Monthly Archives: August 2013

Patron Privacy Online – A Call for Reform

The address bar is the first place to look for secure browsing.Safeguarding patron privacy has always been a cornerstone of public library service in America. It’s enshrined in the code of ethics of the American Library Association, where it states: “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

Further, patron confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for intellectual freedom. “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The courts have established a First Amendment right to receive information in a publicly funded library” (From an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights).

Patron privacy is so important, libraries have policies enshrining it and make public affirmations of the Freedom to Read Statement and the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations. Most states have laws in place protecting patrons’ privacy, such as NDCC 40-38-12.

Despite our admirable dedication to protecting patrons’ confidentiality, we’ve evinced systemic oversight regarding their privacy when they’re using library resources online. Continue reading

Librarians in the Cross Fire: the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act

Librarians answer reference questions. We point direction and let people gather what they choose. We do not give medical or legal advice, but we do show people how to find information, so they can make their own medical and legal decisions. It is not the job of librarians to decide what a patron should or should not research, or read.


The controversies surrounding the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) make some librarians feel like targets. Even the folks at AARP get very negative feedback whenever they post information about health care reform on their website. The PPACA passed with a slim Democratic margin, which touched off heated debate about the pros & cons.

This is the current factual situation:

  • The PPACA was passed by both houses of the legislature
  • President Obama signed the PPACA on March 23, 2010
  • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld it
  • The Marketplace open enrollment begins October 1, 2013


It is important to point out that librarians are not advocating a political agenda by showing citizens how to visit the Marketplace to compare and select health insurance. Helping people access wanted or needed information is what librarians do.

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”    Robert Frost

Gaining Support for Teen Services

teensSarah Flowers, past-president of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, recently published a series of posts on the YALSA blog entitled “What Your Manager Wishes You Knew” about gaining support for teen services at your library. Although most North Dakota libraries won’t have a dedicated teen librarian, you may still need to garner support from your library board for teen programming. Many of these tips are transferable to gaining support from your library board for other library services as well.

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New North Dakota Titles at NDSL

The North Dakota State Library offers a comprehensive collection of materials available for loan to the citizens of North Dakota and through interlibrary loan to libraries across the state and across the country. We specialize in collecting materials about the state of North Dakota and books and materials written or created by North Dakotans. Check out some of our newest North Dakota titles!

ghosts of nd

Ghosts of North Dakota: North Dakota’s Ghost Towns and Abandoned Places by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp
This pictorial work highlights the work of North Dakota photographers Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, who travel the state documenting the remains of the early pioneer settlements.

Squeeze This! a Cultural History of the Accordion in America by Marion Jacobson
This historical overview of the piano accordion in America features discussion of the rise of the popularity of the instrument in the 1950s, exemplified by North Dakota native Lawrence Welk.

I Am Not Silent: Our Zoloft and Depression Story by Gail Schmidkunz
Written by his mother Gail, this is the story of Zach Schmidkunz of Minot, ND, and his harrowing journey through depression and the after-effects of the prescription anti-depressant Zoloft.

The Missile Next Door: the Minuteman in the American Heartland by Gretchen Heefner
During the Cold War, Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles were buried in out of the way places across the Great Plains. This is the story of how the presence of the missiles affected civilians in small-town America. You can still experience the history of the Minuteman missile in North Dakota in places like Cooperstown, Langdon and other communities across the state.

Deliverance from the Little Big Horn: Doctor Henry Porter and Custer’s Seventh Cavalry by Joan Nasbeth Stevenson
Recounts the story of the only surgeon to survive the Battle of the Little Bighorn, his life-saving work on the battlefield and his 700-mile journey to evacuate the critically wounded to the post hospital at Fort Abraham Lincoln.

Open Access to Art

openGettyThe first Sunday of every month, admission to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is free (pay what you wish, technically). In high school, I took liberal advantage of this opportunity. Exposure to art changes your perceptions and broadens your options for response to the world around you. Immersion in the historic and contemporary output of creative people not only shapes your understanding of the past and of other cultures, but also your understanding of human thought and emotion. Visual art inspires reflection and discussion in ways that no other medium can. Put simply: art inspires. I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday.

The Getty is ushering in a new era of free and easy access to art by sharing high quality images of artwork they own online. They’re making everything they can (those works not under copyright or other restriction) freely available  for download, use, sharing, and remixing as part of their Open Content Program. This means that not only can you be inspired, you can easily build on what came before–this is an operant definition of culture.

I sincerely hope other museums and cultural institutions follow suit. In the meantime, I hope everyone visits The Getty’s Open Content Program, takes in the art, shares the experience with their friends and family, and maybe even starts to create something themselves.

Librarians are Role Models for Adaptation to New Technologies

How does technological change impact occupational identity when robots, software, and hardware can replace people? Countless clerical, factory, and textile jobs have been lost to automation. Some professions cannot adapt to new technologies, so they disappear. Other professions can adapt, find new focus, embrace technology, and redefine their profession.


In their research, Nelson and Irwin* focus specifically on how librarians reconciled their roles with Internet search engines. Initially, librarians dismissed search engines as something that was not going to catch on or be widely used. The authors refer to this as a “paradox of expertise” – librarians, the information experts, failed to recognize emerging information technology.

Eventually, librarians embraced the new search engine technology, even designing and helping to develop scholarly-based search engines. Librarians reacted and helped shape the path of new technology. Nelson and Irwin conclude that librarians made a successful transition by accommodating a new technology into a new role identity. The librarian transition model serves as a good example for other professionals who face new technology challenges.

How new technology affects work and society is a huge and complex issue. Nelson and Irwin conclude that librarians have successfully merged traditional and new information seeking strategies into their occupational identity.

*Source:  Nelson, A., & Irwin, J. (2013).  Defining what we do – all over again: Occupational identity, technological change, and the librarian/Internet-search relationship. Academy of Management Journal.  doi:10.5465/amj.2012.0201

 Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.” — Frank Zappa

Big Teen Events at Your Library

YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, has a series of posts on their blog about planning big teen events at your library. If you are looking for ways to bring more teens into the library, a big event might be just the ticket!

The goal of a big event is to draw in teens who wouldn’t normally attend a library event. A big event is a special program you don’t host on a regular basis, that appeals a broader base of teens than your regular programming.

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Public Libraries in the News: National Public Radio Series

npr_logo_rgbAll throughout August, National Public Radio has been featuring the special series Keys the Whole World: American Public Libraries. This series has highlighted the history of public libraries, some recent successes and innovative ideas, as well as difficulties faced by libraries. It’s been a great look at what’s going on in public libraries across the country, and the impact of libraries on American culture. Here’s a rundown of the featured stories in this series that have aired so far:

Teen Book Clubs

book clubBooks clubs are common library programs, but they are usually geared towards adults. However, if you’re looking to expand the services you offer to teens, why not try a book club, since it’s a programming option with which you are already familiar?

If your library doesn’t already have book clubs, ALA has a quick start guide that walks you through the basics: how to structure a meeting, how to choose a book, and how to hold a book discussion, including generic questions for fiction and non-fiction books.

The Hennepin County Library also provides a helpful overview of how to start a book club specifically for kids or teens. They even discussion guides for a number of popular teen books. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center also offers book discussion guidelines.

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Harnessing the Power of Community Data

We are in the midst of a six-city tour of North Dakota, presenting 1-day workshops on long range planning for public libraries. It has been a really great experience to visit with library staff and board members to talk about planning for their libraries’ futures.

One of the main components of any library planning process is gathering data about the community the library serves. In order to plan the library’s future direction and services, it is critical to learn about the demographic characteristics of the community as a whole, as well as the views, opinions, and needs of both library users and non-users alike.

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