Monthly Archives: May 2013

Book Clubs Made Easy!

Have you always wanted to start a book club, but aren’t sure where to start? Have you been running a book discussion group at your library for awhile, but find it time consuming or expensive to track down enough copies of your next book for everyone who wants to participate? Are you just looking for new ideas to spice up your group? Then look no further – help is on the way!

The North Dakota State Library now has Book Club Kits, available for checkout to any North Dakota library or any individual with a ND State Library card. These pre-packaged “book clubs in a box” contain:

  • 10 copies of a selected book
  • A sign-in sheet to keep track of the book copies
  • A book club instruction sheet
  • Selected questions to help guide your group’s discussion

We’ll send the kit by mail to the requesting individual or library, and kits lend for a period of 8 weeks. Just use the included return label and mail the kit back to us at the end of the loan period. There are currently 8 Book Club Kits available for checkout, with more kits coming soon.

roundhouseThe Round House by Louise Erdrich

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

13 Reasons Why by  Jay Asher

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

unbroken2Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

And coming soon: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult; Horseman, Pass By by Larry McMurtry; Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon; and Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line by Tom Dunkel.

Questions? Ready to get started with an NDSL Book Club Kit? Contact our Reference Department at 1-800-472-2104 or

Free App Buffet

I’ve gotten a number of requests to share the resources from my recent Spring Workshop on free and Open Source software for productivity and public access computer enrichment. I thought I’d gather them together in a format that’s more accessible than the download links scattered throughout my Prezi. I even added a few apps for good measure. Cheers!

Open Source Software

  • LibreOffice Office software suite
  • Scribus Desktop publishing
  • Audacity Sound recording and editing
  • GIMP Image manipulation program
  • Inkscape Vector graphics editor
  • Nvu Web authoring system
  • SageThumbs Convert images from the right-click menu
  • VLC Simple, fast, and powerful media player


  • DuplicateCommander locate and eliminate duplicate files
  • MyFolders Right-click menu extender allows you to quickly move/copy files to designated folders
  • Panda USB Vaccine Prevent the spread of infection via USB devices
  • SUMo Monitor 3rd party applications for updates
  • Sun Vox Modular music creation studio

Portable Aps

Note: for resources tailored to dealing with malware/spyware/adware, I’d refer you to this post.

If you have recommendations of your own or requests regarding other sorts of apps, please share them in the comments!

Digital Learning Center is the Public Library Association’s new website designed to help everyone effectively use digital technologies. It is a learning hub funded by a grant from IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services).  The goal of the Digital Learning Center is to increase digital literacy across the nation. It is a place to learn about digital technologies and for digital literacy trainers to share expertise.


If you have patrons unsure about using computers or who just want a refresher, the Digital Learning Center is the place to go. There are training modules like Intro to Email, Using a PC, Basic Search, Getting Started on the Computer, Intro to the Internet, Using a Mac. Some modules are ready-to-go and others will be coming soon. Trainings can be taken at your own pace and will add to your toolbox of digital skills. You can also find links to other sites that offer digital literacy assistance.

The completed Digital Learning Center site will be launched this summer 2013. Currently the site is still in beta, a development and testing phase. In time, new classes, features and learning opportunities will be added. The Digital Learning Center is being developed by representatives from public libraries, national agencies, community organizations, and education. If you want to learn about digital technologies or help others become digitally literate, this is one place to start.

“To every complex question there is a simple answer and it is wrong.”  — H.L. Mencken

Summer Reading Resources from Teaching Books

Teaching BooksAre you planning a Summer Reading program? Did you know that Upstart and have partnered to bring you free online, multimedia resources for titles related to the 2013 Dig Into Reading theme? While normally requires a subscription, the Summer Reading resources are available to everyone at no cost, without a subscription.

Dig into Reading logoIf you are looking for other Summer Reading resources, check out the learning tools on the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) website. They have learning tools for family literacy, diversity, and summer reading research. There are other resources for the children’s program, including a Pinterest page and bibliography.

Pew Research Center Releases New Report, “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading”

The latest report from the the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading” outlines their findings on the usage and views of libraries by parents with children under age 18. Some of the highlights of the report:

  • 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children; 84% of parents of children under age 6 indicate that libraries are very important.
  • 97% of parents express the opinion that it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.
  • 30% of parents say their library usage has increased in the past 5 years because of their children’s involvement at the library.
  • Parents of children 17 and younger are 14% more likely than other adults to have a library card, and 15% more likely than other adults to have visited a library in the past year.
  • Mothers are 10% more likely than fathers to read to their children every day (55% vs. 45%), and 10% more likely than fathers to report that their children have visited the library in the past year (74% vs. 64%).

These findings highlight the importance of cultivating active, vibrant children’s programming in public libraries, not just to benefit the children of the community, but also to raise interest in the library among the parents of young children. The report indicates that parents of young children are more likely than other adults to utilize the entire spectrum of library services, from browsing shelves and checking out items, to utilizing the library’s website and technology resources. Parents are also more likely to support new and expanded library services, such as library services for mobile devices, e-books, and digital media labs.

Parents represent a group of ready-made library supporters on which we can rely to help promote existing library services, and to help build support for new and expanded library services. Because libraries have a great tradition and reputation of providing quality services to children, we’ve also gained a great group of library supporters in parents. This report further emphasizes the importance of focusing promotion of all library services to parents, and of looking to parents to help advocate for your library to help build and cultivate support in your community.

View or download the full report at


Bringing 3D Printing to North Dakota Libraries

What Is 3D Printing and Why Should I Care?

3D printing is an accessible process of transforming a data file into a tangible three-dimensional object. 3D printers meld together thin layers of solid material in a fashion and form designed by folks like you and me using free software.

What sorts of things are people making? Pretty much anything and everything they can think of! 3D printed objects run the gamut from novelty items and gifts (like sculptures of your dog and action figure self-portraits), to games, jewelery, art, fashion, and all manner of design prototypes and real world products. 3D printing has rapidly accelerated the process of transforming ideas into objects. Open Source printer kits and design software are helping make this fabrication technology readily accessible.

A Printrbot LC 3D printer

Who’s Doing It In ND?

I wanted to find out if there were any makerspaces or hackerspaces in North Dakota, where people might already have public access to 3D printers. I found two groups still very much in their formative stages, neither yet with a space to call its own: the Minot Makers and the Fargo Makerworks. This is a start and a promising one; it is also an opportunity for partnerships and outreach for area libraries.

Why 3D Belongs In Libraries

Libraries are not mere repositories of books and information, they are the spaces in which ideas are discovered, dissected, and discussed. They are places were inspiration and creativity blossom through sharing and curation. Libraries foster and depend upon free and democratic access not only to ideas but to the means of bringing them into the world. Why wouldn’t libraries welcome a technology enabling patrons to render their dreams?

Resource Roundup

So how do you make this happen? Research and planning, which I would like to make as easy for you as possible. Here are some great resources to get you started:

UPDATE: This amazing Kickstarter project just came to my attention. The Othermill would make an exceptional addition to any makerspace.

What is Big Data?

Contemporary computer science defines “Big Data” as data that is too big to store, analyze, or deal with. Big Data is characterized by volume, velocity, and variety. The volume is growing exponentially and the storage capacity is not keeping up.

“In 2011, 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion gigabytes) of data was created, the equivalent to every U.S. citizen writing 3 tweets per minute for 26,976 years… Data will grow by 50 times by 2020.” [ACM TechNews, IDC (International Data Corporation) study]


Information databases are being produced by education, business, government, finance, medicine, and science. There are social media databases like email, Twitter, YouTube, and Face Book. Google and other search engines are saving every search, tracking our Internet explorations. Data is being collected by things like autos, appliances, and surveillance cameras. Sensors are everywhere collecting data.

The big question is, “Can value be derived from all this data?” Information has value if it can be accessed easily, analyzed, and applied. Valuable data is organized. Schools and libraries with good IT infrastructure can find value from data. Libraries can analyze circulation data and database usage statistics. Take advantage of the free open source software and give value to your data. (Check out Eric’s postings on collecting library data).

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”  —Scott Adams, Author and Comic Strip Artist