Public Libraries Survey 2021 – Two Spreadsheets

Two spreadsheets were added to the Resources section of the Public Libraries Survey LibGuide this week.

If you have filled out the Public Libraries Survey (PLS) in the past, you are familiar with the first one: 2021 Online Library Resource (OLR) Usage. This is where you find your library’s calendar year usage for the online resources provided via the state, either from the North Dakota State Library or from ODIN. For directors who are newer to the Survey, online library resource is the formal term for database.

If you subscribe to any OLRs directly, such as TumbleBooks, CreativeBug, or Prenda, please remember to add those usage numbers to the total on the spreadsheet.

If you need to access your numbers from prior calendar years, we archive those on the Database Usage Statistics page of the State Library’s website, under the For Libraries tab. You can also see your library’s month-to-month usage numbers here.

The second spreadsheet is a new one: Legal Service Area (LSA) Populations per 2020 U.S. Census. The Legal Service Area population field on the PLS is prefilled by the State Library, but we would appreciate you reviewing the information on the spreadsheet for accuracy, particularly if you are not a county library.

There are two tabs to the spreadsheet. The By Library tab lists each library and our understanding of their service area. The second tab, By City, lists all North Dakota communities, sorted by county. If there are any small nearby communities for which you formally provide service, please let us know so we can update your total service population. Formally providing service means that you either receive some sort of revenue for granting cards to residents of that community (it does not have to be tax revenue) or you have a contract to grant them cards. If you simply serve everyone in your county, you can skip this step. This information assists us not just with this year’s PLS, but with State Library initiatives to identify all the areas of the state that are not currently served by a public library.

Please contact the new State Data Coordinator, Kristen Northrup, with any questions, concerns, or requests for future article content at or 701-328-4681.

Student Writing Contests

Do you have young authors among your students? If so, there are various opportunities available for them to hone and display their talents!

Prairie Public PBS KIDS Writers Contest

Prairie Public PBS KIDS Writers Contest is taking entries of stories from kindergarten through third-grade students. Tales must be submitted by February 28, 2022. One story per child, and each piece might be written by a single author (no co-authoring). All participants will receive a Certificate of Achievement. Top stories from each grade level will win prizes and be featured on PBS radio and online. For more information, visit

Promising Youth Writers Program through the National Council of Teachers of English

This competition is open to eighth-grade students. Each student must submit both a Best Writing and a Themed Writing piece. The theme of 2022 is “Exploring Boundaries.” The Best Writing pieces may encompass any theme. For more information, view

Carl Sandburg’s Home National Historic Site’s Annual Student Poetry Contest

The Carl Sandburg’s Home invites students grades third through twelfth to submit a poem with this year’s theme of “ambition.” Poems must be postmarked by March 1, 2022, and winners will be notified in early April. For more information, see

Write the World

Write the World offers monthly writing contests based upon a topic or genre. One unique aspect of Write the World’s program is that students may submit their rough drafts, receive feedback from professionals in the writing and education fields, and then resubmit a final draft. These contests are open to pupils ages 13 to 18. Young writers may submit pieces for publication and cash prizes. For more information, visit

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – Alliance for Young Artists and Writers

Scholastic’s writing competition is open to students in seventh grade through senior year of high school. There is a $7 application fee; however, a financial waiver is available. Students may submit works under the genres of critical essay, dramatic script, flash fiction, journalism, personal essay & memoir, science fiction & fantasy, humor, novel writing, poetry, and short story. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards has wrapped up for the year 2022; students may provide pieces late this year for judging in early 2023. For more information, turn to  

Opportunities to Encourage Non-competitive Writing

These writing competition opportunities are just a snippet of those available for K-12 students in North Dakota and the larger United States. Even without students submitting their creations for contest purposes, there are plenty of ways to encourage writing! Journaling, blackout poetry, finish the story, and Mad Libs are just some of the simple (and fun) methods for library or classroom use.

Some Resources with Lesson Plans or Tips and Tricks

Read Write Think’s “Strategy Guide to Persuasive Writing for Elementary Students” –

University of Oregon’s PIZZAZ (Poetry and fiction tips and tricks for all ages) —

Edutopia’s “4 Ways to Help Student Writers Improve” —

“The Writing Road: Reinvigorate Your Students’ Enthusiasm for Writing” published at Reading Rockets —

“12 Lesson Plans for Teaching Writing to Secondary Students” published at Literacy Planet —

Happy Heart

My oldest niece called me today and said, “I’m going to make your heart happy.” She was right. She did make my heart happy when she said, “We got a library card.” I have been encouraging my niece, who is a new mom, to get her library card and to take her daughter to storytime or lapsit programs at the library as it’s a great opportunity to meet other parents with children in a similar age group. Several of the parents that attended storytime at the library I was first a director at are still friends, and their “kiddos” are now graduating high school, or already in college.

It is not a secret to anyone that knows me that I love libraries. I believe that libraries can meet the needs of all kinds of people from every walk of life and at every stage of life. It makes me happy that my niece has her first library card in many, many years, and her first card as an adult. Although she won’t check books out for her daughter until she is past the “books make a tasty snack” stage, I hope this will begin a lifelong love of libraries for my great-niece and her mom.

Libraries today are about so much more than just books. Books and audio-visual materials, in all formats, will always be a staple of what libraries offer in my opinion, but they are so much more than just book warehouses. It is important that we let everyone we communicate with know this. I have been encouraging, some may say pushing, my son, my nieces, and nephews the importance of using libraries for their whole lives. Some of them have had to be encouraged more than others, and some didn’t have to be encouraged when they were younger, but they do need to be encouraged now.

It is more important than ever that librarians, library staff, board members, provosts, principals, and other members of your institutions’ administration and Friends and Foundation members understand the value that your library provides and shares that value far and wide.

We touch patrons’ lives in so many ways and on so many levels with the services and resources that we provide. We need to be loud and proud of our libraries and the difference that we make for those that we serve. Shout it from the rooftops, whisper it in the wind, post it on social media. Take every opportunity you have and share your elevator speech. Help someone make your heart happy by ensuring they know all the reasons there are to get a library card.

Public Libraries Survey 2021 – Edit Checks

The Public Libraries Survey (PLS) has built-in error checking. These flags are set by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the survey cannot be submitted until they are all addressed. Generally, you resolve an edit check by entering an explanation in the notes box. An alternative is that the original response is actually incorrect, such as a typo, and then replacing that number will resolve the issue.

Most edit checks are generated when this year’s answer is significantly different than last year’s. That can be a sign of data being entered into the incorrect box or a mistyped number. The second most common reason for an edit check is math errors – when a field is supposed to represent a sum of two other fields but does not, for example. We try to avoid as many of these errors as possible by building in auto-calculated fields and will be adding more of those for 2021.

337 edit checks were generated on 2020’s PLS, and only 42 of those (12%) were COVID­-related. Most were calculation errors that can hopefully be resolved proactively for 2021.

Once the State Library submits the PLS results to IMLS, their staff does review all of the edit checks and requests further detail on any vague notes, so please make your notes more specific than ‘This is correct’ when possible. We are required to follow up on those.

Staffing questions are one of the most common edit checks that are not in error. When the library has no paid staff or when salaries are paid by a central office, the edit check because staff expenditures equals zero is unavoidable, and I’m afraid you’ll just need to make that note each year. However, we do also see frequent cases where either the number of paid staff is zero, but there is a dollar amount given for salaries or vice versa, so please keep an eye on reconciling those areas.

Any significant change in collection size will trigger an edit check. Also, when there is no change in collection size. We recognize that some collections (such as physical audio or video units) can be small enough that you really don’t add or remove any titles from one year to the next, but it will still need a note to that effect. Adding a large number of items due to a collection development grant will be an edit check, as will joining Library2Go in 2021 or conducting a large weeding project. Because there are so many different reasons, we just need a quick note as to which reason applies to your own collection.

For programs, there will be an edit check when the total number of programs offered is greater than the number of program attendees. We recognize that this really can happen, but a note is required. Please do continue to include zero-attendance programs in your stats.

If you are a new director or otherwise filling out the PLS for the first time, submitting a note like “This is my first year, and I don’t know how last year’s numbers were generated” is completely acceptable.

There was a glitch last year with edit checks being triggered for prefilled fields, which the libraries cannot really provide an explanation for. That should be fixed for 2021.

In other news, there is now a spreadsheet on the PLS LibGuide under Resources that illustrates the differences between 2020’s questions and 2021’s. We’ve received requests for a preview of the official 2021 survey, but that won’t be fully formatted and available until February 1. The questions themselves are set, however, and can be viewed in this file:  

Please contact the new State Data Coordinator, Kristen Northrup, with any questions, concerns, or requests for future article content at or 701-328-4681.

Folk and Fairy Tale STEAM Kits

Hello! Hopefully, you are back into the swing of things after winter break.

Let’s talk about hands-on learning opportunities! North Dakota State Library offers a variety of teaching tools. This week, I want to focus on the Fairy and Folk Tales STEAM Kits.  

Just a little general information about the kits. All kits have an 8-week checkout period. Three kits can be checked out at a time for one school. A school may request more than three kits at a time; however, they will not receive kits beyond the three until the State Library has received their other checked-out kits back. One member of staff, the library media specialist, should be checking kits out from NDSL. The State Library pays for the kits to be sent out to schools; schools pay for the kits to be returned.

The Fairy and Folk Tales STEAM Kits each contain a book, a Teacher’s Card, a Story Card, Student Task Cards, and manipulates for the students to conduct a STEAM challenge. Some of these kits come with puppets, some come with emotion mirrors, and some come with story wands. Fairy and Folk Tales STEAM Kits are intended to be used with primary students–grades second and third independently, kindergarten and first with adult assistance. 

Kits Available at NDSL
Castle Blocks
The Gingerbread Man
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Johnny Appleseed
Little Red Riding Hood
Paul Bunyan
The Three Billy Boats Gruff
Three Little Pigs

A Little Insight into Some of the Challenges

In the Johnny Appleseed Kit, students are challenged to build a fence, using nine logs or less, that encompasses the greatest number of trees. How many trees can YOUR fence protect?   

The Little Red Riding Hood Kit asks children to make a basket that will support the weight of 10 apples. Grandma’s awfully hunger, make sure she’s well-fed!  

The Three Billy Goats Gruff kit tests children’s ability to build a bridge that will support three goats as they walk safety above the troll. Better watch out, that troll can get pretty nasty!  

How to Check Out a Kit

  • If you decide to browse all the kits, change “All genres” (second button on the second row) to “Program” and click “Select.” This will show all the STEAM and STEM kits. (The STEM kits will be highlighted in another Teaching Tidbit.)
  • Once you have chosen to reserve a kit, you will be brought to a calendar page. The date you select is the date the kit will be checked out to you, not the date you will receive it. Kits can be shipped or picked up from the State Library.

  • Fill out your information, click the green “Reserve this Kit” button, and enjoy!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Welcome back! For this week’s Teaching Tidbit, I will be highlighting resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January; this year, that falls on the 17th. MLK, Jr., left quite a legacy of equality, caring, and peaceful resistance. While North Dakota schools are not in session during this holiday, classrooms and school libraries throughout the state will study his life, particularly his “I Have a Dream” speech. There are a variety of different resources available to celebrate Dr. King, Jr., both from the State Library and outside sources. 

YouTube Resources

Resources from NDSL


  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Clara Cella
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” by Tamra Orr       
  • I Have a Dream [electronic resource] by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The March on Washington by Margeaux Weston


  • A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney  
  • 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet by Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscoe.

Lesson Ideas