Tag Archives: databases

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


How Do Search Engines and Databases Differ?


Search engines, like Google, Ask, or Bing index the Internet and use proprietary programs to match results to the user’s search terms. Search engines are free to anyone with computer access. Any person or group can produce a website and say anything they want, truthful or not. The CRAP test (Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose) must be applied to information retrieved from an Internet search engine. Search engines also retrieve more information than we can use and it is not organized. There is no quality control mechanism on the Internet; consequently, learning how to judge information on the Internet is an essential literacy skill.

Search engines are best for non-academic and general searches. Good stuff can be found on the Internet: current information, newspapers, pictures & images, statistics & government documents, pop culture, general reference information, products, services, or entertainment. Using search engines is a good way to start a project or get a main idea or a general topic.


Databases are purchased or subscribed to by libraries or schools. Information found in databases passes the CRAP test: it is current, reliable, authoritative, and the purpose is usually educational. Information found in databases is reviewed by scholars, researchers, or professors. Databases are usually targeted to a particular audience. There are databases for elementary school students, for scientists, for health & wellness, or family history researchers.

Library databases are most appropriate for academic research. Students can use databases to find resources for school papers, book reports, or school projects. Academic researchers use databases to find research papers, scholarly information, conference reports, or peer reviewed articles from academic journals. Database results are usually cited and are more manageable. Information retrieved in a database search will often give opposing viewpoints and link to additional resources.

Search engines and databases are tools. Choose the right tool for the task. It is not a question of exclusively using one or the other for your information needs. Both have value for finding information, depending on what type of information you are seeking.

“The first time I walked into a library, I got so excited I almost wet my pants.”  – Roy Blount Jr. (author)

Why Don’t Students Use the Library Databases?

These days, students get to high school or college with online search habits already formed. According to a Pew Research study, Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube are students’ first choices for finding information. Why? Because Google and Wikipedia are easy and simple to use and the results are immediate. Easy access to wanted information is the key.

Why don’t students use the online educational databases purchased by the library? The simple answer: There are too many obstacles getting to database information. First, students have to find the list of databases posted somewhere on the school or library website. Second, once the list of databases is found, students have to determine which of 50+ databases is right for their information needs. Third, students need to know a login and password to access the databases. Finally, 4 or 5 mouse clicks later, they arrive at the database search box and can begin research.

It is a vicious circle: Low usage of library databases endangers the budget for online educational resources; but students do not use the databases because of obstacles to easy access, which results in low usage statistics.

North Dakota’s most recent database subscription to Literati Public is a step towards eliminating obstacles to database information. Literati Public features discovery searching and geo-IP recognition. The discovery searching feature links the ODIN Catalog, the Literati reference collection, and the subscription databases from Gale, EBSCO, and ProQuest. The search box taps into all these resources simultaneously. Geo-IP recognition means that your Internet address (IP number) is coming from North Dakota, which has paid for access, so you are allowed entry without having to login.

Changing student search habits begins with easy access to library database information. Features like discovery searching and geo-IP recognition help remove obstacles to database research.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  –Albert Einstein