Learn a New Language with Duolingo

Duolingo is a fantastic free service designed to help people learn Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. The service can be used in your web browser, as an iOS app, or as an Android app.

If you haven’t seen Duolingo before, watch the video below for a short overview.

I set up my own account in under a minute. It is really fun!

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Free Technology for Teachers

I just read about a great blog called Free Technology for Teachers (www.freetech4teachers.com). It shares free innovative technology tips for school librarians and teachers. Here are a few of the categories on this blog:

  • Free apps for iPad and Android devices
  • Free Google tutorials
  • Free guides (e.g. improving Internet searches)
  • Alternatives to YouTube
  • Creating blogs and websites
  • Video creation resources

Once you subscribe (for free), you will receive updates via email, Facebook or Twitter.

A recent post describes and links to five free tools that will help students create bibliographies. Just in time for spring research papers!

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May Display Ideas

School will be out soon and the Summer Reading Program will take center stage. Birds are singing and making nests. Find some handmade bird houses and display them with books on bird house building and bird watching. Here are 10 more display ideas for May:

Latino Books Month
In its ongoing efforts to promote books by and for Latinos, the Association of American Publishers has designated May as Latino Books Month. During the month-long celebration, booksellers, librarians and others in the book industry will encourage people in their communities to read books by and for Latinos, in both English and Spanish. Highlight your books by and for Latinos or request a Spanish-language kit from the RVLS Office for this display.

National Bike Month
This is an annual celebration of bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation. Display your books about bicycles and bike safety along with a children’s bike. Go to http://www.safekids.org/bike for safety tips and resources including coloring pages. Hold a bike “rodeo” in the library’s parking lot and have your local law enforcement register the participants’ bikes. This fun family event is sure to draw a crowd.

National Vinegar Month
Celebrate the season of cleaning and cooking with one of the home’s most versatile products. Go to http://www.versatilevinegar.org for a list of recipes and uses for cleaning. The website even has a “Daily Vinegar Tip.” It might be fun to have a sign on the circulation desk with a new tip each day. Many people prefer to use vinegar instead of cleaning products with fragrances. Invite someone you know that uses vinegar to share their knowledge.

Robert’s Rules Day (May 2)
Henry M. Robert, author of Robert’s Rules of Order, a standard parliamentary guide was born at Robertville, SC, on May 2, 1837. A simple sign in the stacks would highlight this book that is used so often.

Kentucky Derby (May 3)
The Kentucky Derby is a race for three-year-old thoroughbreds held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May. The race is 1 and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs. The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Display books about horses and racing. This might be an opportunity to feature mysteries by Dick Francis.

First American in Space (May 5, 1961)
From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Invite your local earth science teacher and host a family stargazing event on a warm evening. Gather books about stars, planets, astronauts, and space travel for an eye-catching display.

Fintastic Friday (May 9, 2014)
This event will raise awareness of the worldwide plight of sharks and get children involved in an important conservation issue. People kill as many as 100 million sharks a year. Populations are declining at catastrophic rates. Go to http://www.whaletimes.org/FintasticFriday.htm for more information. Display all your shark books on a table in the children’s area. These will definitely get checked out.

Mari Sandoz’s Birthday (May 11, 1896)
Mari Sandoz, the author of several histories that demonstrated sympathy for Indians that was unusual for the time, was born in Sheridan County, Nebraska. Sandoz authored a number of novels, but today she is remembered for her meticulously researched non-fiction histories. Her 1935 biography of her father, Old Jules, is a bittersweet and moving history of homesteading on the Great Plains. Even more valuable, though, were Sandoz’s histories of the Plains Indians. In 1949, she published Crazy Horse, a biography of the great Sioux warrior who participated in the 1876 defeat of George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Sandoz’s biography revealed a noble and admirable man dedicated to his people and to resisting white theft of their traditional lands. Place a sign in the stacks near the titles written by Mari Sandoz to commemorate her birthday. RVLS has a Book Club Kit for Crazy Horse. Maybe this would be the month for your book club to read it. Call the office to reserve it today.

First Major Wagon Train West—Oregon Trail (May 22, 1843)
A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon. The Great Emigration finally arrived in Oregon in October, completing the 2,000-mile journey from Independence in five months. Prepare a mixed-media display with fiction and nonfiction books from both the adult and children’s area, as well as DVDs and audiobooks about the Old West. Add an old saddle and some boots with holes in them to draw attention to the material.

Robert Ludlum’s Birthday (May 25, 1927)
Ludlum, who published his first novel when he was in his 40s, sold more than 200 million books by the time of his death in 2001. Known for complex plots featuring conspiracies, corruption and world takeovers inspired by diabolical forces, Ludlum has been credited as one of the pioneers of the type of fast-paced, engaging and easy-to-read book that came to be dubbed an airport novel. Display his books with a bookmark listing the titles of Ludlum’s works, including the Jason Bourne series.

Library Trivia: On May 23, 1911, in a ceremony presided over by President William Howard Taft, the New York Public Library, the largest marble structure ever constructed in the United States, was dedicated in New York City. Occupying a two-block section of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, the monumental beaux-arts structure took 14 years to complete at a cost of $9 million. The day after its dedication, the library opened its doors to the public, and some 40,000 citizens passed through to make use of a collection that already consisted of more than a million books. Today, the New York Public Library is visited and used annually by more than 10 million people, and there are currently well over two million cardholders, more than for any other library system in the nation.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for even more display ideas.

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Kreutz Bennett Grants to 8 Public Libraries

The Nebraska Community Foundation recently issued a press release announcing the eight Nebraska public libraries that received Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund grants for 2014. Reggie Carlson, Communications Director of the Foundation, sent the following information to most newspapers in Nebraska. The recipients are:

Auld Public Library in Red Cloud received $20,000 in matching funds to construct an addition to the existing library, add an elevator and restrooms that are ADA compliant, and complete a number of renovation and repair projects, including the installation of new plumbing and HVAC system.  

Culbertson Public Library was awarded $20,000 to construct and furnish a new 3,000-square-foot library. The community has already raised more than $300,000 for the project.

The Deshler Public Library Foundation has launched a $1 million challenge grant fundraising campaign for the construction of a new library. The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund is assisting with a grant of $20,000.

The Elgin Public Library will use $3,275 in matching funds to purchase microfilm of The Elgin Review newspaper from 2005 through 2012, and to digitize 50 reels of microfilm and purchase a searchable external hard drive.

Exeter Public Library is using its Kreutz-Bennett grant of $2,545 to create and furnish a “Tech Lounge” to increase accessibility to the Internet, computers and other electronic devices for library patrons.

Hruska Memorial Public Library in David City will use its grant of $6,335 to increase accessibility by installing automatic swings with push plates and push/pull handles for the library’s main entry doors and three interior doors. The project will also replace three exterior doors to prevent moisture damage and unauthorized entry.

Jensen Memorial Library in Minden will use its $7,000 grant to install new shelving and a dual book drop. The current utility shelving is not designed for books.

Walthill Public Library will use its planning grant of $2,500 for salary support to extend library hours of operation, as required by accreditation guidelines, and to support the library director’s efforts toward achieving accreditation.

The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund grants are decided upon by the nieces and nephews of the late Shirley Kreutz Bennett who left a legacy in support of public libraries in Nebraska towns with 3,000 or fewer residents. Grant monies of about $70,000 to $80,000 are distributed each year in three grant areas:

  • Planning grants leading to accreditation
  • Enhancement grants to improve library services
  • Facilities grants for new construction or the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation of current libraries

The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund is an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF). For more information contact:

Reggie Carlson, NCF Communications Director, (402) 323-7331, or rcarlson@nebcommfound.org

or go to the NCF website article on the Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund for information on the 2015 grant cycle.

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3rd Annual RVLS Week of Weeding

The Republican Valley Library System celebrated the 3rd Annual RVLS Week of Weeding from March 3 through March 7. We had a dozen libraries participating including public, school, and academic libraries. Together they weeded more than 4,000 items.

Some were enthusiastic weeders, excited about the shelf space this project provided, and one reported that weeding “gave me many moments of trepidation” and that it “hurt my heart.” One librarian faced some controversy with members of her community wondering why she was “throwing away books.” All the participants mentioned the improvement in their collections and recognized that, although it was difficult at times, weeding is a necessary part of library management.

A random drawing was held at the RVLS Summer Reading Program Workshop from all the participants. The winner of the Kindle eReader is Sky Seery, from the Learning Resource Center at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte.

WoW Winner

Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s Week of Weeding!

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April Display Ideas

The temperatures over the weekend made it feel like spring is in the air…but I’m sure the weather has more winter in store for us. Mid-70s today, chance for snow tomorrow. Yep, we’re still in Nebraska. Here are 10 April display ideas to get you ready for Spring.

Car Care Month
A nationwide effort to focus motorists’ attention on the importance of vehicle maintenance and care. Find maintenance tips and more at www.carcare.org. Display car maintenance books with toy or model cars.

Defeat Diabetes Month
A month focused on preventing diabetes and/or its complications. See www.DefeatDiabetes.org for activities, dietary advice and health information. Display current health and recipe books related to diabetes, along with printed information sheets from the website.

National Poetry Month
An annual observance to pay tribute to the great legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets and the place of poetry in American culture. Launched in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration in the world. Go to www.poets.org for daily poems. Click here for 30 Ways to Celebrate Poetry—One for Each Day in April. Post a poem a day on your library’s website or Facebook page and in your library.

School Library Month
School Library Month is the American Association of School Librarians’ celebration of school librarians and their programs. Every April school librarians are encouraged to create activities to help their school and local community celebrate the essential role that strong school library programs play in a student’s education career. The 2014 theme is Lives Change @ your library.  Invite local elected officials to your school library during April. Click here for posters and web graphics.

Maya Angelou’s Birthday (April 4, 1928)
Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. She is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. Place a poster in the stacks next to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to commemorate Dr. Angelou’s birthday. For more information go to http://mayaangelou.com

National Beer Day (April 7)
When the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 7, 1933, thirsty customers could buy a beer that was 3.2 percent alcohol by weight instead of the “near beer” they had suffered with all through Prohibition. The public lined up on “New Beer’s Eve” (April 6) at breweries in 20 states and Washington, DC, and purchased 1.5 million barrels. April 7 has remained an unofficial holiday celebrating beer in the U.S. Do you have a book on home-brewing? This is your chance to highlight it. Do you know someone that brews beer or collects beer cans?  This would be a great program to bring in a different crowd. Be sure to check local requirements for a liquor license if you are planning on any tasting.

Home Run Record Set by Hank Aaron (April 8, 1974)
Henry Aaron hit the 715th home run of his career, breaking the record set by Babe Ruth in 1935. Playing for the Atlanta Braves, Aaron broke the record at Atlanta in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He finished his career in 1976 with a total of 755 home runs. This record was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007, but it is April, and we are all ready for some baseball. Display books about baseball and baseball players along with a bat, ball, and glove. Batter up!!

National Library Week (April 13-19, 2014)
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our national’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. Judy Blume is this year’s Honorary Chair. Go to http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibraryweek for promotional material.

Earth Day (April 22)
Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970, with the message “New Energy for a New Era.” This observance is intended to focus attention on the transition to renewable energy worldwide. Display books about the environment and recycling. For more information, go to www.earthday.org.

Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 24, 2014)
Choose a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others throughout the day. This is a great chance to highlight your poetry books. Display them with information about this day, index cards, and some pens or pencils. That way people can find and write down a poem to carry with them.

BONUS Nebraska Event: Nebraska Book Festival (April 25-26, 2014)
The Festival will be held in Omaha and is free and open to everyone who wishes to meet, hear, and talk with a few of Nebraska’s many talented authors who have published new works. You can request a poster from the Nebraska Library Commission. Go to http://bookfestival.nebraska.gov for complete information.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for even more display ideas.

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Out of the Office

I will be out of the office from February 27 – March 4. Kay will be here Monday – Thursday mornings. Please leave a telephone message or send an email to Kay for the quickest response.

I will be back in the Office on Wednesday, March 5.


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Books to Read

…when I have time.

I found a couple more titles to add to my ever-growing list of books that look too good to pass up.

defending jacobDefending Jacob, by William Landay
(Delacorte, 2012)
ISBN: 978-0385344227

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Synopsis from Amazon.com. See http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Jacob-Novel-William-Landay/dp/0385344228/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392844408&sr=8-1&keywords=defending+jacob for complete information.


nightwoodsNightwoods, by Charles Frazier
(Random House, 2011)
ISBN: 140006709X

A woman living in an abandoned rural lodge is suddenly forced to raise her dead sister’s two wild young children. Neither of them has spoken a word since witnessing their mother’s brutal murder, and they’ve developed a fondness for breaking things and starting fires. These mute, trouble-making kids are among Charles Frazier’s finest characters. And when their ne’er-do-well father is acquitted and released from jail, the action in this lush and lively novel flares. With sharp dialogue, unexpected humor, and a powerful ability to depict the scents and sounds of loamy Carolina backwoods, while toying with fire and water as his themes, Frazier has crafted an impressive story, proving that Cold Mountain was no fluke.

Review by Neal Thompson on Amazon.com. See http://www.amazon.com/Nightwoods-A-Novel-Charles-Frazier/dp/B00AK3MG2C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392845097&sr=8-1&keywords=nightwoods for complete details.

As I was reading this description, I realized why this book sounded kind of familiar. RVLS owns the audiobook. Now I can just listen to it when I have time!

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Cheryl Ahrens Retires

Cheryl Ahrens RetirementLong-time Library Director for Arapahoe Public Library Cheryl Ahrens retired recently. The Library Board and community held a day-long Open House on Tuesday, January 28. Certificates of appreciation were awarded to past Library Board members and others that have supported the Library over the years. Cheryl also received many expressions of appreciation from the community. Cheryl intends to travel and has plans to volunteer for a number of organizations, including the library, during her retirement.

Jennifer Einspahr was welcomed as the new Library Director in Arapahoe. Cheryl jokingly called the Open House an “Out With the Old and In With the New” party. Jennifer has been working with Cheryl for some time and is ready to take the reins.

We wish Cheryl a happy and relaxing retirement and hope that she won’t be a stranger!

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March Display Ideas

March means March Madness to many people. Display basketball books with a ball and a backboard and hoop (if you can find one not on a pole) along with the slogan “A Great Book is Always a Slam Dunk.” Add the tournament bracket and keep it updated with the winners. Here are ten more ideas for displays in March:

National Women’s History Month
This month provides a time for reexamining and celebrating the wide range of women’s contributions and achievements that are too often overlooked in the telling of U.S. History. This year’s theme, Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment, honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women. Display biographies of famous American women. Go to www.nwhp.org for more information and material.

National Sing with Your Child Month
This month is a special time to celebrate the joy of families singing, dancing, and making music together. Family music-making supports children developmentally and helps form everlasting family bonds. Display your children’s music CDs and DVDs along with sheet music. This might even work into a multi-generational program. Invite a local music or preschool teacher to have a family sing-along at the library.

NEA’s Read Across America Day (March 3, 2014)
Since Dr. Seuss’s Birthday in on Sunday this year, the 17th annual Read Across America Day is set for Monday, March 3, 2014. The Seussical celebration will kick off a week of reading across the nation as students, parents, and community members gather to share their love of reading. See the RVLS Pinterest Board for Dr. Seuss-themed ideas.

National Grammar Day (March 4)
Language is something to celebrate, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4th to speak well, write well, and help others do the same! Display your books about grammar along with some dictionaries. Visit http://www.nationalgrammarday.org/ for fun articles, myths, teaching materials and tips related to grammar. They even have a theme song on YouTube!

Will Eisner’s Birthday (March 6, 1917)
One of the greatest comic book/graphic artists, William Erwin Eisner was born at Booklyn, NY. In a career spanning eight decades, Eisner created the popular and innovative Spirit comic book, started an educational comic book business, taught legions of students graphic narrative techniques, and created the first graphic novel. The Eisner Awards were created in his honor in 1988. Create a poster about Will Eisner and display it with your graphic novels in the teen area.

Genealogy Day (March 8)
Climb into your family tree. Jiggle a few branches. Start piecing together your personal history today via one of the world’s fastest-growing hobbies, genealogy. Invite your local genealogy group to prepare a display. Go to http://www.familytreetemplates.net/ for more than 100 family tree templates you can download and print for free.

Teen Tech Week (March 9-15)
Teen Tech Week is when libraries make the time to showcase all of the great nonprint resources and services that are available to teens and their families.  This year celebrate with the “DIY @ your library” theme. Demonstrate the value your library gives to the community by offering teens a space to extend learning beyond the classroom where they can explore, create and share content. Go to http://teentechweek.ning.com/ for ideas and resources.

St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)
Display a varied assortment of books with green covers or green lettering on the covers. Prepare a sign (printed in green, of course) that says “Reading of the Green (Books, That is!)”

National Puppy Day (March 21)
National Puppy Day is a special day to celebrate the puppies in our lives and rescue the ones who need a good home. Go to http://www.nationalpuppyday.com/ to find the Top 20 Puppy Names of 2014. Display that list with picture books of dogs and puppies.

Harry Houdini’s Birthday (March 24, 1874)
This magician is best known for his ability to escape from locked restraints (handcuffs, straitjackets, coffins, boxes and milk cans). Celebrate his birthday with a display of magic books. You could add a cape, top hat (complete with a rabbit puppet), and magic wand for an eye-catching presentation.

BONUS Nebraska Display—On March 1, 1867, Nebraska entered the union and became the 37th state. This is a chance to get out and display all of your Nebraska History materials.

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