Monthly Archives: May 2014

Summer Reading Kickoff – 2014


fbrOnce again this year I’ll be live blogging our Summer Reading Kickoff event in partnership with the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Library, the Morton Mandan Public Library, and the North Dakota Heritage Center. Keep checking back throughout the day for photo updates. I’ll be posting them whenever I can break away for a moment!

Some  wily balloons attempted to escape from ILL before getting tied down throughout the building and capitol grounds:
2014-05-30 08.02.43 2014-05-30 08.03.53

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ND Topographic Maps Updated


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released 2014 updates for North Dakota topographical maps. US Topo quadrangles (as they are called on the USGS website) are digital topographic maps produced by the National Geospatial Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and are updated every 3 years. According to their website, the maps are created in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format like the legacy paper maps, US Topo maps support frequent updating, wide and fast public distribution, and basic, on-screen geographic analysis.

US Topo maps are available for free Web download from the USGS Store. Once in the store, you can search for a place or address or use your mouse to mark points on the map. A list will pop up with potential matches in that area and you will have the option to view or download but the view is very small where the download is much easier to read. Each map is delivered in PDF format. The download will be a zip file that contains the PDF.

The site also includes some older maps that may be of interest to landowners. The older maps are not comprehensive but for some areas it may be possible to trace the changes and evolution of the landscape.

Social Media Connections

Many libraries use social media as a way to connect with their patrons these days, but who do you connect with as a library? The database vendors all have several social media channels you can use to connect with them and learn more about services they can provide for your patrons. Check out the links below for ideas you can use in your library.


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Robots are Coming

Image of a Finch robotWe’ve previously mentioned LEGO robotics, coding clubs, and littleBits machine building kits as ways to develop library STEM and STEAM programs around computer programming and machines. Today I’d like to introduce another option, the Finch robot.

The Finch was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University as a robot for computer science education. Their website has an assortment of ready-made assignments that can easily be incorporated into school curricula or used in library workshops.

Finches can be programmed through a wide range of software, making them appropriate for all grade levels, including Python, Java, Javascript, C++, Matlab, and Visual Basic, as well as the Snap! visual interface for younger users (age 4+). You can see the full list of compatible languages broken down by grade level here. They have a host of on-board sensors (light, temperature, accelerometers, and obstacle sensors), a pen mount for drawing, and a full-color LED beak.

Finch robots cost around $99 each to purchase (the price goes down if you buy in bulk), but if you’d like to grant fund your library’s robot acquisition, there is grant writing assistance custom-tailored to Finch robots available here.

Want to learn more about the Finch? Here’s a 3 minute overview:

Information Literacy Standards

InfoLiteracyIn a nutshell, here are the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education formulated by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), which is a division of the American Library Association:

Standard One

The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

Standard Two

The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

Standard Three

The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

Standard Four

The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

Standard Five

The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

The complete exposition of the standards are at the ACRL website.

“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” – Charlie Chaplin



Building Literacy Skills

boy writingWhile summer reading programs are fun for kids, as librarians we know that they serve the important purpose of maintaining reading skills over the summer.

Read Write Think is an organization whose mission is “to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials.” They offer great resources for librarians to use, either in conjunction with summer reading or any other time of year, to help students develop their literacy skills outside of school hours.

Read Write Think has many after school resources, which can be viewed by grade level, resource type, learning objective, or theme. There are separate categories for Games & Tools and Activities & Projects. There are tips to help you implement these resources, and printouts for when you need a quick and easy programming supplement.

What do you do to encourage reading and writing after school? Share your stories in the comments!

Library Security 101

American Libraries Live is a fantastic streaming video series, presented by ALA and American Libraries magazine. Each live broadcast focuses on a different timely library-related topic, with experts in the field serving as moderators and panelists. I had the chance to tune in for the session for the month of May, which focused on library security. There was a great deal of great information, and I thought I’d share the main points I was able to take away from the session.

  1. Security is everyone’s job. Whether you work in a large enough library to have dedicated security staff, or you are a solo librarian in a rural library, it is everyone’s job to ensure the safety and security of library patrons and the library building. We as library staff should take the time to walk around and take stock of what’s going on the building, check the dark corners, and just generally be observant of who’s in the building, what they’re doing. There isn’t always going to be a “good citizen” who will come and report to you that something is going on. We need to be the collective eyes and ears to make sure the library environment is safe for everyone within it.
  2. Post the library’s code of conduct in plain view. It’s tough to enforce rules that people don’t know about. Plus, just knowing the rules helps modify people’s behavior before they ever venture into unacceptable behavior territory.
  3. Write an incident report every time staff has to deal with a security issue in the building. It’s beneficial to have a record of what took place, who was involved, and how the issue was resolved. Having all the information helps library administration to have the back of the staff, and helps the staff as a whole debrief after the incident, to review what happened and how staff responded.
  4. We need to rethink the idea of the “difficult patron.” We all have patrons we think of as difficult for one reason or another, those patrons who interfere with the ability of others to enjoy the library. One of the panelists suggested thinking about these patrons not as “difficult,” but rather as “challenging.” Everyone has the right to enjoy the library within the parameters of the code of conduct, and it can certainly be difficult to deal with those people who choose not to operate within those parameters. The panelist expressed the thought that using the word challenging instead of difficult reframes this in a more positive light. We can work with challenging people to bring them into the fold of those who use the library without interfering with the library use of others.

American Libraries Live is a really great resource for library staff in all types of libraries. You can view the webcasts live, or watch the archive of the presentations any time, all at no charge. Check out the archive and view the schedule for future webcasts at

You May Be Working in the Best Small Library in America…

Logo of Library Journal

…but the world will only know it if you share its story!

Library Journal is once again soliciting nominations for the Best Small Library in America. For more than a decade now, they’ve been profiling one library each year that is a living showcase of the innovation and passion with which small town libraries serve the needs of their communities.

In order to qualify, a library must have a service population of 25,000 or less and be extraordinary. These are the key factors by which nominations shall be judged: Continue reading

Copyright Oddity

space-89130_150Many of you may remember Commander Chris Hadfield’s viral cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. I’d link to it here but the YouTube video was taken down yesterday after its year license expired. At the time of its release in 1969, Space Oddity was covered under copyright for 28 years but after effective lobbying on behalf of the entertainment companies, it (and a load of other works) was amended to be covered by copyright for much longer. Space Oddity is now covered for 95 years or 70 years after the creator’s death–whichever comes first. Unless the license for Commander Hadfield’s video gets renewed, we may not be legally able to see the video until 2069.

Current copyright laws seriously stunt society’s ability to use previous works to make new and innovative versions. Copyright also affects libraries and schools. It can affect programming, marketing, lessons and digitization. Copyright laws are very complex and it is hard to know when you are able to use something– whether it is public domain or fair use. Fair use recently got a boost when a circuit judge dismissed the Author’s Guild lawsuit against Google. The judge ruled that Google’s digitization of books constituted fair use. While the tide seems to be turning in favor of public reuse, there is a long way to go. Here are some tools to help navigate  the choppy waters of copyright–

Copyright Slider – easy way to see if something is potentially covered by copyright.

Copyright Genie – another way to find out if something is potentially covered by copyright.

Creative Commons Licenses – a way to share content on your terms or find works that you can reuse/remix–you can search here.

I an NOT a lawyer nor an expert on copyright law and nothing here constitutes legal advice. These are just tools to get you pointed in an educated direction. There are a number of organizations that are working to reform copyright law. If you feel strongly about copyright reform, consider contacting your representative.

The above image was found searching Creative Commons and is available on a CC0 Public Domain license which means the Pixabay user tpsdave has dedicated the image to the public domain and it is free to use even for commercial purposes.

Meet Sammy, the Interviewing Toucan

Have you ever wanted to be interviewed by a toucan? If you run into Suzanne Walker and her toucan Sammy, you just might have the opportunity!

Suzanne is the Children’s Services Consultant at the Indiana State Library, and we met at the CSLP annual meeting. When Suzanne travels to library events, Sammy interviews authors, illustrators, and librarians. You can view Sammy’s interviews on Suzanne’s YouTube channel. Sammy has interviewed authors such as Cory Doctorow, Kathryn Otoshi, David Lubar, and Barry Lyga.

If you like to sing at story time, Suzanne also has how-to videos for learning guitar songs with simple chords.