Monthly Archives: January 2014

New and Upcoming Educational STEM and STEAM Kits

Here are two exciting new and upcoming that libraries can incorporate into STEM and STEAM programs and into Makerspaces. The first is called littleBits. littleBits are magnetically connectable color-coded electronic modules. They teach children how to connect circuits and build machines but require no soldering, wiring, or programming.

There are a number of kits available for sale or you can buy modules individually. littleBits has an educational site that includes lesson plans, design challenges, tons of great ideas. Brilliantly, their hardware is open source and everything on their site is Creative Commons licensed, so it’s all free to use and modify. They’ve got a growing community of contributors uploading new lessons, projects, and build videos as well. Continue reading

2014 Morris Awards

CharmStrange4The William C. Morris Award is awarded by the Young Adult Library Services Association to a debut author of a young adult novel. This year the award went to Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.

The other finalists were:

To learn more about the authors and their books, read the reviews of the books and the interviews with the authors at The Hub:

Have you read any of them? According to WorldCat, not many North Dakota libraries have them, so you may not have had a chance yet. Is being an award winner or finalist enough for you to consider adding a book to your collection? What else influences your decision? Share your opinions in the comments.

Upcoming Scholastic Chess Tournaments in North Dakota

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5Encouraging kids to play chess is a time-honored and exquisitely fun means of developing their analytical thinking and STEM skills. In that spirit, there are a number of scholastic chess tournaments coming up in North Dakota (or just across the border in Moorhead), that I wanted to bring to the attention of librarians, teachers, parents, and chess enthusiasts.

On January 25 the FM Chess Tournament will be held at the Moorhead Center Mall.

On February 8 there will be a Scholastic Tournament in Flasher for grades K-12. It will be held in the school cafeteria.

Finally, on April 12, the North Dakota Scholastic Chess Championship will be held in Bismarck at the Shiloh Christian School. The top player from this tournament will qualify for a national tournament!

Typical scholastic tournaments have separate sections for grades K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to balance play.

You can find out more information on the North Dakota Chess Association’s Tournaments pageContinue reading

Old Journals as Insulation

Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia had a problem. They had about 50,000 bound volumes of academic journals to store and were running out of space. Most universities are confronted with this problem. Some rent off-campus storage, others attempt to recycle. However, recycling poses problems; covers have to be removed because the glues and binding compounds jam the mechanical shredders.

David Cameron heard about the problem and saw a possible solution. David is a builder and his Blockhouse School Project needed a way to insulate the school to save heating money. The project is transforming an old schoolhouse into a community center. Cameron realized he could solve two problems by using the journals as insulation. Basically, he and his helpers stacked a wall of books and covered them with earth plaster (a mixture of clay, sand, and straw).


The Blockhouse School illustrates one successful way to use old books and journals, but the storage of bound journals is still an issue that many universities must confront.

[Adapted from: Asgarian, R. (2013). Library Discards Find New Life as Insulation. Library Journal, 138(21), 17.]

“People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.” – Albert Einstein


Digital Learning Day

digital learning dayDigital Learning Day, on February 5, “is about giving every child the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment everyday, with the goal of success in college and a career.”

Kids today are accustomed to using technology, but that does not always mean they use it effectively, or for educational purposes.  Digital Learning Day seeks to help kids use technology effectively to improve their education.

If you are a school library, there are teaching tools and lesson plans available to help you get started. If you are a public library, there is a toolkit for after school programming, as well as science toolkit that could be useful for planning activities for this year’s science themed summer reading program.

If you’d like more information about planning a Digital Learning Day event, there are resources available to help get you started. There will also be tips each day until the event that point you to additional tools and resources. While digital learning should take place all year long, if you are hosting an event on February 5, you can add it to the calendar.

Are you hosting an event? What is your library doing to encourage effective use of technology? Share your ideas in the comments!

Lies, Damned Lies, and Database Usage Statistics

Chart illustrating how Zinio magazine circulation has increased from July through December of 2013

The State Library has recently started compiling and publishing database usage statistics for libraries throughout the state. We put out new reports at the beginning of each month, wherever possible we provide data at the library level, and we provide details for every database we can run reports on directly. 

I’d like to take you on a guided tour of what you’ll find in these reports, how to isolate information related to your library, and how to dig deeper if the spirit so moves you. Continue reading

Are Public Libraries Valued?

A recent Pew Research Center study, How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities, tries to answer this question. 90% of Americans, age 16 and above, said that libraries are very important to their communities and that the closing of their local public library would have a negative impact.


 “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” – Lena Horne

Teen Tech Week

Teen Tech Week is March 9-15. Start planning your event with the help of YALSA’s resources.

Check out the following useful toolkits:

There are also Book and Media Lists as well as other free web tools. To download the graphics, you do need to set up an account, but you don’t need to be a YALSA member.

If you sign up for an account, you will also be able to register to attend the free webinars that start next week:

  • Tuesday, January 21 – Leveraging Partnerships
  • Wednesday, February 5 – Maker Activities
  • Tuesday, March 11 – Measuring Program Outcomes and Impact

Even if you can’t attend, you can sign up to receive a recording of the webinar.

Since the summer reading theme this year is science, Teen Tech Week is a great opportunity to encourage teens to participate in the library all year long!

Are you hosting Teen Tech Week events at your library? Share your ideas in the comments!

Guidelines for Conducting Library Board Member Orientations

Franxius excelsior wood tangent section 2

By Beentree (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Board orientation ensures that new library board members are familiar with the library’s operation, mission, goals, and challenges. It explains what their role on the board entails and clearly delineates the board’s responsibilities from the library director’s. 

Conducting formal orientations with new board members is required for libraries to comply with the North Dakota Library Coordinating Council (NDLCC) Standards for Public Libraries. We created the following outline to guide you through this process. Not everything on this outline is suitable for all libraries (especially smaller ones), so you should feel free to tailor it to your situation. If you would like a copy of this outline as a Word document, so you can easily edit it to suit your library’s needs, don’t hesitate to contact your Library Development Specialist.

Board Member Orientation Outline

A thorough orientation program follows these steps:

1.       Promptly send any new board member a packet that includes:

  1. The by-laws of the board
  2. A directory of the board members, indicating terms of office and board officers
  3. Board committee membership lists
  4. Calendar of upcoming board meetings
  5. A chart listing the board’s responsibilities and the library director’s responsibilities
  6. A copy of a brochure or other concise information about your library (mission & vision)
  7. The library’s latest annual report
  8. The library’s long-range/strategic plan and current technology plan
  9. The library’s policies
  10. The library’s current and previous year’s budget
  11. The board’s meeting minutes for the previous six months
  12. The director’s reports for the previous six months
  13. The latest monthly statistical report and financial report
  14. An organizational chart of the library staff with names and titles
  15. The library board’s annual calendar, including legal requirements and deadlines
  16. Pertinent North Dakota statutes (consult ND Library Law and Open Records & Meetings laws)
  17. NDLCC’s Standards for Public Libraries

2.       The board president or library director should contact the new board member to welcome him/her to the board and schedule an orientation session. This session should include a tour of the library with the director to introduce staff and discuss library programs and services. It should include a meeting with the director to learn:

  1. The library’s values
  2. How the library is organized and governed
  3. How the library is funded (see the ND Association of Counties’ webpage on Understanding Property Taxes and this post on Home Rule)
  4. How the library is operated day-to-day
  5. How the library serves the needs of the community
  6. How the library is linked to other resources, other libraries, and the library system
  7. How the library could better serve the community (re: the library’s plans)

Finally, the orientation session should include a meeting with one or more board representatives to discuss (consult the ND Public Library Trustee Manual for additional information and resources):

  1. Library board statutory powers and duties
  2. Board by-laws, organization, officers, and committees
  3. Location, schedule, and conduct (rules of order) of meetings
  4. Responsibilities and expectations of board
  5. Library’s long-range/strategic plan and the status of activities to meet the objectives of said plan
  6. Recent library accomplishments
  7. Board relationship to the library director and library staff

Ways of Reading

In preparation for a 9th grade student training, I was thinking how reading sources for a research paper is different than reading a novel for pleasure. Because of the recent arctic vortex, the student training was cancelled. However, the different ways of reading are still a relevant topic to consider.


Maybe you read differently, but when reading a novel, I read every word; I don’t skim or read a bit here and there. The art of the novel includes the way the author uses words to enhance plot, dialogue, and description. If you don’t read every word, you may miss the elegance of novelistic writing. Sometimes the subtle bias or plot twist is hidden in a turn of a few words.

Reading sources for a research paper is much different than reading a novel. It is not necessary and often too time consuming, to read every word. To get the general point of an article, you can read the abstract or the first few paragraphs, or the executive summary. Read conclusions. Skim. Ask yourself questions while reading that fit your thesis statement or outline. Does this article or study mesh with your research paper? This way of focused reading for research is a useful tool to add to a student’s critical thinking toolbox.

“The middle of the road is where the white line is, and that’s the worst place to drive.” – Robert Frost