a clip from the "Korean Beyonce." It goes to show you: American pop songs and moves are extremely widespread. So to speak.

Self-check, automated materials handling

Recently I was asked by a colleague what I thought about our 2008-2009 adoption of self-check and AMH solutions. Bob Pasiznyuk, who was our IT associate director at the time (now the director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Iowa) was chiefly responsible for that decision and its implementation, and I swear he wrote it up for me, although I can't lay my hands on the paper.

But for other librarians considering the solution, here's the short version about why we did it, and roughly how it played out.

We had three problems:

* extraordinary growth of use.
* sharp restrictions on space (for more traditional circulation stations)
* limits on dollars for additional staff
* a rising incidence of repetitive motion stress injuries

The use of RFID tags, self-check stations (3M), and automated materials handling units (sorters from three different companies) was the right solution.

Our initial investment was about $1 million. We paid for it out of savings. We calculate that we recov…


A terrific name for a band, and a remarkably gifted couple of indie musicians, cranking out offbeat music in somebody's house. Nataly Dawn can sing like a funk-laconic angel, and Jack Conte is a demented percussionist with a tiny piano. Give it a listen here.

My favorite: "If you think you need some lovin'."

Green Porno with Isabella Rossellini

OK. This is about raw sex, featuring one of the hottest women who ever lived.

Oh, and marine animals. And puppets. I haven't seen anything this entertaining since PeeWee Herman.

Favorite line: "What am I - a duck??"

Community reference project interview

Click here or the title of this entry to hear an interview by Mary Ross of Douglas County Libraries librarians Colbe Galston and Amy Long about the topic of the "community reference project."

Mary is the instructor of an Infopeople online course called Revisioning Reference.

Colbe and Amy are staggeringly articulate - and lay out what I do firmly believe is the frontier of public library reference work.

Traveling librarian: Boise and Sacramento

In a three week period, I think I'll wind up giving some 10 talks to the library world. Some of them are part of my job, speaking (for free) within Colorado. Others I take time off to do (and get paid by the folks who invited me!).

Yesterday, I gave a talk in Boise, Idaho, for the public library's staff day. I was actually filling in for my esteemed colleague Will Manley, who had some medical issues. (Get well soon!) Looking for an Emergency Backup Speaker? I'm your guy.

This afternoon, I'm in Sacramento, California. Tomorrow, I speak at their staff day on the topic of intellectual freedom.

I have to say, this life of travel and public speaking is fascinating. I'm seeing libraries in a way I hadn't before. So much is context. I enjoyed walking around Boise (ranked as one of the most livable cities in America). My stroll through the main library was surprisingly revealing.

Today I walked through a few blocks of downtown Sacramento, and toured its library. (Anot…

Quilting exhibit

I just strolled through the Castle Rock Quilt Club's exhibit at the Philip S. Miller Library. Wow. Below are two shots of my favorites.

Jerry Dunbar's "Mariner's Compass Sampler." Hand-quilted.

And "Delectable Mountains," by Donna Ryman (long arm)

The colors on my little cell phone camera are off. But these, and many others, are awe-inspiring. Come see them!

The Bad 3 in Plain English

First TV ad against Amendments 60/61 / Proposition 101


This comes through Suzanne, then from the Daily Grommet. It's about a little "webbook" that's an interesting twist on simple computing. The design has a kind of Zen-like/Mac simplicity. If all your work is in the cloud, it's not bad. It's apparently based on Flash, not on more open standards. Is it as good as a laptop? Not quite - it only has apps in the cloud. Is it as good as an iPad? Not as many apps here, either, and it weighs more, too. I don't see an ebook reader, and the "store" is still a little thin. Still, it's an interesting design by a small company, and maybe handy for folks who just don't want the bother of a computer.

Amendment 60/61, Proposition 101 poll

Released on Sept. 3, 2010, a poll by Ciruli Associates reports that support for the statewide ballot initiatives looks like this:

Amendment 60
Definitely/likely to vote for: 32%
Definitely likely to vote against: 45%
Don't know: 23%

Amendment 61
Definitely/likely to vote for: 36%
Definitely likely to vote against: 34%
Don't know: 29%

Proposition 101:
Definitely/likely to vote for: 51%
Definitely likely to vote against: 33%
Don't know: 16%

New newspaper archive

There are three measures on this fall's Colorado ballot - Amendments 60 and 61, Proposition 101 - which, if successful, will not only reduce my library's budget by 58%, but will wreak similar havoc on municipalities, counties, schools, special districts, and the state itself. They will also create an economic climate that is positively repellent to business. I don't know who first called the "bad 3" "a voter approved Depression," but that sums it up.

I have been writing newspaper columns for 23 years. Mostly, my thoughts have focused on the issues faced by the library, and a host of various program announcements and policy considerations. A couple of times in the past year, I wrote about federal issues. The lashback from some members of my community was rapid and extreme. They threatened lawsuits, they threatened boycotts and punishment at the ballot box, they actively sought to have me fired by county commissioners and the board.

That's ok by me, by …

New LaRue Website

I spent a while this morning doing something I should have done sooner: refresh my website. On my home (Ubuntu) machine, I fired up the open source web-editor Kompozer. Then I went looking for some templates. Eventually, I found one called "Simple Beauty." I also found Youtube videos that gave me a good, quick introduction to how to use Kompozer with templates.

Start to finish, I think it took 3 hours to completely recast most of my site. In the past, I used my website to stash some professional and personal resources that I need from time to time. That's still handy, but these days, I'm seeing the website as something else: a way to make it easier to connect with folks looking for the kinds of talks, workshops, and facilitation that I enjoy doing. To that end, I've concentrated more on sprucing up the look of the pages, and getting a little more professional about what services I provide, what topics I know something about, and which audiences might find any of t…


Yesterday, I flew up to (via Blackhawk helicopter) and back from (via Chinook helicopter) the Colorado Army National Guard's High Altitude Aviation Training Site.

The undeserved experience was the result of the generosity of one of our staff, who was in the Guard and recently returned from a stint in Iraq. (His story is here.) I'm the director of the organization that treated him well, although the credit really belongs to many others.

Nonetheless, I got some cool photos.

We flew from Buckley Air Force base to the HAATS site in Eagle.

The Blackhawk:

Inside (seated right behind the pilots, looking forward):

Looking out the window (not only unpressurized, but with open windows!):

And this is a photo, out that same window, as we just nudged over the very high point of the divide. Our air speed was about 100 mph.

This is the helicopter I rode on the way back:

The chinook is a troop transport copter. This is what it looked like, toward the pilots.

And this is what it looked like out the back…

Authors @ Douglas County Libraries

Thanks to the good work of my Assistant, Aspen Walker, we're gradually putting up the "Authors at Douglas County Libraries" programs shot by the Network Douglas County over the past couple of years. You can find the link here.

In particular, I'm pleased to see the interview with Sarah Brannen (author of "Uncle Bobby's Wedding") go up. I don't think it ever made it to the county website.

Right and left agree and me too

This post is based on two articles.

The first is by Peggy Noonan, entitled, America Is at Risk of Boiling Over. Her essential point is this: many Americans today are thinking that things are NOT getting better for their children. She gives some examples that you may or may not agree with. Myself, I really don't think out-of-control immigration is the issue. But I do agree, as would many of the people who regard the nation's literacy and commitment to education as a leading indicator, that we seem to be setting up our children to inherit a little less than what we inherited.

The second is Cash-Strapped States Cut The Lights by Paul Krugman. Krugman's point is much the same: as a nation, we're pulling things apart, by which I mean our most basic infrastructure. And I think he puts his finger on precisely the issue: we're thinking too short term. We think what benefits our pocket books in the short term is what's good for the nation, for our whole species, in the lo…

Carlin rant on ownership

The late, great, brilliant comic George Carlin tells it like it is.

In ancient Greece, people looked to philosophers for the truth. Some societies have looked to poets, or journalists, or even political leaders.

Today, we look to comedians.

Black Madonna and child

I gave a talk on July 6, 2010 to a leadership reunion in Nebraska. The workshop was held at the Saint Benedictine monastery in Schuyler, Nebraska.

The monastery was a beguiling prairie-style building, incorporating aggregate concrete, red brick, and warm cherry wood (I think). It was ensconced in a cell-phone-free dip in the rolling landscape.

At night, there were fireflies.

I spent awhile in the chapel that morning, listening to the silence and watching a candle, the om-sound louder than locusts. And I spent a good long time admiring this exquisite wooden statue, maybe 5 feet tall.

Madonna and child
carved in Tanzania and
shipped to Nebraska

tkoutline, JOE, and Notecase Pro

tkoutline "is a single pane, cross-platform outline editor written in Tcl/Tk." This free program was written by Brian Theado.

I used to use it a lot. It was very close to what I wanted - but lacked movement by word, and word count. Finally, I emailed Theado, and he promptly sent me back a few lines to add to the preferences and startup files. I could now move the cursor by word and get a word count.

I eventually drifted away from it, mainly because the combination of the tclkit and the program file I was using gave me a dotty-font look, sort of like Windows. It was ugly, and the rest of my Linux desktop was so pretty. Call it an aesthetic issue.

Well, it turns out that I should have broken down and asked Theado how to fix that, too. I did, today, and it's not hard.

For Linux machines, follow these instructions to get a surprisingly handy, quick, stable (and now good looking!) program that works for a lot of things.

1. Grab these files:

* wget…

Uncle Bobby's Wedding story for the Gay and Lesbian fund

Click here to get to a page from the latest Gay and Lesbian fund annual report. Then click on the embedded video there. The Gay and Lesbian Fund Fund has underwritten many library programs over the years, and recently interviewed both me and one of our most prominent local library philanthropists about the principles of free speech, using our response to a challenge to "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" as a case in point.

Cell phones

Recently, my library's IT staff tried to link my cell phone, the Palm Centro smartphone, running the now abandoned Palm OS, to our Exchange Server. It was an experiment fraught with danger.

One problem: my current data plan (paid by me, not the library) really doesn't cover that. (I didn't find that out till later.)

Another problem: The wireless sync program represented a different kind of work flow.

Another problem: my own incompetence. I didn't read the instructions for synching very carefully. When it did sync, it wiped out my entire calendar, then wouldn't sync the old way with my Palm. At this point, I'm not sure if I ever tried to sync wirelessly again to restore the settings from the Exchange Server, or if it would have worked.

Instead, I went through a round of reformatting, restoring key files, hopping across a Windows NT machine, my home PC running Ubuntu, and my netbook. Then, trying to figure out how to restore the simple email to my own domain. In the …

Rethinking Ubuntu One and the cloud

In the rain of Sunday and Monday, I fiddled with various Ubuntu downloads, and am now downloading the latest Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE). I've also been playing with Dropbox at work (on Windows XP) and on my home PC (using Ubuntu 10.04). To complicate things, I've also been trying out some things on my Aspire Aspire One netbook (Linpus Lite, a sort of tweaked Fedora 8).

After poking into Ubuntu, I suddenly "got" something that has no doubt been obvious to many others for some time: with Ubuntu One, and its integration both into the OS and the Rhythmbox music player's access to the Ubuntu One music store, Ubuntu is now not just a Linux distribution, it's an ecosystem.

There are some files I work on - mostly newspaper columns and project notes - that do spread across all three computers (home, work, and netbook). And sure enough, putting them on Dropbox suddenly made it easier to keep the same file accessible everywhere.

I don't listen to a lot of music on my…

Crabapple blossoms

Taken with my Centro cellphone a couple weeks ago, outside the Nordstrom's at Park Meadows Mall.

Don't sit under the apple tree

Here are the delightful Vernon sisters. Something about these family groups - the Andrew sisters, the Mills Brothers, the Vernon sisters - is particularly engaging. Their voices, their movements, are uncannily close and synched.

I'm watching this because I'm working on ukulele versions of both this and "Buttons and Bows," for reasons that just might bring the Tuna Boys the fame we so richly deserve. Or not.

The Yike Bike

Click here to see a wonderful video about a device that is just wonderfully designed and elegant: a fold up electric bike.

Librarians go Gaga

How Apple could slay Google

"Web ads are a noxious weed choking the intelligence and sophistication out of our society’s media, and Google is making its massive fortunes delivering this scourge." So says blogger Daniel Eran Dilger, right here.

I have long used various ad blocker plugins for Firefox. But Dilger makes the argument that Google and adware together in fact do "evil." He thinks Apple can deliver the death blow.

Great article. Thanks, Leif of for passing along such fascinating reading.

Convergence Report

I've gotten this from several people who track trends: "Convergence: How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector." Looking through it again, it makes sense.

The five trends are:

* Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation
* Technological Advances Abound
* Networks Enable Work to Be Organized in New Ways
* Interest in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Is Rising
* Sector Boundaries Are Blurring

Might be worth looking at for many a small non-profit.

Flash drive distros

I've been playing around with something kind of cool: flash drive distros. The idea is this: you download a Linux distribution to your computer. Then you write the file to a flash drive. There are tools both in Linux (Ubuntu's Startup Disk Creator, for instance, which comes standard in any current Ubuntu release), and tools that run on both Linux and Windows, such as liveusb-creator.

After that, you pop in the flash drive, reboot your computer FROM the flash drive, and you have a different operating system. Don't like it? Reboot back into your original system, and copy a new distribution onto the flash drive.

The truth is, you can accomplish the same thing, probably even more easily, by using virtualization. But the flash drive approach also lets you carry around the operating system - and some space for your own files - almost anywhere. So you can use someone else's machine and have total security and privacy, without having to carry a laptop around.

This is part, of co…

Fred Brown on business and ballots

Journalist Fred Brown, who covered the Colorado state legislature for many years for the Denver Post, wrote this piece today. In brief, his point is that Denver's Metro Chamber of Commerce has some real problems with Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101. I've heard the ballot proposals referred to as "voter approved recession." Some economic development people are starting to tell potential clients to stay away from Colorado. "We're convinced that through your initiative process you're systematically dismantling higher ed."

I like Brown's conclusion: "This ... might surprise those who think of chambers of commerce as reflexively anti-tax. They're not. The Denver chamber and most of its counterparts around the state are on the same page. They want a pragmatic government, not an impotent one."

Colorado Librarians, I strongly recommend that you pass along this link to your own local chambers and economic development agencies. For o…

Zombies invade Colorado State Capitol

This image (blurrily captured by my cell from from photo by Diego James Robles) appeared in the Denver Post yesterday, May 10, 2010.

Don't say I didn't warn you (in this column). As clearly documented in this photo, the State of Colorado has already fallen. Wake up America!

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Last night I fired up Update Manager and told it to go ahead and take me to Ubuntu's latest. (This is on my home computer, an aging HP Pavilion a520n, 512 megs of RAM.) It took all night and most of the next day to download everything. But I did zero customizing. Just hit Go.

And here's the bottom line. It's good, it works, it's pretty fast, and it seems a little prettier and smoother.

I've written this before, but I'm always impressed by Linux for this: I've been mucking about on this same computer with Linux since May 15, 2004. That would be almost 6 years ago. Since then, I've replaced the operating system and applications maybe 10 times. I'm running cutting edge stuff these days, carrying all my historic files (email, text bases, contacts, etc.). No viruses. No Trojans. No malware of any kind. And it's free.

I could go into other stuff, but really, what matters is that anybody who uses a computer can use Ubuntu, and absent some unique applicat…

Libraries as job centers

Click here to hear the NPR special on how Colorado libraries help people find jobs.

Castle Pines Library on Flicker

Our first experiment in a new model of library layout and service was in our leased Roxborough Library. It was so successful that many of the things we tried we immediately started using them elsewhere. Roxborough gave us the blueprint to remodel Lone Tree.

Last year, as the result of unprecedented community support in the new city of Castle Pines North and nearby Castle Pines Village, we were able to open a very small storefront library -- about 2,500 square feet. But again using the palette of power walls, face-out displays, comfy furniture, self-service options, automated materials handling, and consistent signs, we've reached really astonishing use. Out of that small space, we will check out a solid third-of-a-million items annually.

To get the Flicker tour of this space, click here, or the title of this entry.

The Advantages of Extremism

There's a case to be made, and who better than John Cleese to make it?

Reframe, tell a new story, build something

The weekend arrives at last. And the Denver Posts' evil sudoku has been once more wrestled to the ground.

Over the past couple of weeks I gave a talk about our BHAG: Colorado Public Library Advocacy Initiative to the Colorado Association of Libraries Paralibrarian conference, the Colleague Connection event at DU, and participated in a similar presentation for the Colorado Library Consortium. When I returned, it was to find a couple of highly critical, and one rather nasty, letter to the editor about a column I'd written about Ben Bernanke's role in averting a second depression.

I was touched by the concern of some of my staff members, a few of whom wanted to fire back in kind. But I reminded them of several things:

1. I write a column every week. I get the last word.

2. The topics I write about are things that interest me. I don't expect that people will agree with me. I change my own mind often enough as I learn more about things. Although I write my columns on my own tim…

How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life?

This is my favorite dance number of all time: Jane Powell and Fred Astaire in the movie "Royal Wedding" (1951). Every time I watch it I end up just grinning ear to ear. And this has to be one of the longest song titles in history.

Also, I have got to get me a pair of pants like Astaire's. Slick.

"Steam Heat" by Patti Page

I was flipping through a bunch of old songs, and found "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" by Patti Page. Heartbreaking photograph (of Patti Page, not a doggie). I got to nosing around on Youtube and found this recording of a song I'd never heard: "Steam Heat." Boiling hot.

Our poor, broken society

Today's Denver Post ran a piece by David Brooks from the New York Times under the heading "Our poor, broken society: two revolutions damaged community."

I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. The broad thesis is based on the work of one Phillip Blond, a British writer. Brooks writes, "Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations.... First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aide societies and self-organized associations. Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of de-regulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a…

Ireland's Potato

We saw this at the Taipei Zoo yesterday -- a quite unexpected restaurant stop. For those having trouble reading the elegant English:

"Ireland's proverb says: There are two things in the world that can't be joked: 1.marriage 2.potato"

How true that is. A wise people, the Irish.

Escape sling instructions

I'll have to upload the picture for this, but these are the instructions for how to lower ourselves from our hotel room window in Taipei, should the need suddenly present itself. We're on the fifth floor, facing the street. There's a metal frame behind the window curtains, and a black, hard plastic box under the counter with the rest of the gear. The misspellings are intentional (on my part, not sure about on the part of the person who wrote them):

Step 1: Hang the speed-conteroller on the frame and fasten.

Step 2: Make sure nobody outside the window , release the belt reel.

Step 3: Encircle the belt to both armpits, the spring belt in one armpit, pull the rope (long side) to the end.

Step 4: Grip both belt and rope,climb out of the window, Facce to wall, loosen the rope and descend.

Step 5: During descending with arms downward clamping the rope. And keen hands against the wall for balance.

Step 6: Before landing, bend knees to decrease the shock.

Note: as landed, loosen the buck…

LaRue interviews LaRue - full interview

Jamie Larue interviews Jamie Larue from Douglas County Government on Vimeo.

As noted in an earlier post, Douglas County took down the Authors @ DCL site. They seem to be transferring some of them, like this new one, over to Vimeo. I still think the technical stuff to make this work is amazing.

Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart, and public libraries

Just saw this today. Click the entry title to get the video.

"Fresh from the week off, Jon Stewart jumped right in Monday night and took on one of his favorite targets, Glenn Beck, who used his appearance at CPAC as a chance to alert the crowd of the dangers of Progressivism.

"At the conference, Beck compared Progressivism to Communism, and cited previous progressives such as Woodrow Wilson and FDR, who pushed for the income tax and universal health care, respectively. Despite the former being used by elected officials to create things for the common good, Beck stressed that these were the first steps on the road to ruin.

"Upon hearing Glenn Beck announce that he learned this by reading books at the library, Stewart had some choice words for the Fox News host:

'Glenn, the library isn't free! It's paid for with tax money. Free public libraries are the result of the Progressive movement to communally share books. The first public library was the Boston public …

Authors at Douglas County Libraries

For a decade or so now, the good people of DC8, "the Network Douglas County" have produced high quality, thoroughly professional, and Emmy award-winning shows. Funded in part by Comcast cable franchise fees, this small team (3 full time employees, 3 contract employs) was also responsible for the production of the "Authors at Douglas County" shows, which aired on the county's web set, and on channel 8 in Douglas County.

Earlier this week, that show was taken down from the web, without either notice or explanation. The three contractors were notified back in December that they will not be offered contracts for 2010. David Schler, producer of DC8, has submitted his resignation and will be leaving at the end of March.

Douglas County Libraries has acted to acquire this digital content, and will be working, at some time in the future, to offer them up ourselves, as archives of local history.

Jesse Stainbrook, who formed the station, and David Schler, who continued its t…

"You are not a gadget," by Jaron Lanier

I remember Jaron Lanier from the 80s, when he was the dreadlocked guru of virtual reality. He articulated an important point about technology that has stayed with me through the years. Some technologies were passive -- like television. Some technologies -- like telephones -- were active. You had to invest yourself in them. He found the latter more interesting. So do I.

A couple nights ago I was driving back from Denver, through one of the old neighborhoods. I could see through so many picture windows people looking at the glow ... of laptops. Just maybe, the Internet is shoving TVs right out of the living room. If so, that's a good thing.

But Lanier is an incisive critic of what he calls "cybernetic totalism." He sees a glorification of the "hive mind," spreading from Silicon Valley to Wall Street and the New York Times. He sees the reduction of human beings and their creativity to anonymous mash ups, and the elevation of advertising as all that is sacrosanct. (…

"On Writing Well," by William Zinsser

I have a signed copy of this book. Zinsser had a profound influence on my writing, back when I first started doing technology pieces for the Wilson Library Bulletin. I used to read his book annually. In the move from Greeley to Douglas County I misplaced it. It's probably in the basement somewhere. But I got a hankering to see it again, and found the expanded 25th anniversary edition in our library (copyright 2001).

It's still good. Zinsser sees writing as a craft, and his advice is clear, direct, and humane. I can see, looking back all those years now, just how much I owe to it. And how far I have yet to go.

"Blackout," by Connie Willis

A few days ago I finished "Blackout," Connie Willis' first volume of a time travel story. It's 2060, and a group of students, training as historians, go back to the time of the Blitz in England. As a writer (whom I first met as she was working on "Doomsday Book" at the Greeley Public Library some 23 years ago) Connie has gone from strength to strength. She couples impeccable research with profound human insight. In this long first volume, the focus is all on the England of the past. Our cast of characters begins, as we do, as observers. But soon, the boundaries between them and the "contemps" disintegrate. They, and we, pass from the safety of historical knowledge to the chaos and uncertainty of the moment. I now know how it feels to be alive back then.

Connie has been working on this one for years, and it's big in scope, in feeling, and in length. It's 491 pages, and I hate having to wait until this fall for the second and concluding volum…

Lincoln Library closes branches

Years ago, I was the assistant director of Lincoln Library, the public library of Springfield, IL. For part of that 3 year position, I oversaw all the branches: North, West, and the consolidated Southeast branch. Back then, as now, there were budget battles, and one of the issues that came up was closing the branches in favor of the big, three story downtown library. But there were fierce battles by the neighborhoods to keep their local branches open.

At the time, I argued that Lincoln Library, a city department, should become an independent library district. But the board and director believed that the library was a unique and interwoven city service. They remained with the city.

And now - as you can see here and here - 23 years after I left, all of those branches are closing. The articles themselves are sad, but sadder still is the city's continued disregard of the value of the library. Saddest are the public comments.

I remain convinced that librarians and their allies must take t…

Why do people often vote against their own interests?

Click the title of this entry to read a provocative answer. (And thanks to Suzanne for again sending me really interesting stuff.)

To my mind, this article exactly captures what I'm finding in my reading on the brain. And it reinforces my notion that libraries aren't "warehouses of information." We are, instead, gatherers of stories, and those stories have their own narrative metastructure.

"Glasshouse," by Charles Stross

Note to self: while recovering from a bad chest cold/cough, it's good to go to bed early, as I did last night. It's not so smart though, to pick up a cracking good book that makes you read it through to the end after midnight.

"Glasshouse" is interesting on at least three levels:

* it details a convincing "post-human" world, where you're effectively immortal, you can switch bodies and genders, make backups and duplicates of yourself, bounce around the stars, and are wired to the net.

* it posits characters that you come to care about.

* it tells a gripping and suspenseful story with lots of twists and turns.

"Glasshouse" was altogether satisfying and new (although published in 2006). Highly recommended. I'm going to have to track down more by this guy.

Colorado Library Leaders: Trends, Tips & Techniques

Last year, my assistant, Aspen Walker, asked me what I thought would be useful for her as she explored the library environment, and investigated paths to administrative positions. (Her background includes a recent MLIS, and years before that working in public relations.) I suggested that she interview a variety of library leaders, mostly around the metro area. She did so, and wrote up this report, which I suggested she share with anyone who might be interested. It's a good snapshot of several big trends in Colorado today, and is thus a good discussion piece. It's called "Trends, Tips & Techniques."

New DCL blog

This new blog, "Bottles 2 Backpacks," is a monthly blog hosted by Youth Librarians at Douglas County Libraries. As my wonderful staff say, "Our focus will be on children from birth to age 12. We look forward to sharing tips and ideas about parenting from parents and librarians each month. Feel free to comment on our topics and please let us know what parenting questions and concerns you have so that we can discover the best resources and answers for you."

Google alert: I died three days ago

A man with my name, only a little older (61) died in Grass Valley, California on January 12. It happens that my family and I were out there in 2008 to a wedding. It also happens that this other James H. LaRue was born in Harvey, IL, not that far from where I was born. I'm not aware of this branch of the family. But it's clear from his picture in the obituary notice (click on this entry's title to see it) that he's definitely kin. He sounds like an interesting guy. I'm sorry I didn't know him.

Privacy and ebooks

The Electronic Frontier Foundation put together this handy chart that begins to compare some of the ways your privacy might be compromised through the use of ebooks. Of course, the same sort of thing applies to public libraries: we create records of what you borrow. On the other hand, our systems are designed (the better to protect your privacy) to forget what you borrowed, providing only that you bring it back on time.

Thanks to Suzanne for sending me this. We're still comparing our various readers. (She has a Kindle, I have the Sony Reader, and our son Max has an iPod Touch.) Privacy isn't usually on the feature list -- should it be?

Max's new word: blunderstruck

My son, Max, "Just made up a new word: Blunderstruck. Like, bewildered? Except it sounds awesomer." It sure does. I'm blunderstruck.


What do you give the man who has everything? Somewhere to put it!

Once you have succumbed to the need for maximum gadgetude, you need some slimming way to carry your kit. Enter the SCOTTEVEST. Seriously, this is the ideal travel vest. It is, in essence, another piece of carry-on luggage, but wearable. It also looks sharp.

I mention all this not because I am driven to do unsolicited endorsements for products I own, but because I think this video is pretty funny.

Tough times and eight ways to deal with them

I just learned that American Libraries offers some online features. My article, appearing in the January, 2010 issue, can be found by clicking the title of this entry.

User Agents in Firefox

I've written before about troubles getting Linux to work in a Windows world. Today, it occurred to me to try something I dimly remembered: getting Firefox to pretend to be Internet Explorer using a plug-in called User Agent Switcher. It's an easy download. Then I restarted Firefox, pulled down the Tools menu, and went to Default User Agent>Internet Explorer>Internet Explorer 6. Voila, I immediately had access to our payroll system.

Which means that, since the only thing this does is send a different string of letters to identify the browser, Firefox 3.0.16 is deliberately disabled by my vendor. Complaints to follow. Meanwhile, this was a MUCH simpler solution than the wine approach, which seems only to work SOMETIMES.

"it" campaign video - imagine it

I'm kind of proud of this one. I thought it up as an idea, but it was realized by our creative team. The tag line: "imagine it." And once you imagine it, it becomes possible.

I've noticed that we now have a LOT of videos on youtube. Click here for the whole list.

New Year thoughts

And so begins "twenty-ten" (which rolls more trippingly off the tongue than two-thousand-ten). My only real regret, looking backward, is that we did not call each of the past ten years an "aught," as in "aught-nine" for 2009. Most used "oh-nine." But perhaps that captured the mood of faint despair even better. Anyhow, as we approach geezerhood, at least now we can refer back to things that way: "You whippersnappers think you have it tough? Why, I remember back in aught-eight when the recession wiped out my 401 (k)." I may have to buy a pair of bib overalls to really pull this off.

I take comfort in the fact that today I solved the "evil" sudoku in the Denver Post. Sudoku has proven to be a pretty reliable guide to my general intelligence for the day. The joy of Sudoku is when the code has been cracked, and it's the heady race to fill in the final boxes. But that, of course, is utterly dependent upon the careful and patien…