Category Archives: Reference

Ben’s Guide

Have you heard about Ben’s Guide?

Ben’s Guide is a free, online resource from the Government Publishing Office (GPO). Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government, or Ben’s Guide for short, is a fun, interactive resource designed to inform children, students, parents, educators, and everyone else about the Federal Government.

The logo/ mascot for Ben’s Guide is an animated rendition of Benjamin Franklin. Join Ben as he leads you across the many aspects of the website, including a government glossary, learning adventures, a section dedicated to citizenship, and games!

Ben_250pxOn the homepage, you will be invited by Ben to “go on a learning adventure!” Ben’s Guide divides its learning adventures into age groups: 4-8 (apprentice), 9-13 (journeyperson), and 14+ (master). Individuals can simply click on their age group and have information catered to them.

Ben’s Guide also contains resources for parents and educators, including (but not limited to) infographics, lesson plans, and links to other kid-friendly and educator-friendly government websites.

GPO, established in 1861, produces and distributes documents from Federal agencies and Congress, as well as providing permanent and free access for the public to these Federal documents through its Federal Digital System, the Federal Depository Library Program, and the U.S. Government Bookstore. And to top it all off, GPO provides free access, learning, and resources with Ben’s Guide.

What are you waiting for? Go check out Ben’s Guide today!

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.

A New Session

State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-28-46-1)

State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-28-46-1)

The governor will present his budget to the legislature today. One of the popular topics that has come up in recent years is oil revenue. This isn’t something new as demonstrated in the above photo from 1952. A Williston  City Commissioner, Neuman Ditsworth, leads a protest against legislative action on a oil tax bill. You can read more about it on Digital Horizons.

Take a few minutes to explore the new Digital Horizons website and our new content! The North Dakota Memories collection has new items from the Pembina County Historical Society and the North Dakota County and Town Histories collection has a number of new books for your searching ease.

Digital Horizons – New Collection featuring Pembina County Historical Society items


We recently partnered with the Pembina County Historical Society to bring you a snapshot of what the Society has to offer. The new collection, North Dakota Memories, will include North Dakota items that are scanned from collections not housed by the North Dakota State Library. I have started adding items that I scanned in June from the Pembina County Historical Society museum in Cavalier. To this point, the Pioneer Women’s Histories have been uploaded to the Digital Horizons North Dakota Memories collection. This selection of materials contains biographies of pioneer women in Pembina County that was gathered in the 1930’s and 1940’s as part of the WPA program. The text is searchable and contains information on the life of the pioneers, genealogy, and history of the towns and settlements.

I have a lot more material to add so keep your eyes open for more images, artwork and objects from Pembina County in the North Dakota Memories collection!

If you know of a collection that could be part of North Dakota Memories, please contact me-Stephanie Kom at or 701-328-4629. We will provide equipment and training for a period of time and catalog and upload the objects for display on Digital Horizons.

A taste of things to come. Funeral procession in Cavalier, N.D. early 20th century.

A taste of things to come. Funeral procession in Cavalier, N.D. early 20th century.

DPLA and North Dakota materials

Digital Horizons is a great place to find North Dakota related images and information but there are a lot of places that hold North Dakota content that would surprise you. DPLA pulls in metadata from hundreds of institutions across the United States. The National Archives, The University of Southern California, the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library and many more have North Dakota related  images available for discovery through DPLA. You have to click on the link in the DPLA record to get to the actual record in the home archive. DPLA is a one stop shop for searching North Dakota images held by non-North Dakota entities. The images below are all from the National Archives and have unrestricted access and use rights.


Grand Forks, ND, May, 1997 — Aerial view of Grand Forks neighborhood and a bridge crossing the flooded Red River of the North

1937 Homestead

Homestead of A. Alin taken in 1937

(April , 1997Grand Forks, ND)- Aerial view of Downtown Grand Forks.

Grand Forks, ND, May, 1997 — Aerial view of Grand Forks the flooded Red River of the North with burned buildings in the foreground


New Digital Horizons Website


Digital Horizons launched its new website last week! It now supports enhanced viewing and searching capabilities. For objects with many pages, you can switch to the Page Flip View and view it like an actual book rather than clicking on each individual page. You can browse all the collections or choose one collection and browse. There is also a handy feature that will send you updates on the collections that you choose to follow.


This is the County and Town Histories landing page. You can see recent additions on the right and subscribe to update.

In our collection of County and Town Histories, you can conduct an advanced search using counties or towns as your search term. There is also faceted searching on the left side of your results screen that will allow you to narrow your results. It is limited as it will only show you the top 10 items in each facet for the collection.


This is a screenshot of the faceted searching box that will appear on the left side of your screen beneath the collection boxes.

This is just a broad overview of some of the enhancements seen with the new Digital Horizons website. Happy hunting!

North Dakota Health Department

Sticking with the theme of state agencies that provide documents that could be helpful to librarians and patrons, this week I am going to highlight the North Dakota Health Department.

This website includes publications on an array of different health-related topics, including:

  • How to remove head lice
  • How to care for newborns and toddlers
  • How to keep kids safe and prevent injuries
  • How to take care of teeth
  • Tips on how to help prevent chronic diseases (including heart disease and stroke)
  • Disease fact sheets
  • Smoking and tobacco fact sheets

There are also publications regarding environmental health, such as policies and reports on air quality, drinking water, and what to do with hazardous waste and solid waste. Since most of the documents and reports are published in North Dakota, they include a lot of information that is pertinent to North Dakota laws and regulations.

These documents are all available on their website in .pdf formats. Some of them are also available on paper through the Health Department or via Interlibrary Loan at the North Dakota State Library.

The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Reference Works: OED Going Online Only?

This story came to my attention a number of weeks ago, but I thought it was interesting enough to give it a mention – better late than never.

The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have announced that they expect the next edition of the OED will not be published in print. The upcoming 3rd edition is expected to consist of 800,000 words and fill a whopping 40 volumes, with an estimated publication date of 2034, a full 20 years behind schedule. In an April 20 article in The Telegraph online, OED editor Michael Proffitt explains that the next edition is taking much longer than expected because the time it takes to research a word’s usage has increased significantly due to the proliferation of information online.

Compared to the 2nd edition, published in 1989, which weighs in at 20 volumes and is currently on sale on the OED website for $995, the upcoming (at some point, anyway) 40-volume 3rd edition would very likely be cost prohibitive for libraries, the primary purchasers of the OED. And that’s to say nothing about the serious amount of shelf space this monster would occupy in print. It makes perfect sense to forgo publishing in print, especially since they’re not expecting a finished product for another 20 years. Even now, large-scale reference works like the Encyclopedia Britannica have already gone to online-only publishing; the last print edition of Britannica came out in 2010. On top of this, libraries are also increasingly shifting their collection budgets away from purchasing print reference materials, which are significantly increasing in price while at the same time decreasing in patron usage. We can expect this trend to continue into the future and by 2034, the publishing landscape and the print versus online publishing balance may look much different even from what we see today. Continue reading

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.