The Reading Nook – June 2021

Jennifer Robson’s Our Darkest Night takes us to the heart of Nazi-occupied Italy in World War II. Here a young Jewish woman finds refuge in the home of a priest-turned-farmer who agrees to pretend that she’s his new bride. The couple must not only fool their neighbors in a close-knit Italian village, but also the suspicious Nazi official who already has a vendetta against the former priest.

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams combines a mystery with early Australian history when two hundred Englishwomen are forced onto a convict ship headed towards Australia in 1841. All the women have been convicted of petty crime, but only one is willing to commit murder to escape.

Nazis ruin everything once again in Kristy Cambron’s The Paris Dressmaker. Spanning the four years of Nazi occupation in France, this book focuses on two women, one a gifted dressmaker who infiltrates the upper echelon of the Nazi elite in Paris and the other a gifted spy for the resistance who investigates the dressmaker’s disappearance.

The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh has one of the most unique premises I’ve ever seen set in that popular World War II genre. Here a young zookeeper named Hettie finds a new lease on life when she takes charge of Violet, a new elephant in a Belfast zoo. Unfortunately, her new job coincides with the German blitz of Belfast in 1941, sending Hettie on a mission to protect her elephant charge.

While Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground is not strictly speaking a new 2021 novel—he originally wrote it in the 1940s—but this is the first year that the whole novel will be fully published. This novel explores the story of a Black man in a Chicago neighborhood who is randomly picked up after a local murder and tortured until he confesses to the crime. At which point, he escapes to the sewers below the city.

America’s early Puritan history has a fascinating dark underbelly and Chris Bohjalian’s Hour of the Witch dives right in to explore it. Mary could have had her pick of men in the Old World, but in America, she’s the new wife of the Widower Thomas, a powerful but vindictive pillar of the community. When an act of incredible violence drives Mary to seek a divorce, she finds herself at the center of a witch hunt.

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams centers on a family mystery in the heart of the Cold War. Here a woman and her American family disappear from their London home, eventually driving her twin sister behind the Iron Curtain to try to figure out what happened to them.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris is a fascinating glimpse into the last days of the Civil War. Two brothers, recently freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, take temporary refuge on the farm of a grief-stricken couple who lost their son to the war. Meanwhile, two Confederate soldiers, who are secretly lovers, return home and attempt to hide their relationship from their community.

I think most librarians are drawn to stories about librarians and The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray looks like a great one. This book takes the real story of Belle da Costa Greene, J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, and explores her rise to power in New York society while trying to hide the fact that she is not Portuguese but actually a light-skinned Black woman.

I am absolutely dying to read Kristen Harmel’s The Forest of Vanishing Stars when it comes out in July. In this novel, a child is stolen from her German parents and raised in a survivalist’s paradise until her kidnapper dies in 1941. After that, the young woman continues to live her solitary existence until a group of Jewish refugees finds their way into her forest.

Digital Initiatives on LibGuides

Digital Initiatives has a new home! Well, online that is. Digital Initiatives has launched a new page for itself on the LibGuides account of the North Dakota State Library (NDSL). If you have saved or bookmarked the previous URL, it will not work. Here is the new link: You can also find it linked on the Services for Libraries and Education page of NDSL’s website. 

According to the company’s website, LibGuides is “an easy-to-use content management system deployed at thousands of libraries worldwide. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information, organize class and subject-specific resources, and to create and manage websites.” If you’re not familiar with NDSL’s LibGuides account, now is the time to familiarize yourself. It has many guides that contain information and resources on a wide variety of topics. 

Back to Digital Initiatives. LibGuides was selected to host the Digital Initiatives page because it’s a robust and user-friendly platform. It provided more opportunities to share content and resources. 

On the homepage, you’ll find a brief overview of the Digital Initiatives department and a list of quick links for your convenience. At the top, you’ll notice the blue menu bar. This has a list of all the pages (and subpages) that are part of the guide. 

Some notable pages include Digital Collections, DPLA, ScanDay, Resources, and Digital Projects Toolkit. The Digital Collections page includes an overview of all NDSL’s digital collections, featured content, and collection guides; and each collection also has its own subpage. DPLA has information on the Digital Public Library of America and NDSL’s involvement with it. The ScanDay page contains information about all the various aspects of the ScanDay program. Like the title suggests, resources are comprised of resources on various topics, such as archiving, genealogy, hardware, software, and oral histories. The Digital Projects Toolkit is a handy guide for any library that is interested in starting a digitization project. Libraries that are currently engaged in such projects will also find it useful. The toolkit covers the basics of cultural heritage digitization projects. Each of the sections listed below includes practical tools, guidelines, examples, and resources for more in-depth learning. 

At the bottom of each page on the guide, you’ll find the colorful social media-ish icons that Digital Initiatives uses. Clicking on the icons will redirect you to the “Follow & Subscribe” page, which has additional information about each platform. 

There are also many other aspects of this new Digital Initiatives page, such as information about services, projects, policies and procedures, donations, guides, tutorials, etc. Check it out today! 

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a temporary FCC program to help households struggling to afford internet service during the pandemic. When Americans were sent home during the height of the pandemic and adopted to telecommuting and online schooling, reliable, high-speed broadband became essential. As FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated, “Broadband is no longer nice to have, it’s need to have.” 

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.  

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

There are three ways for eligible households to apply:

  1. Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process.
  2. Go to to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
  3. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to:

Emergency Broadband Support Center 
P.O. Box 7081 
London, KY 40742

After receiving an eligibility determination, households can contact their preferred service provider to select an Emergency Broadband Benefit eligible service plan.

The Reading Nook – May 2021

In The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner, Dellaria (Delly) is a charismatic thief who cons her way into a gig protecting a wealthy young woman. Delly assumes the job will be a breeze but, when a series of magical attacks occur, she must team up with a fellow bodyguard to keep her client—and her job—safe.

C.K. McDonnell’s The Stranger Times takes place in Manchester, where a weekly publication supposedly chronicles the dangers of a secret magical world but is really run by a drunk charlatan and his crew of con artists. However, tragedy strikes close to home, the reporters of The Stranger Times are forced to do what they never thought they would—investigate a real magical mystery.

I’m a big fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so I was extremely intrigued by S.T. Gibson’s A Dowry of Blood. Here the focus is on Dracula’s three anonymous brides, starting with a medieval peasant who is rescued by a mysterious stranger and drawn into a dark and terrifying new world.

Nicole Glover’s The Conductors is a fantasy novel set in a period that normally doesn’t get attention in this genre, post-Civil War America. Here we follow Hetty, a former conductor for the Underground Railroad who settles in Philadelphia after the war and begins using her magic to solve mysteries in her new home.

In Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister, Jessamyn didn’t want to become a medium. She didn’t want to move back to Malaysia or help her dead grandmother enact her revenge against the gang leader who insulted her god. However, Jessamyn quickly learns that she doesn’t have much choice as her grandmother’s god won’t take no for an answer.

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman takes one desperate, talented thief and puts him in the path of the worst person to try to rob. After barely surviving the encounter, the thief teams up with his mark—a veteran soldier on a mission to find her missing queen—and the two set out on a journey across a goblin-infested land.

Fans of Mulan will find a lot to love in Shelley Parker-Chan’s upcoming She Who Became the Sun. Here a smart and ambitious young woman assumes her dead brother’s identity and goes to live in a monastery as a monk. However, her peaceful life is shattered once again when the monastery is attacked and she must take on the prophesized greatness that was once meant for her brother.

Let’s face it, villains are usually more interesting than heroes. Their songs are better, their outfits are cooler, and they have the best lines. Cameron Johnston embraces this truism in The Maleficent Seven when the evil general who once abandoned her plans for world domination reassembles her team of miscreants to do something that none of them really want to do—save the world from people like them.

T.J. Klune’s Under the Whispering Door doesn’t come out until September, so I have way too many months before I can read this quirky romantic fantasy. Here a man named Wallace is escorted to a charming village after his death to meet the ferryman, who is supposed to help him cross over. Instead, Wallace decides he wants to stay with the ferryman and live the life he didn’t get to when he was alive.

Copyright and Digitization

Concluding our copyright series (for now), this month’s column will focus on copyright and digitization.

Copyright is a major factor that needs to be considered before starting a digital project. It can make or break a project. You don’t want to devote a considerable amount of time digitizing something, only to discover that you cannot share the item online due to copyright. Sure, you probably listened to several good podcasts while scanning, but besides that, was it worth the effort if you cannot do anything with the scan? You also don’t want to get yourself into legal trouble with the rights holder by making something available online.

This is why a lot of digitization projects will focus on items in the public domain. What is the public domain? According to the United States Copyright Office, a “work of authorship is in the ‘public domain’ if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works that are in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

Determining the copyright status of an item, such as a book, can be tricky. Over the years, federal copyright law has been changed and updated numerous times. As a result, copyright has become complex.

So, should we just live in fear of copyright and never digitize anything? No! Primary and secondary sources are needed online like never before. To make things easier, Digital Initiatives has created five (relatively) simple steps to follow for determining copyright. Disclaimer: Even though I’ve watched a lot of Law & Order: SVU and read a couple of John Grisham novels, I’m not a lawyer, so don’t ask me any legal questions, and any tips provided should not be considered legal advice.

Step 1: Evaluate the item. If possible, determine the date that the item was created or published. For books, look for a publication date or copyright notice (this will come in handy later). Ask yourself: Was this item ever published or registered? For books, the answer is likely ‘yes.’ In the case of a letter, for example, it’s unlikely that it was ever published or registered in the U.S.

Step 2: Evaluate the copyright. Use the all-powerful Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States resource from the Cornell University Library. This resource is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I recommend bookmarking the page and using it frequently. Use this resource to determine the category of the item (published/ registered, unpublished/ unregistered, etc.). Then, look at the dates, conditions, and copyright term to get your answer.

Step 3: Do additional research. In some cases, additional copyright research will be required beyond the resource from Cornell. You may need to search the various copyright catalogs, or search a copyright renewal database, to see if the item was ever copyrighted later or if the copyright was renewed.

Step 4: Get permission. If you are not sure if an item is protected by copyright or not, get permission from the owner/ creator/ rights holder. Have them sign a permission form.

Step 5: Include a rights statement. If your digital content will be made publicly accessible online, it’s best practice to provide a rights statement that clearly identifies and explains the copyright status of the item.

As always, feel free to contact Digital Initiatives/ me (Trevor) with any questions.

Reading Nook – Nonfiction

I’ll start this list with what’s my favorite book so far in 2021, Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu. Aftershocks is a beautifully written memoir by a writer who lived all over the world, thanks to her Ghanaian father’s job in the UN. Owusu takes a specific time in her life—the week she spent in her room following a shattering fight with her stepmother—and goes back and forth through the different places she lived and the complicated relationships she had with her absentee mother, her controlling stepmother, and her beloved father, who died when she was thirteen.

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs takes three remarkable women—Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little—and discusses their trials and tribulations as Black mothers in the Jim Crow era. Their stories would be interesting by themselves, but these three particular women raised three men who grew to shape a generation—James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.

When Suleika Jaouad graduated from college, she thought she was about to start her real life. Instead, she learns that she has leukemia and spends the next four years in the hospital trying to survive. When she emerges on the other side, Jaouad realizes she had no idea what she is supposed to do next. Between Two Kingdoms follows her on a road trip across America, meeting with the strangers who had reached out to her in the hospital.

I’m frankly obsessed with books about productivity, so I was excited to see a new one on the horizon in Cal Newport’s A World Without Email. Newport believes that our inbox-driven work culture is actually making us poorer (and more anxious) workers than our forebears and suggests alternatives to the constant availability and chatter that’s grown to define the modern workplace.

Walter Isaacson is a familiar name to nonfiction lovers, and he returns with another thick biography about a fascinating personality. The Code Breaker explores the life of Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, creator of CRISPR, a DNA-editing tool that’s transformed conversations about genetic modification. The Code Breaker talks about Doudna’s path toward the creation of CRISPR and her role in speaking about its moral ramifications for the future.

By the time I was 20, I had locked my keys in my car so many times that my parents gifted me with a magnetic lock box on my 21st birthday, which I could put a spare key in and stick to a discrete part of my car. I promptly lost this box. My inability to remember basically anything makes me the perfect audience for Lisa Genova’s Remember, a fascinating work of cognitive science that explains how memories are made—and subsequently lost—in our imperfect human operating system.

There’s something incredibly compelling and human about stories of survival, especially when paired with stories of exploration. Julian Sanction’s Madhouse at the End of the Earth ties them both neatly together with a story of one of the first polar expeditions, one that went tragically wrong when the young caption of the Belgica had to decide if they would return home when his exploration ship began breaking down or if they would press forward into Antarctica. His inexperienced decision would subsequently leave his ship and crew trapped for months in the icy grip of the world’s coldest continent.

Mary Roach’s newest book Fuzz is sadly still many months away. With a release date of September, fans of the bestselling author of pop science books like Stiff and Packing for Mars will have to wait a bit to read her exploration of what happens when normal wildlife activities come into conflict with normal human civilization, such as when bears perform a little breaking and entering or when terrifyingly large moose decide to jaywalk across major roads.

Preservation Week 2021

Preservation Week is coming! What is Preservation Week? It’s a week-long event sponsored annually by ALA’s Association of Library Collections & Technical Services. Preservation Week “inspires actions to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archive collections. It also raises awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions can play in providing ongoing preservation education and information” (About Preservation Week).

The event and the need to promote preservation were born out of a survey that was conducted several years ago. Thousands of institutions responded to the survey, and the results were shocking. In the United States, cultural heritage institutions hold almost 5 billion items (books, documents, photographs, drawings, maps, textiles, paintings, etc.), over 60% of which are housed within libraries. Over 1 billion of these items were deemed to be at risk or in danger of damage. This survey is over 15 years old, so these numbers are likely even higher now.

The survey does not include the millions (or perhaps billions) of additional items held by individuals. These items are equally at risk if not properly cared for.

Libraries are encouraged to “use Preservation Week to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections” (The Importance of Preservation Awareness).

Thankfully, libraries do not have to reinvent the wheel to commemorate Preservation Week. The event’s website provides a list of easy, low-cost ideas to celebrate. Every library is encouraged to participate, even if it’s something small. It can be as simple as uploading a Preservation Week image to your social media or website or providing handouts for your patrons. And if you’re feeling inspired, there is even a list of ideas for programs and events that can be hosted throughout the year.

The Preservation Week website also includes information and resources on “saving your stuff,” which is useful for both libraries and individuals.

2021’s Preservation Week runs from April 25 to May 1. Visit the Preservation Week website to learn more. You can also contact the Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library if you have any questions.

Kit-ing Around

This month, we are highlighting one of the State Library’s newest book club kits: Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones.

In a deeply reflective look at both the American opioid epidemic and the growth of black tar heroin in the United States, Sam Quinones brings the reader along for an in-depth tale of drug trafficking, Oxycontin, and Purdue Pharma which preyed on the addiction of the vulnerable. Quinones’ penetrating narrative nonfiction novel has been equally praised and attacked for being dispassionate and enlightening. Readers are sure to appreciate his investigative journalism and style.

“Most relapse comes not from the craving for the drug. It comes from this whole other level of unmanageability, putting myself in compromising situations, or being dishonest, being lazy—being a fifteen-year-old.”—Sam Quinones.

This kit comes with ten books, one discussion guide, and one sign-in sheet.

Kits can be checked out for eight weeks and reserved up to one year in advance. Book club kits can check out to libraries or individual patrons; no more than three kits can be checked out at one time. Kits for schools or classroom use need to be checked out by the Library Media Specialist. To see when this book club is next available, check out KitKeeper.

Copyright – Free and Legal Stock Images

Continuing with our copyright series, this month, we’ll take a look at free and legal stock images.

Finding the perfect picture to put on your website, brochure, or Facebook page can also be tricky. It gets even more difficult if you’re making sure your images are legal to use. Wait, we can’t use any image that we find online? That’s right! Because of copyright, you legally cannot use any online image, like those found on Google. On Google, since we’re on that topic, you’ll notice a disclaimer when you click on an image. It will say something like, “Images may be subject to copyright. Learn More.”

Using these images opens your library up to possible lawsuits for copyright infringement. Instead, look for images that fall into Public Domain or have a Creative Commons license.

What is the public domain? According to the United States Copyright Office, a “work of authorship is in the ‘public domain’ if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

Stanford University Libraries explains there 4 common ways that works enter into the public domain: copyright has expired, copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules, copyright law does not protect this type of work, and copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain.

This method leads us to Creative Commons licenses. These licenses allow creators to waive and reserve certain rights regarding their work. This may include: if the image can be used for commercial purposes, if it needs creator attribution, and so on.

So, what can be done? Do I have to go back to using Office clip art for my library’s marketing? Please, no.

There are many websites available online that are full of free and ready-to-use images (as long as you follow the licensing restrictions) to make your library’s website, social media, or marketing materials a little more beautiful. Consult the Free and Legal Stock Images page on the North Dakota State Library’s LibGuides for a list of commonly used websites for free images.

Reading Nook – March 2021

I might be the most excited this year to read Stina Leicht’s Persephone Station, partly because the cover is so great but also because I love a scuzzy space bar. Here, the leader of a band of semi-honorable criminals takes a job from the owner of said scuzzy space bar and goes to war with the corporation that wants to exploit their planet.

Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit is being described as a sci-fic romance with a murder mystery at the center, which is a lot of great tastes together. In Winter’s Orbit, a charming prince is rushed into an arranged marriage with his murdered cousin’s widower, a reserved young ambassador who is trying to prevent intergalactic war.

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey revolves around one great idea: what if you could see into the future? In this story, two best friends invent a computer that can connect to the Internet—one year from now. With their device, people could check their future social media, which makes the friends a hot commodity and forces them to confront dangerous truths about the future of mankind.  

Kate Hope Day’s In the Quick also has a great cover, so we’re spoiled for options this year when it comes to displaying our books. It also has a great plot: June is a mechanically-gifted but socially-awkward space engineer who is driven by her desire to find her uncle’s lost spacecraft, a drive that puts her in the path of her uncle’s brilliant protégé.

In S.B. Divya’s Machinehood, humanity deals with the rising supremacy of artificial intelligence by giving themselves a chemical advantage in the form of addictive pills that make people smarter and stronger. Here a bodyguard named Welga finds herself in conflict with a half-human/half-machine terrorist group called The Machinehood who wants to end pill production around the world.

Kazuo Ishiguro returns for the first time since winning the Nobel Prize in 2017 with another speculative fiction novel called Klara and the Sun. Klara is an Artificial Friend, programmed with advanced observational skills that teach her about the world from the browsers in her store as she waits for someone to buy her as a companion/toy for a child.

The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes is the first book in a series about a group of outcast soldiers—The Sentinels—sent to “protect” the edge of the universe. The assignment is a clear excuse to get rid of the people the military doesn’t want, but when the universe starts collapsing in on itself, the Sentinels become humanity’s first, and last, defense against annihilation.

In Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Firebreak, corporate greed is taken to nightmarish proportions with a world that is fully owned and operated by corporations. Mallory is an orphan from the wars that upended the planet and struggles to survive while playing a hugely popular VR war game featuring celebrity super-soldiers grown and owned by America’s ruling corporation. When she discovers that these soldiers are real people stolen during the war as children, she decides she must defy the most powerful company in the world.

Like a lot of people, I was a huge fan of Andy Weir’s The Martian, so I was excited to see a release date this year for his new book, Project Hail Mary. In this, Ryland Grace wakes up on a spaceship with no memory and two corpses. He slowly realizes that he’s been asleep for a long time and that he was on an important mission to save the planet, a mission he can barely recall but must complete to save humanity.