Monthly Archives: April 2013

Passive Programming for Teens

teen booksTeens are a notoriously difficult group to attract to the library. With jobs, sports, and other after-school activities, they don’t have a lot of time for attending library programs. You may have been frustrated in the past with low attendance at sessions geared toward teens. Despite the challenges, you still want your library to offer something for teen patrons. Consider passive programming.

In a post called “Reaching Teens Subversively through Passive Programming,” at ALA’s Programming Librarian blog, Kelly Jensen and Jackie Parker demonstrate how “passive programming engages teens in the library without requiring much from staff in terms of supervision.” As a bonus, these also tend to be low cost activities as well!

Since passive programming doesn’t require you to schedule a program at a certain time, it gives teen more flexibility for participating on their schedule. It also serves to draw in the more introverted teens, who may not be inclined to participate in traditional programming.

Amongst others, Jensen and Parker suggest the following programs:

Even though you may not be working with directly with the teens, “the input you get from teens via these programs helps you better tailor your collection, your services, and your knowledge of your own teen population.”

Have you tried passive programming in your library? What programs have been successful? Share your ideas in the comments!

Tech Toolkits Now Available from the ND State Library

Do you have an e-reader or tablet you love, but have interest in learning about others?

Are you thinking about offering e-book or e-reader lending at your library but want some hands-on experience with different devices before starting your program?

Are you currently offering e-book lending, but would like more experience for yourself or your staff in using the service with different types of devices?

Have you been hearing about e-readers and tablets, and are simply wondering what all the fuss is about?

Then look no further – we’re here to help!

The NDSL Field Services Department is happy to introduce its Tech Toolkit lending program. The Tech Toolkit will be loaned to libraries in ND, free of charge, for a three-week period. During your checkout, library staff members will have the opportunity to explore, learn, and gain valuable hands-on experience with a variety of the e-reader and tablet devices people in your community are using. So what’s in the kit? The Tech Toolkit contains the following devices, along with visual step-by-step tutorials to guide you through the basics:

  • Apple iPad
  • Google Nexus 7 tablet
  • Kindle Fire HD
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • Nook SimpleTouch
  • Apple iPod Touch

The Tech Toolkit is a great resource for libraries currently offering e-book lending. Having hands-on access to the most common devices over a period of time allows library staff to become more familiar with how the devices work and how the e-book download process works with each. The devices can also be used during the checkout period to demonstrate the e-book checkout and download process for patrons, and to help introduce them to the service.

For libraries not currently offering e-book lending, the Tech Toolkit gives staff members the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience with utilizing e-reader and tablet devices. Many of our patrons are using these devices and asking us questions about them, and having hands-on access to them is the best way to learn about these technologies, what the devices do, and how they are changing the way we read and access information. For those libraries thinking about lending e-reader devices to patrons, or thinking about getting involved in lending e-books, this is a great chance to test drive some of the devices beforehand to help in making an informed decision for future services.

Contact your Field Services representative to schedule your Tech Toolkit loan. We will deliver the kit and help you get started, and will return to pick up the kit at the end of your three-week loan period. If you are interested in holding a hands-on device training session for the public in conjunction with your Tech Toolkit loan, just let us know. We would be happy to facilitate that session as well. We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Keeping Public Library Stats with Google Docs (part 2)

In the previous installment, we created a form that can be used by front-line staff to record library statistics. In this one, we’ll learn how to create reports and charts from the data gathered for purposes of analysis.

First, you’ll need to return to Google Drive and log in to the account you used to create your form.

List of the Google Drive files Library Stats and Library Stats (Responses)

Next you’ll want to open the spreadsheet containing the data gathered through your form (if you titled your form Library Stats, the corresponding spreadsheet will be called Library Stats (Responses)). Here’s what it should look like once the form has seen some use:

Image of our spreadsheet with timestamped responses.

Ah… Data!

Lovely, neh? Since we’re interested in aggregating data for monthly and annual reports, we want to add two columns to make our work easier. First, click into D1 and type Month. Next click or tab over to E1 and type Year.

In D2 we’re going to insert a magical formula that will fill the D column with exactly what’s needed. Here it is, for your copy and pasting pleasure: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A2:A), “”, text(A2:A, “mmm-yyyy”)))

What precisely is going on here? We’re compelling each box in column D (=arrayformula) to look and see if there’s any data in the A column of the same row (if(isblank(A2:A))). If there isn’t, it will do nothing (populate the corresponding entry in the D column with the empty string “”). If there is data, it will reformulate the timestamp it finds in column A into the more readable month-year format (text(A2:A, “mmm-yyyy”)). How nice!

We now have a column uniquely identifying each month we have data for. Since we’re thinking ahead, we now want to treat years in similar fashion. Go to E2 and enter this formula: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A2:A),””,text(A2:A,”yyyy”)))

You should now have something like this:

Statistical data with month and year columns added

You probably noticed that your sheet looks really boring if you only have data from this past week. You may have also noticed that I went ahead and manually entered data from the future as a proof of concept. Please note that I do not advocate traveling through time nor falsifying data. I did this for demonstration purposes only.

At this point, if you record some more stats using your live form, you’ll notice that the Month and Year columns in your (Responses) spreadsheet have been appropriately populated for your new entries. This is good. We’re making progress, but we’re yet to paint a particularly compelling picture of our library services. For that, we want to create another sheet. Do this by clicking on the plus sign (+) at the bottom of your window.

Click on the plus sign (+) to add a sheet.

You should now have a new tab next to Form Responses. Click on it to view your new empty sheet. If you click on the tab again while it’s selected, you can Rename… it. We’re going to use this one for monthly totals, so I renamed mine Monthly Totals.

In your monthly totals sheet, key the following into A1, B1, and C1, respectively: Month, Library Visitors, and Reference Requests. These are our headers for this sheet.

In A2 enter the following: =unique(‘Form Responses’!D2:D)

As soon as you hit Enter, you should see an entry appear in the A column for each unique month you’ve gotten data from. If you’re curious, the formula is looking at the D column of your Form Responses sheet for unique entries, and adding each one it finds here. Not bad, but now we want totals automatically tabulated for each of those months.

In B2 of your Monthly Totals sheet enter: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A3:A), “”, sumif(‘Form Responses’!D2:D, A2:A, ‘Form Responses’!B2:B)))

Voila! Magic. If you’re paying attention, the one part of this that may strike you as peculiar is the fact that we’re starting the isblank() evaluation at A3. The answer has to do with how the unique() function works. If you move your selected field down through the A column, you’ll notice that the first box that appears to be blank actually has a function in it. This function evaluates to the empty string, but the isblank() function interprets the presence of it as a non-blank. The box directly below this one is well and truly blank. Curious, but easily accommodated for. The new formula, sumif() is looking at the values in our month column (D) in Form Responses, comparing them to the month in column A of our Monthly Totals sheet, and adding together all the corresponding values from column B of Form Responses if they match.

In C2 of your Monthly Totals sheet enter: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A3:A), “”, sumif(‘Form Responses’!D2:D, A2:A, ‘Form Responses’!C2:C)))

Things should now look a little like this, with variations dependent upon the data in your Form Responses sheet:

Monthly totals for visitors and requests

The best part about having done things this way? These totals will automatically update every time data is added through your form. When data from a new month comes in to your Form Responses sheet, a new row will be generated on your Monthly Totals sheet. Huzzah!

Next, we’re going to create a yearly totals sheet the same way. Start by clicking the plus sign (+) again to add a new sheet. Click on it to select it and click on it again to Rename… it, as before. This one I’m going to call Yearly Totals.

In A1, B1, and C1 of your Yearly Totals sheet, enter the following: Year, Library Visitors, and Reference Requests. You can probably guess where this is going…

In A2 of your Yearly Totals sheet, enter: =unique(‘Form Responses’!E2:E) 

In B2 of your Yearly Totals sheet, enter: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A3:A), “”, sumif(‘Form Responses’!E2:E, A2:A, ‘Form Responses’!B2:B)))

In C2 of your Yearly Totals sheet, enter: =arrayformula(if(isblank(A3:A), “”, sumif(‘Form Responses’!E2:E, A2:A, ‘Form Responses’!C2:C)))

You should now see something like this:

Annual totals for library visits and reference requests

To recap: we have created a live form that’s gathering data from every point of service in our library and which is automatically generating monthly and annual reports for us. Now, I know what you’re thinking… the only this could possibly get better is if there were charts! This is your lucky day.

The easiest way to add a chart is to highlight the data (including headers) you want in the chart, click on Insert, and then click on Chart. For the sake of illustration, I will select all the data and headers in columns A and B of my Monthly Totals sheet.

The Google Docs Chart Editor

Now you’ll have a number of different options and charts to choose from. I’m opting for a nice reliable Column chart. Note that this is another instance where if you only have data from a single month, your chart will be exceedingly boring. Here’s mine resplendent in bogus data:

A column or bar chart of monthly library visits

It’s worth pointing out that if you click on a chart, some tools will appear at the top of it.

Tools menu for editing and viewing Google charts

Clicking the eyeball will enable view mode, such that hovering your cursor over a data element will provide detailed information about it.

Clicking the nubby pencil lets you edit things like the title, fonts, and colors.

Clicking the small downwards-pointing isosceles triangle in the square allows you to return to the Chart Editor by clicking Advanced edit, Save the chart as an image, or snag the html embed code so you can web-publish an interactive version of your chart (Publish chart…)

Outstanding work! You’ve automated reporting features for your data and learned how to generate keen visualizations of it. The final thing I want to go over is exporting your data, because lots of copies keeps stuff safe, right? To download static copies of your data (for preservation purposes or manipulation in another spreadsheet program) click on File then Download as and select the format you prefer. I’ll warn you that your formulas may not translate correctly if you export to Excel (your data will be unaltered, however).

Gloomy Outlook for School Libraries

That’s one of the predictions from ALA’s The State of American Libraries 2013 (report found at


Sequestration is adding to the problem of shrinking state budgets. Unfortunately, this means cuts in aid to education which often means reduced funding for school libraries.

At a recent meeting of the North Dakota Southeast Library Media Association, the general consensus was that, even in North Dakota, flush with new oil revenues, school librarians have to do more with less.

Here are more statements from ALA’s report:

“The number of school librarians declined more than other school staff from 2007 to 2011.”

“In 2011, salaries for new school librarians have contracted by about $900.”

“Cuts to school librarian positions betray an ignorance of the key role school librarians play in a child’s education, especially in this era of Google, when today’s students are flooded with an unprecedented volume of information.”

Other topics covered in the report: technology in schools, networking, filtering, digital textbooks, and gaming.

So, what’s the deal? As a nation, are we de-valuing school libraries and school librarians? Is it just a money issue? Investing in the successful future of our kids seems the wisest and easiest of choices.

“There is no problem a library card can’t solve.” –Eleanor Brown, Author

Coding Clubs in the Library

CodecademyYou may have heard of Codecademy, the website that offers free coding classes in a variety of programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, and Ruby, but did you know that Codecademy also offers free kits to help you start a coding club in your school or library? The best part is that you don’t need to a background in computer science to host a coding club!

Coding is an increasingly important skill for students to acquire, and if they don’t have the opportunity to learn it in school, hosting a club at the library is an ideal partnership! As librarians, we know digital literacy is essential. The Codecademy site emphasizes that “digital literacy is now a fundamental skill like reading and writing.”

In the introduction to the kit, Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed, points out that “Kids spend an increasing portion of their lives interacting with and through screens…Introducing kids to code reveals to them how computers are really ‘anything’ machines, capable of doing pretty much anything we program into them. It gives them the ability both to read and to write in the foundational languages of the digital age and, in doing so, fundamentally transforms their perspective from that of user to maker, consumer to creative.”

Sign up to download your free kit and make plans to get started! Have you implemented programs like this at your library? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments!

Summer’s Coming!

It may not seem like it here in the northern Great Plains, where we are still looking out onto completely snow-covered lawns, but summer is right around the corner. And with summer comes the annual fun that is Summer Reading!
Last week, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) released its Summer Reading Book Lists, which feature recommended titles for children in grades K-8. There are separate lists for: K-2nd Grade; 3rd-5th Grade; and 6th-8th Grade.

Some of the featured titles include:

Check out your local library or the ND State Library for these and other great titles on this year’s summer reading lists!

Free Worlds of the Imagination Webinar from Booklist


If your patrons love exploring fantastical and alien worlds and you wish to learn of great new titles to enthrall them with, you should consider attending Booklist’s free Worlds of the Imagination webinar on May 7th.

During the hour-long webinar you’ll learn of the best new and forthcoming Science fiction and fantasy titles from industry leaders Baen, Galaxy Press, Tor, and Tu Books.

Register today!

Keeping Public Library Stats with Google Docs (part 1)

Here’s the vision of what we’re about to do: we’re creating an online form accessible by any and all front-line staff you designate (a taskbar or desktop shortcut is probably the easiest way to do this) which they will use to record whatever basic service stats you want. This is the replacement for tally sheets you’ve been looking for. The form you create can be used on any internet-connected workstation or mobile device. As the administrator, you will be able to see live data coming in, and generate charts and reports automatically (or as the whimsy strikes you). Sound good? Okay, let’s dig in…

To start, you’ll need to go to Google Drive and either log in or create a new account. If you haven’t already created a generic Google account for your library, I’d encourage you to do so instead of tethering library stats to your personal account. Accounts are free and easy to create, simply click the Sign Up button. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see the following:

Google Drive's home screen

Next, we want to create a new form, so we need to click the Create button, then click Form, summoning the Title/Theme window. I’m going to title my form Library Stats and select the Notepaper theme, because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for the days of making hash marks on scraps of paper. Once you’ve made your choices, click the OK button.

Title your form and select a theme for it

You should now see the design page where you key in your questions and get your form laid out properly. The first thing to do is click on Choose response destination towards the top of the form. You’ll now see this window:

Choose response destination window

Ensure that the radio button next to New spreadsheet is selected, then click the Create button. This will create a new Google Spreadsheet bearing your form’s title followed by “(Responses).” This spreadsheet will be automatically populated with all the data you collect with your form. We’ll look at this more in the next post in the series, for now simply accept that this is awesome.

Our next step is to write our form’s questions. Nothing is better than this! Here’s how it works: the Question Title text box is where you ask your question. For our examples, all of our questions will be of the Multiple choice Question Type. Since we’ll just be gathering raw numerical data (tally sheet equivalents) we’re going to have three options for each question: 1, 3, and 5. This will allow data entry of more than one hash mark at a time. We’re going to write out just two questions corresponding to metrics needed on the Public Library Annual Report. Note that if you’re not automated, this is also a way that you can record accurate circulation data and make reporting easy (create one question for children’s circulation and one for adult circulation, as above).

Multiple choice question for recording the number of library visitors.

For the first question, I’m entering Library Visitors: as the Question Title and adding 1, 3, and 5 as the response options. To add another question, click on Add item. For the second question, I’m entering Reference Requests: as the Question Title, again with 1, 3, and 5 as the response options.

Question to record the number of reference requests fielded

That’s pretty much it for the questions I want to include on this bare bones sample form. Now that you’ve got the hang of it, feel free to make your own form more encompassing, though! I’d also encourage you to think about other things you track (or want to) and create separate forms for them–things like detailed ILL or Reference stats… the mind boggles at the possibilities!


First, we have to finish this form, though. We still want to do two things: type in a custom Confirmation message and ensure that Show link to submit another response is checked. This last one is absolutely vital, as it will allow you and your staff to quickly and easily return to the form to record more library activity. If you scroll to the bottom of your form design page, you’ll see the Confirmation Page options. (For this form we aren’t including links in the confirmation message, but be aware that you can).

Image of our finished form

As it turns out, keeping statistics on Notepaper looks rather ugly. I’m no longer feeling nostalgic for it. Fortunately, it’s easy to change my Theme to something more fetching!

The next post in this series will cover analyzing the data, making charts, and generating monthly and annual reports. In the meantime, you can get the link to the live form by clicking on Send form.

The send form window provides the link to the live form and sharing options for social media and e-mail.

If you want to place a shortcut to the form on a user’s desktop or in their taskbar, this is the url you’ll use as location of the item you’re making a shortcut to. Easy peasy!

Free Thrilling Mysteries Webinar from Booklist

Booklist's Thrilling Mysteries Webinar logo

If your patrons love mysteries and you want to learn about some great new titles to recommend to them (or purchase for your library!) you should consider attending Booklist’s free Thrilling Mysteries webinar on April 30th.

During the hour-long webinar you’ll learn of the best new and forthcoming mystery titles from the following publishers: AudioGO, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Poisoned Pen Press, Seventh Street Books, Random House, and Severn House.

Register today!

Literacy — A Fundamental Human Right


This UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) statement about literacy sums it up:

“Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individual, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, ones’ income, and one’s relationship with the world.”

The millions of adults and children who are illiterate are victims of discrimination; their basic human rights are being violated.

Lifelong learning is a process and should be the basis of educational policies. Learning does not stop when we graduate; hopefully, it colors our everyday activities and is not limited by age or gender. Literacy not only has academic applications, it also informs our consumer decisions, our on-the-job choices, and our decision making in a democratic culture.

North Dakotans are fortunate that we have good schools, open to all, and a government that supports education. The ND State Library uses state revenues to provide educational opportunities and materials for all ages, online and onsite, in a variety of formats both concrete and virtual. Take advantage of these free resources and keep those brain cells active.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”  George Orwell, Author