Monthly Archives: February 2014

Establishing a Makerspace in Your Library

Image from the Teen Librarian Toolbox article "Teen Makerspaces @ Your Library":

Image from the Teen Librarian Toolbox article “Teen Makerspaces @ Your Library”:

Makerspaces aren’t just about 3D printing, though that is a commonly held misconception. A Makerspace is simply any public work area where people can go to create and collaborate. Typically they’re outfitted with an assortment of digital and/or analog tools for communal use. They cultivate creativity, community, experimentation, and an understanding of how things work. In so doing, they also nurture the entrepreneurial spirit.

Since January, the Utah State Library has been hosting Build-A-Lab, a series of webinars on how-to set up a makerspace in a small or medium-sized public library. So far primarily Midwestern libraries have presented and their service populations have ranged from 3,000 to 30,000. The series shows both the diversity of what can constitute a makerspace and proves that a library of any size and means can incorporate one into the services they offer.  Continue reading

Cellular Telephone and Broadband Internet service Essential to Rural Youth

CellPhoneThe 2013 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey was conducted between January and April. The survey respondents were 60% female, and nearly 75% were 19 years old or younger. More than 90% have an Internet connection in their home.

Rural youth see their cell phones as much more than a means of voice communications and are intrinsically attached to them. They also use their cell phones for texting, taking pictures, shopping, surfing the Web, social networking, playing games, downloading music, watching videos, or homework. The cell phone is an expression of lifestyle and an extension of themselves.

Mobile cell service and broadband Internet are critical to today’s youth; they do not want to be shackled to a fixed location to access services. The majority of survey respondents indicated that they will only live where cellular telephone and broadband Internet are available. Libraries and businesses take note: design your websites, products, and services to be accessible to a mobile generation.

“Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.” – George Carlin


Women’s Programming in March

women's historyMarch is Women’s History Month. It is organized by the National Women’s History Project. The theme for 2014 is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment.” To celebrate Women’s History Month in your library, start by checking out the 2014 Honorees and seeing if you have resources about them in your collection.

The Programming Librarian has a helpful post linking to additional resources for planning programming at your library. American Libraries has a post with specific programming ideas, including:

  • Interview local women to create an oral history record
  • Highlight the efforts of local women
  • Honor local girls for their achievements

How are you celebrating Women’s History Month at your library? Share your stories in the comments!

Libraries Supporting Homeschooling Families, Part 2

Today’s post returns to the topic of libraries serving homeschooling families, which I first addressed in a post two weeks ago. In particular, let’s take a closer look at a few practical services public libraries can offer specifically for homeschoolers.


Programs for Homeschoolers
Offering programs geared specifically toward homeschooling students and parents is a great way to connect with these families and provide them with information and activities that will benefit their particular situations and needs. One of the best ways to reach homeschool students is by offering programs that help them to utilize the library’s resources to help them with their studies. For example:

  • A library scavenger hunt to familiarize students with the library’s in-house collections and resources

  • Library skills workshops to help students to best utilize what the library has to offer

  • Sessions highlighting the library’s online resource collections that introduce students the vast amount of (credible and reliable!) online information available through the library, as well as best practices for searching these resources – check out the NDSL website to see all the great online resources available to North Dakota residents.

Continue reading

Crash Course on Legal Reference Resources

By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Legal reference questions are challenging, time-consuming, and often originate from stressed out time-constrained patrons. As non-attorneys, there are restrictions on the sorts of assistance library front-line staff can provide. Since these waters aren’t always clear or easy to navigate, guidance is not merely welcome, it’s essential.

Recently, there was a free webinar put on by Joanne Vandestreek of the Utah State Law Library in partnership with the Mountain Plains Library Association. MPLA has made her excellent slide deck available on their site. This is a fast and easy way to learn a lot about how to handle legal questions that arise at the reference desk and where to direct patrons who need more than you can offer. 


While you don’t have to be an MPLA member to access the slides, membership does help support the ongoing development and availability of great resources like this one.If you enjoyed the slides and work at a library in the 12-state mountain plains region, please consider joining MPLA

Computers are Stupid

ComputersThe processing power of computers has been exponential. Today computers are a million times more powerful than they were just 40 years ago. Computers are chess champions and can handle complicated mathematical problems with ease, but they cannot understand simple English. Instructions to computers need to be painstakingly precise. A computer program has to resolve the ambiguity that characterizes syntax and semantics in simple sentences; it has to analyze natural language and determine its meaning. Computers cannot understand humans like we understand each other.

This is good news for privacy.  The billions of communications intercepted by the National Security Agency (NSA) were gathered by computers, but the analysis of all this data has to be done by human intelligence and nobody has the time.  HAL 9000 or a Terminator scenario, where computers take over the world, is still a long ways away. The bad news is that because computers cannot understand humans, we dumb down and adjust our world to computers.

Adapted from a July 2012 N + 1 Magazine article 

“It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” – Pete Seeger

Celebrate Youth Art Month at the Library

paletteMarch is Youth Art Month. Youth Art Month is sponsored by the Council for Art Education. The goal of Youth Art Month is to “emphasize the value of art education for all youth.”

The Council for Art Education suggests that libraries can get involved by inviting illustrators to speak, displaying children’s art and crafts, and featuring books on art and illustration. They also provide program ideas that have worked successfully in other states.

As budget cuts continually reduce the amount of arts education available in schools, libraries can help fill the void and keep art accessible to kids and teens. Continue reading

Celebrate TableTop Day at Your Library


This year, International TableTop Day will be observed on April 5th–and it’s not too soon to get your library signed up as an event host! It’s free and you’ll have a blast.

What is TableTop Day? It’s a celebration of the fans of tabletop gaming. A single day where the whole world is brought together in a common purpose of spending time together and having fun.

If you already have board, card, and other tabletop games at your library, you have everything that you need to participate. even has free trophies you can print out and fold to give to game winners, as well as marketing and promotional tools you can use to bring attention to the event and to your library. Continue reading

Read Across America

Seuss Read Across AmericaRead Across America is a program sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) to promote and celebrate reading. It is celebrated on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

You can be a part of this national celebration by planning your own reading event. There are public relation tools to help you get the word out to your community. The website has has suggestions for creating an event and activity ideas.

Check out the resource page for ways to encourage reading all year long, as well as book lists and downloadable items such as certificates and calendars. You can also visit Read Across America on Facebook.

Are you participating in Read Across America? Share your stories in the comments!

Libraries Supporting Homeschooling Families

The featured article on front page of yesterday’s Bismarck Tribune entitled “Learning at Home” on the subject of homeschooling in North Dakota got me thinking about the relationship between homeschooling families and libraries. Homeschoolers have long been frequent users of public libraries, and while we in libraries are aware of this fact, we don’t always think past counting them amongst our weekly visitors to the library to explore how we can provide the best possible service targeted to the needs of homeschooling parents and their children.

Continue reading