Tag Archives: databases

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.

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

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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NoveList Plus: a Great Tool for Book Discussion Groups

NoveListRunning a book discussion group may sometimes seem like a thankless, time-consuming job. Recruiting (not to mention retaining) group members, organizing meetings, selecting book titles, coming up with discussion questions and researching prior to the discussion…just thinking about all this organizational leg-work is enough to keep your head spinning for weeks before the day of the group meeting even arrives. Whether you are currently running a thriving, successful book discussion group, or you’re considering starting one up with your friends or at your local public library, knowing where to turn to choose titles and to find fodder for your actual book discussion is half the organizational battle. The NoveList Plus database, available through the North Dakota State Library and your local North Dakota public library, is a great one-stop resource to help you find what you need to choose a book and jumpstart your discussion.

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Database Trial for ND, SD, and MN



If you’re a librarian or school teacher from one of the three ‘otas (North Dakota, South Dakota, or Minnesota), I strongly encourage you to take the time to explore the following database trials and provide your feedback.

This is your opportunity to participate in the selection process of the databases that will be available throughout the tri-state region for the next 3-5 years (beginning July 1, 2014). How do you participate? Simply by evaluating the databases and submitting your impressions. Be they good, bad, or meh, the Minitex Electronic Information Resources Task Force wants to know. Feedback must be submitted by April 2nd. 

Here’s the formal announcement: Continue reading

Lies, Damned Lies, and Database Usage Statistics

Chart illustrating how Zinio magazine circulation has increased from July through December of 2013

The State Library has recently started compiling and publishing database usage statistics for libraries throughout the state. We put out new reports at the beginning of each month, wherever possible we provide data at the library level, and we provide details for every database we can run reports on directly. 

I’d like to take you on a guided tour of what you’ll find in these reports, how to isolate information related to your library, and how to dig deeper if the spirit so moves you. Continue reading

Reaching Readers with NoveList Plus

NoveListNoveList Plus is an exceptional resource you can turn to whenever you’d like to find a new book for a patron (or for yourself!) There are a variety of tools in NoveList that it make it easy to find a great book to match any reading interest or level. Here are some that I like to use:

Best Seller Read-Alikes: Best sellers are great–everyone wants to read them and tons of people are talking about them, but they can be difficult to keep on the shelves. This is one reason it’s great that when you first come to NoveList, you’re greeted by a carousel of current best sellers… Continue reading

Patron Privacy Online – A Call for Reform

The address bar is the first place to look for secure browsing.Safeguarding patron privacy has always been a cornerstone of public library service in America. It’s enshrined in the code of ethics of the American Library Association, where it states: “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

Further, patron confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for intellectual freedom. “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The courts have established a First Amendment right to receive information in a publicly funded library” (From an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights).

Patron privacy is so important, libraries have policies enshrining it and make public affirmations of the Freedom to Read Statement and the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations. Most states have laws in place protecting patrons’ privacy, such as NDCC 40-38-12.

Despite our admirable dedication to protecting patrons’ confidentiality, we’ve evinced systemic oversight regarding their privacy when they’re using library resources online. Continue reading

The Virtual Addition to Your Library

Maybe you only have a small collection of magazines in your local library or your reference items are outdated and limited. Not to worry. Thanks to funding from the ND Legislature, the ND Library Coordinating Council, and libraries in the state, North Dakota citizens have free access to a broad range of full-text and multimedia databases.

Think of these databases as the virtual addition to your local library.  The different types of materials found on your library shelves can be accessed online: directories, almanacs, magazines, journals, yearbooks, handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and more. You can also find images, videos and audio files. These Online Library Resources are updated on a regular basis and can be searched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; all you need is a free library card.

Library Card

You will find general research databases and subject-specific databases like auto repair, genealogy, health, and business. You have access to professional tutors and educational resources, PreK through college. When you use the online library resources provided by the State of ND, you do not have to worry about credibility, authority or safety. Rest assured that users will not be distracted by advertisements, inappropriate content, or other pitfalls that can accompany Internet browsing and research. Students will appreciate that everything is cited and reliable.

In addition to the databases currently available, North Dakota public libraries and their patrons now have access to new resources: NoveList and Zinio.


NoveList is an online reader advisory tool. Use it to find out what comes next in a book series, or what authors write in your favorite genre. The K-8 version of NoveList has fiction and nonfiction reading lists by grade level.


Zinio is an online collection of 100 popular magazines which you can access with your computer, tablet, or smart phone.  You can download as many titles as you want and keep them on your device until you delete them.

The virtual library compliments your local library; it does not replace your local library. The printed book will not go away. The number of library patrons using mobile devices to access the Internet is rapidly increasing. So, take advantage of these online library resources and take your library with you.

“Love your neighbor as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.”  —Carl Sandburg