Showing posts from 2013

MindMup, Daedalus Touch and my so-called career

It's the end of the year - and also, the launching of my new career - so I am once again looking at my software tools. I ran across two today that I probably don't need, but I found very well done.

The first is an open source mind map application, run from within a browser. It has a wonderfully clear and intuitive design. Things tend to do about what you think they'll do. It's called MindMup. I've used it on my laptop and on my iPad. The interface automatically adjusts to the device it's running on. The desktop version has sensible keyboard commands (Enter to make a sibling, tab to make a child), a good set of features (links are live, everything can be dragged around, expanded or collapsed), runs quickly, and saves to Google Drive or Dropbox. It will print, export PNG, PDF, HTML, or Freemind (and a few others).

Here's my first map:

You can see that the collapsed topics (Articles, for instance) have a stacked-card look. There's a lot to be said for free…


That's the headline of the December 14, 2013 Denver Post. "Again" in a font size larger than the masthead, with the subheading: "Student gunman dead after targeting teacher: girl, 15, critical." The full story is here.

It happens I was driving south on University, just north of Arapahoe High School yesterday just exactly as this was happening. I was passed by a mobile command unit, and saw all the red lights congregating a few blocks ahead of me, so turned around and avoided it. I didn't find out what had happened until later.

The shooter, an 18 year old student, is said to have posted on Facebook, "the Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em die. Climate change: Let 'em die. Gun violence: Let 'em die. Women's Rights: Let 'em die. More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?"

(Addition: the shooter was apparently seeking a specific teacher, "whom students described as a librarian at the school.")


Newspaper articles on DCL and me

Yikes, I never recorded the two articles that came out on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in the Denver Post. I should do that before I forget.

The first, "Ebooks at libraries: Douglas County director delivers a novel approach," by Claire Martin, was on the front page, (below the fold).  And of course, it gives me credit for a system that owes as much or more to Monique Sendze, our IT director, and Rochelle Logan, who oversees our publisher relations and technical services, and many other folks who work at Douglas County Libraries.

The second was "Longtime innovative library head retires," by Clayton Woullard, on page 4P of Castle Rock's Yourhub insert.

Notes and writing programs

I do a lot of writing. Often, I just make notes - article or project ideas, for instance. But sometimes, they have more business-critical implications: a speaking engagement, with full scope notes and travel arrangements, for example. Other times, I'm sketching out a longer piece of writing.

I have complicated my life with gadgets, of course: an iPad, an Android phone, an Android tablet, a laptop that dual-boots Windows 7 (which is how it came) and Ubuntu (which I prefer). So I never know which gadget I'll have in hand when a new idea comes to me, or I want to work on something I started on another gadget.
Dropbox is a help. I can stash docs, spreadsheets, and presentations there for use by several programs. Google Drive can be handy (although I find myself drifting away from it). But I've noticed a distinct preference for a few characteristics in my software tools lately:
* clean, open, minimal UI, very simple formatting. * one or two panes - structure on the left, detail…

Google and privacy

I use an Android phone and an Android tablet. There are a fair number of updates through the week to various apps. I appreciate that Google Play store tells me what's changed when I choose an update.

I was surprised to see that Google Maps wanted access to my "personal information." "New: Read your contacts. Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge." A map application wants to know how often I phone or email somebody? Why? So it can preload their addresses as maps for my convenience? Really?
Now this new change has spread to Twitter, Dropbox, and Hangouts. It's all in the name, I'm sure, of Big Data. Gee, who are the people at the Internet nexuses?
So I've been skipping these updates, …

From DCL to Director

A few weeks ago, one of our staff committees (the Project Initiative Experience, or PIE) put together a lunch panel discussion. The setup was this: several of the people who used to work for us went on to become directors. They were (in chronological order): Claudine Perrault (who went from the manager of our Lone Tree Library to director of Estes Park's public library), Pam Nissler (who was director before she came to us, of the Bemis Library in Littleton, then worked at Arapahoe, then came to us, now runs Jefferson County's public libraries), Bob Pasicznyuk (who went from our IT director to the director of the Cedar Rapids, IA public library), and Dorothy Hargrove (who had the unique distinction of running our Highlands Ranch Library TWICE, and now runs the Englewood Public Library). At the last minute, Pam had to cancel, although she followed up with some responses to a set of questions I posed (as moderator).

Those questions were:
1.      As you reflect on your time at DCL…

Greeley Public Library

On my way to a meeting this evening with the Eaton Public Library (which is doing a building expansion with architect Roger Thorp) I stopped by the library I used to head. Back then (1987-1990) it was the Greeley Public Library. Now it's the Lincoln Park Branch of the High Plains Library District. 
And my, it is beautiful. My warm congratulations to the staff and leadership who stepped in after I left, and have made of the branch a bright, inviting, bustling, and modern library. I like to think that I got it started on that path. 
But I would also like to thank MY predecessor, Miss Esther Fromm, who served (if memory can be relied upon, which of course it can't) some 40 years as library administrator. She was so gracious to me. I radically departed from so many of her priorities and directions. But she was unfailingly kind to me, complimentary and courteous. This, I remember thinking, is how one should transition from being director: proud of one's legacy, but accepting that…

Martha Johnson and Sensible Leadership

I was interviewed recently by Martha Johnson, who says on her website:

Welcome to a place for sensible leaders.  Let's stop the drama, the grandstanding, and the power games. We need to be sensible. How can you not love that?

Arizona Library Association 2013

The Arizona Library Association invited me to be its keynote speaker for the 2013 conference. My topic was "Change That Matters." First, let me thank Tom Wilding, then-Chair of AzLA, for his early conversations with me, and his kind transportation (with his partner) from the airport to the conference site. Second, let me thank Rene Tanner, who not only escorted me to a local community theater production of the Music Man, but ran (with others) a truly awesome conference. 
My keynote focused on three things: 
1. The organizational changes that rippled from Douglas County Libraries' RFID/self-check/automated materials handling to our adoption of "community reference" or "embedded librarianship" to a far more community-focused organization at all levels;
2. The business problems of ebooks (such as high-priced leases for commercial content just as new, cheaper, and far more interesting streams of content were emerging); and
3. Approaches to managing organ…

Job listing: Douglas County Libraries Director

Salary:$10,923.47 - $16,388.67 Monthly Job Type:    Full Time – Exempt (40 hours) Location:    Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO Department: Administration
A visionary, entrepreneurial Library Director and leader exits. A new chapter begins. Maybe YOU will be the leader to take Douglas County Libraries to the next level!
Douglas County Libraries has a great opportunity for a new Library Director. Located just south of Denver in beautiful Douglas County, our independent library district is funded by a 4.0 mill levy approved by Douglas County voters in 1996. We are an innovative, technologically advanced, fiscally responsible and financially stable, dynamic organization with more than 300 employees, 1,500 volunteers and seven library branch locations. We are regularly ranked by the Library Journal as one of the top public libraries of our size in the United States, serving a population of between 250,000 and 500,000 people. We offer daily story times, award-winning programming, and a…

iPad updates and email

OK, what's up with this? I changed no settings, but suddenly, I can't get email from my iPad 2. I continue to receive it from all other devices, using the same settings. When I go to the Earthlink live chat line, I can't get in because of unnamed outages. Since I continue to get email on my Windows work machine, my Linux home machine, and my Android phone, the problem isn't the servers, right? It has to be the iPad. I even did another software update (hadn't caught that in settings), which locked up my machine altogether until I forced it to shut down (hold down power and menu buttons for 10 seconds).

The lesson: one does get dependent on one's devices.

P.S. I finally got an Earthlink live chat to straighten it out. In brief, the latest Apple updates have stricter security policies, requiring a slight change to login settings, including a port change. They sorted it in seconds.

DCL wrap-up projects

I'm planning, over the next month or so, to wrap up a few outstanding projects at DCL, then to prepare a kind of "issues and directions" paper for the board. This will just call out some of the key issues that, in my mind, the board should pay attention to going forward. But I'm also trying to keep a distance here: there are many, many good people both within the staff and at the board level. While I'm proud of the work I've done here, and certainly have many thoughts about the future, I am under no illusion that the library belongs to me. It belongs to the community, and their ability to move forward shouldn't be too constrained by a single voice or vision.


Last week I spent some time with the Colorado cohort of the iLead USA project: an Institute of Library and Management Services grant that focused on growing the next generation of library leaders. That's a goal I heartily support. I was privileged to give one of the keynotes, which streamed out to cohorts in other states. I also managed to stick around for a day and hear the pre-recorded speech by David Lankes. Lankes is one of our best voices: a library professor in New York who turned his recent bout of cancer into a powerful and inspirational message of passionate librarianship. Although we hadn't talked beforehand, I saw of lot of similarities in our beliefs: the notion that the work of librarianship should be FUN; the idea that libraries aren't about technology, ultimately, but about connection and transformation both personal and social. (And lest anybody get alarmed by librarians trying to transform things, I just mean "enable individuals and communities to loo…

Change in Douglas County, 1990-2014

Archivists at the Douglas County Libraries have set up an appointment with me in a couple of weeks to record an oral history. I was the founding director of the district (it was a county library before then) in 1990, and I guess I do know a lot of institutional history. I also wrote a newspaper column from April 11, 1990 through January 5, 2012). So it's all online, but I gave a copy of the text file to our archivists, pointing out that somehow I lost track of about a dozen columns over the years. So we have an intern who is tracking down the missing ones, which is kind of neat. Then I was thinking about maybe packaging all of these as an ebook. 
Then Shaun Boyd (of DCL's Douglas County History and Research Center) told me that it would be 3,000 pages long. No one would read that!
So one of the tasks I might set myself next year is going through that and producing a more digestible version. There would be at least four themes: the development of the Douglas County Libraries, …

Alaska public libraries 2013

Recently I returned from an annual meeting of Alaskan public library directors in Girdwood (south of Anchorage). Thanks to the Alaska Library Association and state library staff, I was there to present to them about several topics (nearly 9 hours of presentation). They also allowed me to sit in on their reflections on the past year, a round robin of successes and challenges (limited to 11 minutes apiece).

They were a terrific bunch of people. These are people who do what they do for love, and it shows.

Below are some of the key themes from that most interesting discussion.

- Infrastructure. I thought we had "frontier" libraries in Colorado. But of the 18 library directors in the room, 10 of their home towns were literally not on the state roads. You could not drive there. Sometimes you could get there by ferry. Often, only by plane, or, I presume, dog sled.

-  They also have what has to be the worst bandwidth situation in the nation. While many of the libraries at Girdwood (…

Consulting colleagues, I salute you

Before I set off on this speaker/trainer/facilitator/consultant course (there has GOT to be a more concise and evocative word or phrase for this) I called a few of the handful of people in that world I know and respect. I asked for half an hour of their time. Every single one of them instantly agreed.
My questions were pretty direct. What were the upsides and downsides? What was their opinion of the market? How did they advertise? What kind of work was out there? What did they charge? How did they advertise?
And here's the thing. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM answered those questions straight up. No hedging, no trying to lock me out of the market. Many also offered advice beyond my questions. Not one of them charged me for it (although in a couple of cases I offered). 
Why? There are several reasons, I think.
First, these are really quality people. They're smart. They're incisive. They are authentic. But more to the point, they are deeply committed to the proposition that they'…

Leaving Douglas County Libraries

This week I announced to my board and staff that I'm leaving Douglas County Libraries. 
Two years ago, I tried to see if I could give a professional talk, for pay, once every other month. Done. The next year, I did two a month. This year, I've almost hit (a few times over the year) one a week. And boy, it's fun. (It did eat up some of the vacation time I've built up over 23 years.) I've been to Moscow, Pittsburgh, Anchorage, Boston, Miami, Sydney. I learn a lot, it pays well, I meet fascinating people, and I have a chance to deeply explore new issues. In Douglas County, I helped one library district achieve excellence. What I'd really like to do next is help move MANY libraries in that direction. I got into this profession for love, and I'm still in love. This is the best time ever to be a librarian.
So the first thing: I'm around for another 90 days, leaving around mid-January. There's nothing abrupt about it. It's a thoughtful transition. But I …

Back from the land Down Under

I've just returned from a week in Sydney, Australia. While there, I spoke to some 130 public librarians, mainly about the Douglas County Libraries model for managing ebooks. 
Librarians are good people. Every where I go, I find colleagues who are smart, funny, and deeply passionate about the twin values of our profession: intellectual freedom and privacy. I like them. I think that our respective countries are right to trust librarians (because it's clear that they do). We're good stewards of public funds, and providing personalized quality service is part of our DNA.
In fact, there is far more about Australian and US public libraries that is similar, than dissimilar. 
* We share a similar model of service. By far the biggest use of our libraries is for circulating materials.
* Our most powerful recruitment tool - and perhaps our key contribution to our respective nations - remains the children's storytime. New parents understand implicitly what librarians make explicit…

Colorado Public Radio interview on DCL

Many thanks to Elaine Grant for today's piece on the DCL ebook platform, and our experiments with publishing.

And thanks to Lynn Neary for NPR's broader coverage on the ebooks-and-libraries issue. You can find that here.

We are still evolving

I was having a discussion with a friend recently about the influence of genetics on mental gifts. I was saying that my grandmother used to track various talents through the family. So and so got the music, someone else got the math, and so on.

To my surprise, my friend said that genetics played no part in mental gifts, that there was no such thing as music or math gene. I tried to make it clear that I wasn't saying there was a single gene for either of these, but there were clusters of genetic predispositions that quickened interest and skills, and even attitudes. He maintained that it was all due to early experience and environment.

On reflection, it does still seem to me that such gifts run in families, and although environment surely plays a part, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to say that genetics does, too. If genetics can affect a pancreas or heart, why couldn't it also influence a brain?

It interested me, so I've been doing some reading. Today I finished…

Freeing the hostage

Here ( is a piece I wrote for a cool new library site. It addresses the topic of how to have an honest, respectful conversation with someone who is holding your organization hostage -- undermining accomplishment and getting away with it. 
I learned this approach from a wise supervisor who used it on me. I was screwing up on my job, for reasons that do me no credit. In just 30 seconds, she snapped me out of it. And yet I never felt humiliated or mistreated (although I did feel ashamed). She just presented the facts, and gave me the dignity to decide.
I do a lot of talking and listening to librarians. I think this one thing -- the fear of confronting staff over performance issues -- really is the biggest internal factor holding libraries back. But it doesn't have to be a "confrontation." It can (and should) be brief, direct, and authentic.
The rest of the story: of the people I mention in the piece, all are gone now.…

Eqyptian tween

I've been looking at Reddit lately. The kid in this video is 12 years old, and may be one of the most articulate and incisive people I've ever heard. This is the kind of thing that gives one confidence in the future -- the Internet and native intelligence might lead to real and positive change.

Chrome extensions

When the Chromebook first came out, I didn't find the "live in a browser" idea very compelling. But I spent a little while today looking at a couple of things that may change my mind: extensions that operate as light, attractive, highly focused apps. After a while, I can see that it could be quite possible to live within Chrome's tabs, especially as the apps and data are portable across Windows, the Mac and Linux (but not, alas, the iPad, although I imagine this will change eventually).

First up: Do It (Tomorrow). Its user interface will make you laugh. Click to open the book and you get two pages: Today and Tomorrow. No categories, no priorities, no subtasks, no Getting-It-Donnybrooks.

You can choose between two typefaces. After you type in something to do, you have three options.
1. Click on it to draw a line through it.
2. Click on a little arrow to move it to Tomorrow.
3. Don't do anything. It stays on Today.

That's it!

I realize that such a extravagantly…

Ode to Storytime

I've written before that even if we didn't do anything else, storytimes are reason enough to have libraries. Read this:
We just finished watching "Robot and Frank," a quirky movie featuring Susan Sarandon as a librarian whose library is shut down and replaced with tech and community. But no storytimes!

Governing Magazine piece

Here's the link - - to the piece. As I hastened to append in comments, the work at DCL is hardly mine. It's a team effort, involving a board that viewed the cost of doing nothing as the greatest risk of all, and a staff (Monique Sendze's IT team, and Rochelle Logan's collection, acquisition, and cataloging people) to pull it off.
But I'm pleased to see coverage of the concept beyond the library world.
Oh, and the Superman pose was the photographer's idea. I should have known better.

ebooks in the US

What follows is the draft of an article I wrote for library colleagues in Bulgaria. There's not much in it that's new; but it's an attempt to provide a more comprehensive narrative of how public libraries got to where we are regarding ebooks, and what Douglas County Libraries has attempted to do about it.eBooks - an introduction For decades, librarians in the United States of America predicted the arrival of the digital book. Finally, around 2009, the Amazon Kindle, followed by the Sony ebook Reader, became popular Christmas gifts. They were soon followed by the Barnes and Noble Nook. By 2011-12, Apple's iPad became the most stylish option, followed by a host of Android-based tablets. The early adopters of this technology tended to be well-educated, upper middle class, and middle-aged. By the end of 2012, about 20% of library patrons had, and preferred, ebooks to paper books. Again by the end of 2012, roughly 50% of the sales of all popular adult fiction were elect…

150 resources for writers

We've been doing a lot of talking at the Douglas County Libraries about supporting local writers. I got this link to a blog with some interesting content: 150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster, and More Persuasively. I can't vouch for every link, but it looks helpful.

CherryTree review

Just to help myself remember this. CherryTree is a fast, two pane, hierarchical notes taking program. It looks, feels, and works very like Notecase, with a few exceptions. What it has: easy and logical commands for creating the outline (left pane) tree. wonderful commands for the editing of the text (right pane) node. In particular, I like the checklist to do option. It automatically inserts "[ ]" at the beginning of the line. Click that, and it strikes through. In Notecase pro, the to do is on the tree, and a space bar strikes it through. That might be more logical for task management with lots of things to be done on the right. Fantastic commands for quickly arranging the reordering of PARAGRAPHS. Alt-Up, Down. What it has not: spelling check word count. But it's not a bad, free alternative to Notecase Pro. And is available for Windows and Linux. I also just ran across something called Kabikaboo, a Python-based outliner. It DOES have spell check and word …

the Last One Standing

[This article appeared in the January/February (volume 51, No. 1) issues of Public Libraries. Since then the link to the article has disappeared. So as copyright owner, I am putting it up on my blog.]

The Last One Standing
By James LaRue, Director
Douglas County Libraries
For Public Libraries, January/February 2012
Volume 51, No. 1
pp. 28-32

Back in 2008, I was interviewed by a reporter. With a sly and knowing air, he asked me if libraries were going to survive the Internet. On Feb. 27, 2009, after 150 years of operation, his newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, printed its final edition.
Now when reporters ask me that question I answer, "You bet we'll survive. Will you?"
Trends in publishing
Two key trends have emerged which will drive the future not only of publishing, but of public librarianship. They are:
The rise of e-books. By the end of 2010, Amazon reported that it had sold 115 e-books for each 100 paperbacks, and 3 e-books for each hardback. On October 19, 2011 auth…