Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why Don’t Students Use the Library Databases?

These days, students get to high school or college with online search habits already formed. According to a Pew Research study, Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube are students’ first choices for finding information. Why? Because Google and Wikipedia are easy and simple to use and the results are immediate. Easy access to wanted information is the key.

Why don’t students use the online educational databases purchased by the library? The simple answer: There are too many obstacles getting to database information. First, students have to find the list of databases posted somewhere on the school or library website. Second, once the list of databases is found, students have to determine which of 50+ databases is right for their information needs. Third, students need to know a login and password to access the databases. Finally, 4 or 5 mouse clicks later, they arrive at the database search box and can begin research.

It is a vicious circle: Low usage of library databases endangers the budget for online educational resources; but students do not use the databases because of obstacles to easy access, which results in low usage statistics.

North Dakota’s most recent database subscription to Literati Public is a step towards eliminating obstacles to database information. Literati Public features discovery searching and geo-IP recognition. The discovery searching feature links the ODIN Catalog, the Literati reference collection, and the subscription databases from Gale, EBSCO, and ProQuest. The search box taps into all these resources simultaneously. Geo-IP recognition means that your Internet address (IP number) is coming from North Dakota, which has paid for access, so you are allowed entry without having to login.

Changing student search habits begins with easy access to library database information. Features like discovery searching and geo-IP recognition help remove obstacles to database research.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  –Albert Einstein

Spring Cleaning and Weeding

The first day of spring was last week, and Easter is this weekend, so if you’re in the mood for some spring cleaning, start by weeding your library! Then make some springy book decorations to celebrate!

book page egg

Make some book page eggs with a little Mod Podge.

book page basket

Then make a book page basket for your eggs.

book page bunny

Make a book page bunny with a pompom tail.

book page bunny trio

Get a little more advanced and turn plastic eggs into 3-D book page bunnies.

If you’re looking for more crafty inspiration and programming for your library, plan to attend the upcoming Spring Workshop session “Crafts in the Library,” and check out the ODIN catalog for crafts books available at the State Library.

If you’d like to weed your collection, but don’t know where to start, check out the CREW manual or call your Field Services representative. We’ll be happy to visit and help you get started!

Have you used weeded books as decorations before? Share your ideas in the comments!

Accessibility Tools for Libraries: Text-to-Speech Software

Last week I attended the Library Technology Conference at Macalester College in St. Paul. There were so many great sessions, and I’ve returned to my desk with a lot of great ideas for libraries in North Dakota.One of the sessions I attended, presented by two librarians from the University of South Dakota, highlighted some really great accessibility tools that libraries can utilize to help patrons who may need specialized accommodations to access library resources. This article will focus on some of the free text-to-speech tools that are available to assist patrons who may have difficulty reading text on a computer screen. Text-to-speech software can be extremely helpful for people with learning disabilities, people with vision problems, people learning a second language, and many other purposes.

Natural Reader

Natural Reader is free text-to-speech software that reads aloud selected text in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word files, webpages, PDFs, emails, and more. It only takes a minute to download this free program to your computer. All you have to do is click to open the Floating bar, and then open a web page or document or whatever you’d like to be read, highlight the text you want, and click the Play button to hear that text spoken aloud.




WordTalk is a free plug-in that will speak aloud the text in any Word document, from Word 97 to  Word 2010. It was designed to assist students with reading difficulties, but would also be extremely useful for people with vision difficulties and others.

Adobe Reader

Did you know that Adobe Reader has a Read Out Loud feature? You can find it in Adobe Reader by going to View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud. This will enable text-to-speech functionality for PDF files opened in Adobe Reader.

These are just a few of the free text-to-speech software options that are currently available. There are also many good paid software options, but if you just want to have something available for library patrons who may need this type  of assistance when using your public computers, these free options may be great for you.


Great Ideas for Library Book Displays

Book Display

Though many libraries have moved the focus of their marketing efforts to virtual forums like Facebook and Twitter, in-person, in-library highlighting of library collections in the form of book displays is still a major marketing tool for public libraries. If you’re looking for tips and advice for putting together high impact, high interest book displays that will get patrons excited to walk out the door with your highlighted materials, check out Lawrence Public Library Marketing Director Susan Brown’s article “Twenty Rules for Better Book Displays.”

Here are a few of Brown’s “Rules:”

Rule #4: Don’t limit yourself to books. Whenever you can, mix in other types of media (DVDs, audiobooks) that are applicable to your print book display.

Rule #8: Use props judiciously. Brown advises that it’s better to use one or two larger props (a suitcase for a travel book display; a bike wheel for a cycling book display, for example) than a whole bunch of smaller ones. The goal of the display is to encourage people to take materials from it, but if the display is covered with lots of small, intricately arranged pieces, people may feel like they’re messing up a work of art by taking a part of it.

Rule #13: Let pop culture inspire your displays. Tying into popular culture shows patrons your library is fresh, relevant, and in step with what’s cool and popular. Use your displays to highlight things in your collection that would be of interest to people who are into what’s big in pop culture at the moment.

There are lots of great ideas here that will hopefully inspire some great new book displays in your library. View the full article online at the NoveList section of the Ebscohost website.

Automating Updates

From a security standpoint, it is vital to keep the software on any internet-connected computer updated. Updates are routinely rolled out to patch vulnerabilities. If you’re in a Windows environment, updates for Microsoft will automatically come to you on the second Tuesday of every month and you’ll be able to go through the install with only a modicum of intervention. Modern browsers like Firefox and Chrome have become self-patching. A lot of software is not as predictable or forward-thinking, however, and requires due diligence from the user to monitor and patch it (and then there’s software like Java, which can’t be patched frequently enough to make it safe, and should not be installed on an internet-connected computer unless it absolutely has to be).

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to check and update more than 90 of the most popular programs all at once using an installer from Ninite.

Ninite prides themselves on being “The Easiest, Fastest Way to Update or Install Software” and I see no reason to quibble with them on this. It should be noted that they do offer both a Pro and a more feature-rich Updater option for modest fees if your needs exceed what I’m covering today.

The process is simple: go to their website, select all of the apps you’re interested in, and then click the big green Get Installer button.


Ninite will then create a file for you to download. When executed, this file will install every application you selected, completely free from additional clicks, unwanted toolbars or bloatware, or any sort of signup process. If you already have any of the programs installed, it will check to make sure they’re up-to-date, and will automatically update them if they aren’t.

Now that you’ve downloaded your installer, it’s time to use Windows Task Scheduler to automate your updates by following these simple steps:

  1. Open your Start menu by clicking on the Windows orb.
  2. Type task scheduler into the “Search programs and files” search box.
  3. Select Task Scheduler from the results list or simply hit Enter to open Task Scheduler.taskScheduler
  4. Under Actions click Create Basic Task… (rightmost column)
  5. You will now be prompted to name and describe your task; call it something informative like Ninite Updater. Click Next.
  6. Next you get to set a trigger. Weekly would be a good time-based trigger; if this is for a machine that’s administratively locked down for guest usage, you can set the trigger for whenever you log in with your administrative account. Click Next.
  7. If necessary, finish configuring the triggering event.
  8. Next you’ll get to select the action to be triggered. Choose Start a program from the list and click Next.
  9. The program you want to run is the Ninite installer you downloaded earlier (if you don’t recall the where you saved the file, Browse for Ninite. Ignore the optional items and click Next.
  10. Click Finish. You’re done!

(This article was adapted from an article I’d originally written for this issue of The Good Stuff – PDF).

WikiMedia Foundation is Rated Four Stars


The Wikimedia Foundation was given the highest rating (4 stars) by Charity Navigator, America’s leading independent charity evaluator of nonprofit organizations. The ratings are based on the organization’s financial health and accountability and the transparency of operations.

Wikimedia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the global distribution of free information in many languages. The most popular Wikimedia resource is Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia. Other resources include: wikibooks (free textbooks and manuals), wikiversity (free learning tools), and wikivoyage (free travel guides). Wikimedia does not sell ad space; instead, it is funded primarily by donations from individuals all over the globe.

My duties as a trainer at the ND State Library include going into the classroom and talking to students and teachers about the many online educational resources provided by the state to encourage learning. The subscription databases contain credible information that is cited in several formats like MLA or APA. The need for students to evaluation information found in the databases is minimal.

Teachers and librarians have strong views about Wikipedia as an educational resource, both pro and con. Probably most college professors will not accept Wikipedia as a bibliographical reference. However, Wikipedia can be a starting point that leads to credible information.

Evaluating information (an information literacy skill) is essential when using Wikipedia. Learning how to judge information is a necessary skill when navigating the Internet or picking out bias in news sources. Yes, you have to evaluate information found at Wikipedia, but every time you do, you hone your information literacy and critical thinking skills.

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” –Kurt Vonnegut, author

Math in the Library

Bedtime MathFor many families, bedtime stories are a nightly routine. Bedtime Math is a program that aims to make “math a fun part of kids’ everyday lives.”

Parents can check the website or sign up via email to receive daily math problems for wee ones (pre-school), little kids (kindergarten-2nd grade), and big kids (2nd grade and up). To learn more about the program, check out this article.

Libraries can get involved by hosting a pajama party. Funded through the Bedtime Math Foundation, you can order a FREE kits to host a pajama party at your library!

Bedtime Math can also be tied into your Summer Reading program! You can order calendars and stickers so kids can chart their progress. Why not encourage kids to improve their math and reading skills over the summer?

Have you tried to incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming at your library? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Have weeded books? You’re in luck…

Re-purpose weeded books to decorate your library for St. Patrick’s Day!

lucky banner
Lucky Book Page Banner

shamrock banner

Shamrock Book Page Banner

If you’re looking for more crafty inspiration and programming for your library, plan to attend the upcoming Spring Workshop session “Crafts in the Library,” and check out the ODIN catalog for crafts books available at the State Library.

If you’d like to weed your collection, but don’t know where to start, check out the CREW manual or call your Field Services representative. We’ll be happy to visit and help you get started!

Have you used weeded books as decorations before? Share your ideas in the comments!

ND Public Library Tech Grant – Apply Now!

Is your library in need of a new computer, printer, or laptop? Have you been thinking about launching an e-reader lending program, but need funds to purchase devices to get started? Would it be helpful to have an iPad for showing patrons how to download e-books? Search no further – we’re here to help!

Applications are now being accepted for the “Public Library Grant for Tech Equipment or Tech Related Resources.” The application is a simple, single-page form, which asks you to describe the project, how the equipment will be used, along with a description of the equipment you plan to purchase and the cost. The grant request can be for up to $500 and requires a 10% match for a total of up to $550 for the final grant amount total. First priority in awarding grants will be given to ND public libraries with evening (after 5 pm) or weekend hours, with second priority given to those ND public libraries open 15 hours per week or more.

The completed and signed form is due to NDSL by March 31, 2013. You can find the grant application on our website at

Feel free to contact your Field Services representative with any questions – we’re always happy to help!