Showing posts from January, 2012

Douglas County Libraries - the Digital Branch


Restoring American Exceptionalism

Last night I went to "Restoring American Exceptionalism" at the Douglas County Events Center. It was an event of the National School Choice Week.

I went to see who would speak, and what main themes they would work. I wish I'd poked a little more into who was bankrolling all this.

Although I arrived a little too late to hear the first introduction, I believe it was Steve Kelly, KNUS Radio host. He said several interesting things: "We've lost something, folks, and need to restore it." What that was, he didn't say.

He mentioned "Americans for Prosperity," a group with links to the Koch brothers. He said that his own kids went to public school, "but this isn't about my kids." Why is it, I wonder, that people feel they need to force choices they themselves don't want?

The big themes: first, competition is good. If he shops at Walmart and finds bad apples, he goes to ANOTHER Walmart. (This is competition?)

Second: when he asked fiv…

Sarah Lacy and embracing volatility

The keynote speaker at OCLC's Americas Regional Council Member Meeting and Symposium was Sarah Lacy. She was incredible: funny, articulate, insightful,and thought-provoking.

She's a journalist who got her start writing about Silicon Valley and Web 2.0 then took off for 40 weeks all over Africa, India, and China looking for tech entrepreneurs.  

She had a lot of fascinating things to say, but what sticks with me is the reality of what some educators have long been saying: the significant innovation, the rapid job creation, the Big Ideas, aren't coming from us anymore. They're being cooked up in formerly third world countries by people who are solving problems Silicon Valley wouldn't even think of. For instance: in India, there's a guy who has figured out a way to build super cheap transmission stations, providing cell phone service to rural communities for $2 a month per customer. And who knew that in Nigeria, the mostly bootlegged film industry (called "No…

Sneak peak on OCLC research on librarian perceptions

Yesterday I heard OCLC's Cathy deRosa give an advance preview of a recent study of librarian perceptions. Her team surveyed 4,168 OCLC member librarians. About 48% of them were academics, and 31% public.

Below are a few highlights:

General priorities were for public librarians the provision of access to the internet, the demonstration of value, licensed e-collections, access to technology generally, and the need to form community partnerships. For academic librarians, the issues were licensing, future of higher ed, facilities, visibility of collection, and digitization projects. Only community college librarians listed as a significant priority providing services through mobile devices, which played a big role in our keynote speaker's remarks about third world innovation. 

Current initiatives for public librarians were ebooks and other eresources; for academics, discovery tools and digitization projects.

Use predictions. 55% of public librarians thought physical visits to the lib…

Citations about the library as a force in the book purchasing market

I keep looking these stats up, then keep forgetting where I found them, but I want to let librarians and publishers know that I didn't make them up. So, some assertions and citations from an upcoming article I'm writing for Public Libraries:

We account for about 10 percent of publisher sales (American Library Association, "Marketing to Libraries," ALA Library Fact Sheet 5.)

and 40 percent of children's (Barbara Fister, " Publishers & Librarians: Two Cultures, One Goal," Library Journal, May 1, 2009.

Library as publisher: the Wisdom Within These Walls

Libraries are more than distributors of content. We are, or can be, co-publishers, and even co-creators. Here's an example of one project here in Douglas County, Colorado. Note: this is an edit of a previous posting. The intent of the experiment was to find out if the library could sustain the video production of lots of local stories. The short answer: no, it's a little pricey for libraries. But the value of the project is high, and I love the model as a way to gather and share local stories. For us, we think the podcast version will be more do-able. For more information on the Wisdom Project, see

Dear Publishing Partner

This is a second document (the other is here) that the Douglas County Libraries hopes can be broadly adopted by the library community as a guide to the purchase of digital content.

Dear Publisher Partner:

Thank you for your bold willingness to invest in the future of publishing and readership. Libraries and publishers have a lot in common: we connect writers with their audience, we promote literacy, and in the process, we grow the whole market for literacy. Our goal is to replicate the current print-purchase model libraries have had with publishers like you for centuries with e-content. We invite you to participate with us.

We want to buy e-content from you. In the past year alone, my library redirected 10% of our $3.5 million collection purchasing budget for e-content. We suspect that our e-content purchasing will reach 20% next year. We are encouraging and supporting other libraries to join us in supporting our new publisher/partners.

We need to own the files. Douglas County Librar…

Statement of Common Understanding for Purchasing Electronic Content

Below is a draft document produced for the Douglas County Libraries with the assistance of Mary Minow of We propose to start using it - and to encourage other libraries to start using it, too. Your comments are welcome. [Revised July 22, 2012] See also our "Dear Publishing Partner Letter."

[SERU: A Shared Electronic Resource Understanding for Purchase of E-Content Sold by Providers to Public Libraries]Statement of Common Understanding
for Purchasing Electronic Content
The Purchase Order

The nature and extent of the content is detailed at the outset in a purchase order with such specifics as: title(s), format(s) (including details of multimedia files), price, discount, any agreements to promote and/or link to Provider’s site to bring readers to information on buying copies. Future purchases may be made through the Library’s acquisitions dashboard. The Library may purchase additional copies of any title with a holds ratio of 4 to 1 or greater.Rights
The Prov…

Douglas County School District updates

Both of these bits come from theTaxpayers for Public Education site. One of them is the results of the survey by Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates of "the climate of employees" of the district. It's not pretty. Brenda Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, writes, "Among employees there is a high level of dissatisfaction with district-level administration. Only 14% of the employees feel the District is moving in the right direction, a number that has steadily declined to a new low since 2007-08."

A second link tracks the money paid by the district to schools under the ill-fated voucher program. Not all of it has come back. See this spreadsheet for the current status.

Decline of the public good

First, this link is a piece by Robert Reich.

Second, it reminded me of this column I did about the change in language in the Boy Scout manual.

Wonder how it all worked out

This is from a friend, Bob Hofmann.

I’m currently reading Lawrence Lessig’s latest book, Republic, Lost. In it, he provides the following quotation.

After reading it, please scroll down to learn the source.

“The Republican party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and without Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the public to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled.”

This is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Teddy Roosevelt and reprinted in Outlook 100, April 1912.

Krugman on Friedman

My friend Frank Morris sent me this link. It's beautifully written, very lucid, and explains a lot. Recommended.

LaRue's Views last column

Yesterday I sent off my last local newspaper column. The archive - from April 11, 1990 to January 2012 - is here.

So figure a minimum of 500 words per column, an average of 50 a year (sometimes they didn't print it one week, or I had guest columnists), times 20 years. That's half a million words.

I learned a lot from writing those columns. Not least, it provided a discipline of thinking and writing that greatly helped me understand things. Librarians, like many other professionals, tend to write only for themselves. I liked that process of trying to write for the general public. It forced me to be clearer.

It took me about four days to cut and paste from my files into blogger. At that rate, I didn't read every word, usually just a snatch of the first and last paragraphs. But I did notice a few things.

First, I let a lot of other people do guest posts. I think Rochelle Logan, my Associate Director of Support Services, wrote more than anyone else. But I handed over the po…