Category Archives: Advocacy

Friends of the Library Resources:

Friends of the Library help support libraries in many ways including volunteer services, fund raising, programming, and advocating for their library. The following resources are helpful whether your library is starting a Friends group, restructuring, or looking to grow.


Nebraska Public Libraries Friends and Foundations:

Nebraska Public Libraries Friends of the Library Groups:

United for Libraries Toolkits for Friends Groups and Foundations (use your library’s access credentials to log in):

Sample Memorandum of Understanding from ALTAFF:

Tool Kit for Building a Library Friends Group by Friends of Tennessee Libraries:

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction—Library Friends and Library Foundations:

Connecticut State Library Roles and Responsibilities of Library Director, Board, and Friends:


Examples of Friends Bylaws:

Friends of the West Fargo Public Library:

Friends of the Bismarck Public Library:


EBSCO Under Fire

It has recently been brought to our attention at the North Dakota State Library that EBSCO databases have been under fire from groups based in Colorado, alleging their databases contain pornographic material. I would like to take this opportunity to reassure worried librarians, teachers, and parents that these accusations are false. When this came to our attention we did our own research into the EBSCO databases accused of harboring this type of material. We did not find anything inappropriate.

The group that was cited when this was brought to our attention is the National Center for Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), formerly called Morality in Media. It is our goal at the State Library to help librarians and teachers identify credible resources that show both sides of an issue. This organization is not what we would consider a credible resource. When reading the site you can see that the organization is presenting their side of an issue rather than all sides involved. The National Center for Sexual Exploitation has what they call a “Dirty Dozen List” that is published each year to highlight the companies they consider “facilitators of sexual exploitation.” EBSCO has been on their list for several years now and other notables on the list are the American Library Association (ALA) and Amnesty International.

EBSCO databases have both scholarly reviewed materials and popular publication materials. The content of these popular press magazines are what have brought EBSCO under fire. One of the most common examples that NCOSE likes to use is the article “How to be a Better Bottom.” This article was published in April 2017 by Dr. Evan Goldstein in the periodical The Advocate. This article is from a popular press magazine, not a scholarly reviewed one. When we teach students, teachers, and other librarians how to do proper scholarly research, we always make sure to tell them to search by ‘scholarly reviewed’ items. This article does not appear when a search is done in that way. However, this article may be useful to those who are studying sexual health or those who are exploring their sexuality. Therefore, it should not be censored from databases.

As librarians, our goal is to never censor information from the masses. School libraries have firewalls and filters in place to protect students from material that could be harmful to them. Public libraries do not filter to the same extent, because they serve people of all ages. I would like to share a small portion of a letter from the director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, James LaRue. In this letter to a different public library LaRue states,

“Our office is aware of no reports of any minor seeking or finding illegal or even pornographic content through EBSCO. Thus far, the searching [by NCOSE] is done by adults, usually following relatively sophisticated searching techniques that involve multiple steps. Moreover, these searches are conducted at home, where the internet connection is not filtered. If minors were in fact seeking sexual content, it’s unlikely that they would start with EBSCO. Nor would they start with filtered library catalogs. They would use their home computers or mobile phones and Google.”

Libraries are now falling between a rock and a hard place. Which really is not a new position for libraries. Librarians want to respect everyone’s wishes but in doing that, some are left unhappy. This is a tight-rope that librarians walk every single day. While we at the State Library suggest you should always listen to the concerns raised by patrons, we do believe that you should do your own research as well.

Even though the concerns about EBSCO were raised by what seemed to be a spam Facebook account (which has since been deleted), we take any challenge to the appropriateness of library materials seriously. We always hear the person out and explore their claim. In this case, we have found no evidence supporting the accusations against the EBSCO databases. We used the search techniques we teach and found none of the material that EBSCO is accused of promoting.

In this case, the situation boiled down to a simple choice for us. We could bow to political pressures leveraged by an out-of-state organization seeking to discredit schools, libraries, and the resources they provide. Or we could stand by the principles of Intellectual Freedom and affirm the right for everyone to have access to high quality research tools. We chose the latter.

If you have heard about this and would like to discuss ways to assure your patrons and parents that EBSCO is a reputable database please give us a call at the State Library. Your library development specialist would be happy to help.


**Special thanks to James LaRue for sharing his letter to the Arapahoe Libraries from July 2017.

2016 ARSL Conference

arslOn October 26-29, I had the pleasure of attending the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) 2016 Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. This was my first national library conference, and what a conference it was! Each day was full of interesting speakers and great sessions.

Perhaps my favorite moment from the conference occurred during Will Weaver’s speech. Weaver is the author of Red Earth, White Earth, A Gravestone Made of Wheat and Other Stories, Saturday Night Dirt, and Striking Out. In his speech, Weaver talked about the importance of libraries and how they have influenced him over the years. He held up a book at one point, and confirmed with the crowd of librarians that it was indeed a library book. He admitted he has the tendency of accidentally stealing library books when he visits them for various engagements. As it turns out, a librarian from the library to which the book belonged was in attendance! As the audience roared with laughter, Weaver had the librarian come up to the front and he returned the book to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed each keynote speaker, and I don’t think there was one session I regretted attending. If anything, I regretted not being able to attend more sessions!

I attended two sessions on programming. One was on teen programs and the other was on how to utilize your community for library programs. The session on teen programs, presented by the librarians at the North Loan City Library in Utah, offered some great ideas: Nerf gun events, teens volunteering at the library to earn points, forming a teen advisory board, and creating an email list just for teens so they can stay up-to-date on what teen-related things are happening at the library.

The mining your community session, presented by the librarian of the Stanley Community Library in Idaho, was just as beneficial. Every community has its gems so utilize them! For example, if someone in your community knits as a hobby, ask this person if he/she would come to the library and host a program on kitting; or if someone is a toy collector, set up a display or have the person come in for a lecture on their history. Some of the great program topics from this session included knitting, adult coloring, lectures, writing classes, music, car maintenance, photography, and cooking.

Librarians are often seen as the people who know everything. As a result, we are likely to receive technology questions that we may not know the answer to, or perhaps the patron is not being receptive. One session on patron technology training tips addressed this. Some of the tips from this session included identify yourself as a technology trainer and do the best you can, create a plan, take deep breaths, narrate your process to the patron, focus on quality, create teachable moments, and implement a resource guide.

Another session, presented by California librarian/ trainer Crystal Schimpf, covered the basics of digital storytelling for libraries and how it can be used for advocacy. Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world so it makes sense for libraries to use it to promote themselves and reach patrons. Libraries can make videos that highlight a database, give a virtual tour, or provide a crash course on services. The sky is the limit! The session stressed that videos should be short but fun. When creating videos you will want to create goals, pick your video platform, write scripts, log your shots, and get the necessary equipment and software (which can be done at a relatively low cost). Once the videos are done, share them on social media and get them out there as much as you can.

One of the more entertaining sessions was presented by Harmony Higbie, director of the Underwood Public Library in Underwood, ND. The session was on Kahoot, a modern twist on trivia. Kahoot can be played for free on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Kahoot can be used in the library for trivia, book clubs, and more! For more information on Kahoot, visit their website:

In addition to the before mentioned sessions, I attended two sessions relating to digital preservation. If you would like more information on this area, review the services offered by the Internet Archive. You can also contact the State Library’s Digital Initiatives coordinator.

There were around 500 librarians from across the country at the ARSL conference, and I was lucky to meet some of them and hear their stories. One of the librarians I met was from beautiful St. George, Utah, which is where the ARSL conference will be in 2017. The librarian will be the co-chair for the 2017 conference, and he had some great things to say about the St. George area (he even showed me a picture of the view from his backyard to prove his point).

If you are interested in attending the ARSL conference, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can learn more about ARSL and the annual conference at their website:

If you have any questions or would like more information on the ideas and conference sessions I shared, feel free to contact me.

Librarian Ethos

BalanceBasically good ethics are common sense, linked with good manners, filtered through a moral or philosophical worldview. Culture, education, and experience shape our worldview. We perceive and filter information through our worldview, and then act. If our worldview is too fundamental or too narrow, we perceive more threats. It is essential that the information professional remain open to other worldviews, other cultures, and other ways. To truly listen, we must suspend assumptions.

We do not want to become the librarian at the gate, hands on hips, frown on face, demanding the return of a book so it can be correctly shelved in its properly cataloged place.  Basically, librarians need to remember that we have chosen a service-orientated profession.  Our work should always be user-friendly.

This ethos means that most librarians want to find meaningful, service-oriented work in a healthy and cooperative environment.  We want to be creatively challenged but not overwhelmed. We want to be understood, capable, and compensated equitably.  We want the opportunity to keep learning so we can adapt to change and innovation.

We have learned core communication skills that our professional life demands: listening, presenting, writing, persuading, participating, leading, and managing. We must be able to analyze, problem-solve, make decisions, and take risks. We must be accountable and dependable.

Librarians must make the shift from merely disseminating information to designing user-centered library services. This may require reevaluating policy, structures, and personnel on a regular basis. The skills we have acquired will enable us to make a positive contribution to our clients and our profession.

“The survival of libraries depends on librarians.” – Roger C. Greer (educator & author)

Turning Outward to Better Understand and Serve your Community

transformingLibrariesThinking about revising your library’s strategic plan? Wondering how you can do more to better understand the communities you serve? In need of more informed advocacy and outreach? Consider utilizing the Turning Outward workbook from Transforming Libraries. It is a collection of tools designed to help libraries strengthen their roles as community leaders and bring about positive change in their service area.

The workbook is laid out as a 90-day plan, which sounds daunting at first, but it’s broken down into manageable installments. Since this step-by-step process was developed by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in partnership with the American Library Association, you know it will be effective.

I do recommend reading through the entire workbook before you begin tackling the project, however, as this will ground your understanding of the process and assist with keeping things flowing forwards smoothly. There are a few awkward moments in the workbook, like where you’re asked to discuss aspects of the Cycle of Public Innovation graphic several pages before it appears. Knowing this in advance will keep you from getting hung up on such inconvenient details.

The entire workbook is available as a PDF online, free of charge right here.

You can learn more about Transforming Libraries and the Turning Outward program on this site.

Licensed under

“The Cycle of Public Innovation” by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation used under CC BY NC SA 3.0 license.


I geek the North Dakota State Fair


I helped man the State Library booth at the North Dakota State Fair yesterday and had the distinct privilege of seeing what other people geeked. Geek the Library is a way for libraries to share their value with their communities. “Geek” as expressed in this campaign means:

  • To love, to enjoy, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for
  • To express interest in
  • To possess a large amount of knowledge in
  • To promote

Here are some photos I took of some items that people might geek– (don’t judge the photography skills 🙂 )



Fur Traders Rendezvous

Fur Traders Rendezvous

Dairy Barn

Dairy Barn

Library Booth

Library Booth

Construction equipment

Construction equipment





Dr. Seuss Quilt

Dr. Seuss Quilt







If you are going to the State Fair take some time and stop by our booth in Commercial II and share your geek with us!

P.S. For those of you that geek Twitter, the Fair has a Tweasure Hunt that you can follow @NdStateFair #TweasureHunt. They tweet clues to a location where you can find free tickets. Happy Hunting!

Help Your Library Gain the Edge


What is the Edge Initiative? A management and leadership tool which helps libraries create a path for the growth and development of their public technology services. It facilitates assessment of libraries’ technology offerings and user needs, and aids in aligning their future growth and services with community priorities. The self-survey takes a few hours to complete, but will profoundly benefit your strategic and advocacy endeavors. Want a taste? Check out this article from the International City/County Management Association’s Public Management Magazine, or explore these case studies.

You can learn more about the Edge assessment on this site. If you’re interested in taking the assessment, you can start by watching this video, completing this workbook, and registering your library.

Once you’ve completed the Edge Assessment, training is available in the areas of advocacy, technology management, library leadership, and community assessment and planning.

Still not convinced? Read Barbie Keiser’s article “Give Your Library the Edge” in Information Today. 


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

Virtual Library Legislative Day

NationalLibraryLegWeekDuring one week of the spring of each year, library advocates gather in Washington D.C. to meet with legislators and legislative staff members. ALA’s National Library Legislative Day, held this year on May 5-6, is an opportunity for library leaders to discuss the issues and legislation pertinent to libraries and to advocate for library funding at the federal level.

For those who are not able to make the trip to D.C. for face to face meetings, tomorrow, May 6, is designated as Virtual Library Legislative Day, a day for library advocates across the country to call or email their elected officials to communicate the importance of their support for library-related issues and legislation. ALA has made it easy to participate – just enter your zip code at to find the contact information for your elected officials. ALA has also done the work of summarizing the issues and setting out talking points to use when contacting your senators and congressmen.

Virtual Library Legislative Day is a great opportunity to take a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard in Washington and to tell your legislative delegation how critical their support for libraries at the federal level is for the continued vitality and growth of libraries at the local level.

Using Infographics to Tell Your Library’s Story

Infographics are a visually striking means of combining data and text to make an argument or illustrate a thesis. They’re easy to understand and easy to share through social media, so they’ve become an extremely popular means of information sharing. Don’t believe me? Here’s a pinboard of library-related infographics respectfully submitted for your amusement and edification.

Before going further I want to show you two detailed snips from two very different infographics. This first one was made by goodreads and is fueled by data and comments from their users:

Image of quotes, stats, and book covers related to books readers have started and then abandoned.

If you’d like to see the whole thing, it’s available here.

Next up is a very different approach to data visualization from the good people at the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

Stat-riddled chart-happy infographic presenting results of a poll of library users


The whole infographic replete with all its great and sundry data is available here.

Now, you know that the credibility of any data lies in its source, their methodology, and your ability to verify and reproduce it. While the Pew data is much harder and their methodology more sound than that of goodreads, I think few would argue that goodreads presented their data in a far more compelling and convincing manner. This tells us as much about human psychology as it does about infograhics. Here’s the takeaway, while solid data is exquisite, very few will pay attention to it unless it is neatly and sensibly presented and organized around a clearly stated theme. This is where well-thought out infograhpics excel and its why they go viral.

Want to make your own ingofraphics? Of course you do! Lucky for you, it’s relatively easy and will cost you anywhere from nothing (yay!) to not that much really (meh).

I’ve taken a number of free infographic generators for a test drive, and my favorite by far is Piktochart.

Image of the homepage of Piktochart

Piktochart is a freemium web-based app with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface and excellent chart integration. This last bit is important as you want to be sure your data displays nicely. For whatever reason, not every infographic generator will scale your charts to match your data. You don’t want to be in the business of eyeballing bar graphs for proportionality, so don’t enter it.

The free version of Piktochart grants you access to seven themes and the blank canvas. You should be aware that shared infographics from free accounts will be watermarked at the very bottom. Licensed use gets you a wealth of additional themes and removes the watermark at a cost of $39.99/year for educators.

Once you create an account or sign in, you can pick a theme to start designing from. The blank canvas is definitely where you’ll be heading most often, as it provides maximum flexibility. After you choose a theme, you’ll see that your chart dominates the window and all the design elements at your disposal are accessible from a toolbar on the left. Here is what the Tools menu looks like:


Image of Piktographic's Tools menu.

Tools allow you to add charts, maps, videos, and, most exciting of all, lines!

And here are the options available through the Share menu:

Image of sharing options.

The best way to learn to use it is to play around with it. The design interface is clean and simple. Select elements and drag them to your infographic-to-be to add them. Once they’re added, you can manipulate them in a variety of useful ways. Data elements like charts and maps are also interactive, so that when a viewer hovers over a data point, they’ll get detailed information about it–because for some, that stuff matters!

If you’d like to learn more about infographics and alternate infographic creation tools, I highly recommend you explore Dani Brecher’s Infographic DIY libguide, which she presented at LibTech 2014.