Category Archives: Training

Active Shooter Resources

Shootings are an unfortunate and frightening reality in today’s world. Statistically speaking, it is unlikely you will experience an active shooter situation, but that does not negate their seriousness. Planning and being informed can save lives.

There are a few simple things you can do at the office or at home to better prepare yourself.

  • Be informed – stay current on procedures and other relevant information
  • Be prepared – create a plan & participate in trainings
  • Be alert – pay attention to your surroundings, trust your instincts, & if you see something, say something (report suspicious activity to the local authorities)
  • Run. Hide. Fight.

Run. Hide. Fight. (Active Shooter: How to Respond Poster – Homeland Security)

There is a plethora of active shooter information and resources available online. Below is a listing of some of the best of the best.

More Information:



Books on Library Security:



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.

Plagiarism Detection

Recently, there have been a significant number of news items about plagiarism:


The simple definition of plagiarism is using the ideas of others as if they are your own (New Oxford American Dictionary). One major reason for the increase of news items about plagiarism is the wide use of anti-plagiarism software. Years ago, getting away with plagiarism was often a simple matter. Today, most universities and colleges, and now high schools and organizations use anti-plagiarism software. If you plagiarize, you probably will be detected. The new software uses algorithms then compares text to billions of web pages and published materials.

When visiting schools across North Dakota for trainings, I emphasize to students and teachers the importance of the citation tools available in the research databases. The message is, “Students, avoid plagiarism, cite your sources.” Modern database design makes citing sources simple; you can even choose your citation format (MLS, APA, Turabian, etc.), and then copy/paste into your bibliography. Students, teachers, professors, reporters, authors, musicians, artists, all creators need to be aware of anti-plagiarism software.

Plagiarism is often unintentional. One takes notes during research and later forgets if the note is a quote or an original idea. Try to form the habit of using quotation marks and including the source with your research notes. If you use the research databases provided by your library, citing sources is easy. Avoid getting expelled from school; develop good citation practices.

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” – Douglas Adams (novelist)

Alarming Teacher Dropout Rate

Teachers1In 2013, public school systems in the United States employed over 3 million teachers.  A report from the Alliance for Excellent Education states that almost half a million U.S. teachers leave the profession each year. That means nearly 15% of all U.S. teachers dropout. Almost 50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years.

This high turnover rate disproportionately affects high-poverty schools. The teacher dropout rate is nearly 20% higher at high-poverty school than at affluent schools. The primary reasons for the high teacher dropout rate are low salaries, and lack of support.

Most veteran teachers were not assigned a mentor, but instead found informal support from a caring colleague. However, not all new teachers found support. Often, veteran teachers remember their first year in the classroom as difficult, lonely, and unaided.

To prevent dropout, especially of new teachers, the report recommends induction programs that include multiple types of support and high-quality mentoring. Although it is not mandated, North Dakota does have support for all new educators through the state-funded Teacher Support System. These programs for teachers will nurture instructional skills and increase the teacher’s creative ability to enrich student lives. Better teachers grow better students which benefits our whole culture.

 “It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – Earl Weaver (baseball manager)

Ready-Made Computer Courses for Library Patrons (and Staff!)

Carousel of LearningExpress Library modules with Computer Skills at the fore

Anytime you’re providing the public service of free and open access to internet-connected computers, it’s important to also provide training on their use. This can be particularly challenging for small and rural libraries, where extra staff may not be available to provide tutelage to patrons, or in circumstances where the library staff members or volunteers aren’t comfortable enough with the technology to feel they can provide meaningful assistance. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of LearningExpress Library’s Computer Skills Center, a resource that both patrons and staff can use to develop their computer skills.

Access to LearningExpress is funded for all libraries in North Dakota by the North Dakota State Library. Patrons can also access it from home, though probably not until they’ve mastered the basics at one of your public access computers. You can find LearningExpress on our databases page or use this direct link to connect to it from your library’s website. Continue reading

The Learning Environment

Recently, I’ve noticed the term “learning environment” popping up in much of the educational literature. The term implies much more than the physical layout of the classroom. A learning environment should be welcoming, social, secure, encouraging, and fun. Included are educational, behavioral, cultural, societal, emotional, and technological components. The learning environment (or learning space or learning ecosystem) is student-centered and teacher-mentored. It acknowledges the diversity of student skills, talents, and creativity.

LearnEnvironNationally, teachers are being held accountable for student achievement. In addition to course content, the learning environment is another avenue for teachers to improve student success. Teachers are introducing new educational resources, including smart devices, into the learning environment. This is having a profound impact on learning. Within the confines of standardization, teachers can creatively tweak the learning environment and present powerful opportunities for students to learn and succeed.

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” –Jacques Barzun



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

Big Talk From Small Libraries 2014: Follow-Up

This post is in (extremely belated) follow-up to my post from February 3 on the Big Talk from Small Libraries Conference. The conference, sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries, took place on February 28, and was attended by 415 people from 41 states and five Canadian provinces. Recordings of all thirteen of the one-day online conference’s presentations are available for anyone to view at

There were a lot of great presentations with great information and ideas, presented by folks from small libraries and geared specifically toward small libraries. If you’re interested in learning how to stretch your collection budget by purchasing used books, how to earn money for your library using the Internet, how to put on great library programs on a small budget, and much more, check out these archived presentations. Mark your calendars to attend next year’s Big Talk from Small Libraries online conference, which will be held on February 27, 2015.

Searching Google

The mission of Hack College is to educate students and faculty of the world about useful and educational open source software.


Here’s a short one minute video that gives some basic Google search tips produced by Hack College.  These searching tips will improve your Internet searching: Hack Tricks: Searching Google

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”  – Ken Robinson