Book Club Spotlight – Hector’s Bliss

A unique aspect of our Book Club Collection here at the Commission is our focus on Nebraska authors, settings, and stories, housing the hidden gems of Nebraska literature and history! Today’s pick for the Book Club Spotlight, in particular, focuses on a relatively unknown part of Nebraska’s Black History. While we know the story of white pioneers and homesteaders, there was also the incredible journey of formerly enslaved people who became landowners, farmers, and a community in the Sandhills. Hector’s Bliss: Black Homesteaders at Goose Lake, Nebraska, by Dennis Vossberg, is a historical fiction novel based on the incredible history of Black Homesteaders, who, under false pretenses, persevered in the harsh farmland until drought and the Dust Bowl overcame the whole region.

In the late 1800s, at the height of legalized racial segregation, just south of O’Neil, Nebraska, there was the short-lived story of Bliss, and the Black community members who called it home. During the economic downturn caused by the end of the Civil War, the newly freed people were looking for a reliable place to land. As newly married Hector and Julia Dixon were floundering in a small mining town, land promoters arrived, falsely promising flourishing farmland and untapped coal veins awaited them in the far reaches of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Dixons and 13 other families unknowingly move to the desert-like plains to start anew. Besought by harsh conditions, poverty, and rural isolation, their community works hard to create a solid foundation for the future despite the conditions. As one of the more educated residents, Hector Dixon finds himself wearing many hats in Bliss, as a farmer, the integrated school’s teacher, the justice of the peace, and eventually a milk road delivery man, all to support his growing and tenacious family. Striving to find a balance between the life his children dream of and the one he has worked so hard to build.

He took a lingering gaze over the peaceful countryside, thinking of how transient were the human inhabitants of this land, and how triumphantly enduring was the land itself

Dennis Vossberg

Hector’s Bliss is a moving historical fiction crafted with love and respect for the subjects, and Book Club Groups will find value in learning about this little-known Nebraska history. They may even be encouraged to learn more. Covered in the Nebraska Public Media story, “Looking for Bliss,” the story of the Dixons and Bliss is virtually unknown. Hector’s Bliss brings to light Black history that has been erased from cultural memory, revealing a more full and beautiful world. We won’t really ever know how the Black Homesteaders were treated by their white compatriots as those details have been lost to time. So, while prejudice and racism are addressed, Vossberg chooses to focus the limited peril on the indomitable human spirit and the life these people worked to build after slavery. 

If you’re interested in requesting Hector’s Bliss for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 4 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Vossberg, Dennis. Hector’s Bliss. Morris Publishing. 2006

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech: Evolve Project: Shaping the Libraries of the Future

Brian Pichman of the Evolve Project will be Amanda’s guest on next week’s NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, February 28, at 10am CT.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Brian Pichman of the Evolve Project is the man behind the scenes, transforming how libraries engage with technology. Here at the Commission, he helped a lot with the Tech Kits Through the Mail. If you’ve gotten a kit from us, it’s because he tracks tech trends, works with tech gadget startups, and helps build solid strategies to connect communities with transformative technology.

Honestly, he’s helped me a lot over the years. But I can’t be selfish. I decided to share his expertise with you all! Turns out Brian does way more than I ever knew possible.

In this session we will get Brian talking about all the cool things he has going on:

  • Explore how his pilot programs of new games & gadgets are shaping the future of libraries through makerspaces, innovation spaces, and leading edge programming
  • Learn how Brian helps libraries embrace AI, VR and AR to revolutionize library services and enhance accessibility and engagement for all.
  • Discover his passion for open-source solutions to drive positive change, and his recent endeavors with ByWater Solutions, a leading provider of open-source library software.
  • Dig into his work with libchalk, a web hosting platform designed specifically to help libraries host digital content, websites, courses, and online resource libraries.

The real question is, what doesn’t he do? He can help your library too. Find out how.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • March 13 – Winning Grants for Your Library Programming
  • March 27 – Pretty Sweet Tech
  • April 3 – Improving the Quality of Childcare Through STREAM

To register for an NCompass Live show, or to listen to recordings of past shows, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website.

The show is presented online using the GoTo Webinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoTo Webinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel 

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

Mark Weiser

Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization begins with the dawn of human history, with the first fibers twisted into string, and ends with modern innovators creating new fibers and types of fabrics. The book is sectioned into seven chapters, each covering a certain step in the fiber-to-textile life cycle: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, and Innovators. Postrel’s core thesis: fabric was among our first technologies, and it was also our most crucial and defining technology — and it still is. “We hairless apes co-evolved with our cloth,” Postrel writes. “From the moment we’re wrapped in a blanket at birth, we are surrounded by textiles.”     

This book was absolutely fascinating. As a knitter, crocheter, and now a beginning spinner, part of my awe for the fiber crafts comes from their long-stretching history: from me, to my grandmother, to endless generations past. The way I spin yarn from wool, sitting on my couch in front of the TV in 2024, uses the same motions that would be familiar to someone in ancient history. Fibers spun into thread were necessary for the cloth needed for sails, clothing, blankets, political functions, military uniforms, and religious/cultural rituals. My burgeoning love of spinning is likely why Chapter 2: Thread was my favorite. Postrel’s breakdown of how long it would take spinners and their spindles from different eras to produce the thread that was so crucial for exploration, competition, commerce, and general livelihood was incredibly thorough. Take a moment to think about all the fabric around you right now. That fabric is composed of woven threads or knitted yarns. Today’s modern factories use heavy machinery to spin fibers into miles and miles of that thread for jeans, cotton shirts, and wool coats. For much of history, however, that process needed to be done entirely by hand. Much of the rest of the world’s economy could not work until the spinners did, and the quest to expedite the process drove inventions and innovations that had far-reaching effects on industries beyond that of textiles.     

At times, Postrel’s overview and analysis bottlenecks into myopia, and the occasional – but thankfully brief – insertions of her own personal experiences with the textile process were jarring. Postrel occasionally falls into a columnist’s cadence, sacrificing the distance of academic de rigueur for a more conversational tone. Another reader might appreciate the first-person connections and exposé-esque sections – a la How It’s Madeand I can certainly understand the reasoning behind her choice, but I did not find that these added much to the book.  

Her myopia, however, is less forgivable. Postrel would have crafted a more solid body of work had she matched the title with the true scope of her endeavor, and called the book The Fabric of Western Civilization. Industrial Revolution-era Europe and New England are centered far more prominently than I would have preferred. Postrel touches briefly on the interaction between the South’s cotton industry and England’s mills — even after the latter abolished slavery — but doesn’t spend as long on that connection, even though I feel it would have bolstered her argument about global commerce and economy. This was an especially disappointing flaw, especially given Postrel’s own definitions of “civilization,” including the fact that it is a cumulative process not bound to one region or culture; in fact, as Postrel does mention, exchange (willing and unwilling) is what drove the evolution of textiles and humanity both.   

Postrel also falls into the trap of rebuttal for the sake of novel arguments, which end up bordering on dismissal of broader historical truths: particularly and most egregiously in her argument about cotton in the Pre-Civil War South, singling out Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2013) and his statement that increased cotton production was caused by ever-intensifying brutality inflicted on enslaved people. Postrel counters that the production increase can be simply explained, instead, by advancements in both cotton stock and processing technologies. However, there is no reason why both cannot be true. The same root issue is also at play when she disregards the low-wages of the pre-industrial (and typically female) spinners as solely a business decision, devoid of the influence of gender and class politics. History is not a field with single-causes and single-effects.  

Part of the appeal of non-fiction to me, however, is actively engaging with the arguments that the author presents. A sense of wonder is important, but I also want to think about the topic and build my own perspective. And so, overall, I enjoyed the book. I listened to the audiobook read by Caroline Cole, but I do plan to check out the print copy from my local library, in order to explore Postrel’s footnotes and bibliography for further reading and learning opportunities.  

You can find “The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World” by Virginia Postrel is available for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available in our Book Club collection, permanent collection, and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

Postrel, Virginia. The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World. Basic Books/OrangeSky Audio, 2021.  

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Big Talk From Small Libraries 2024 is tomorrow!

Small libraries! Awesome ideas! FREE!

Join us tomorrow for the 2024 Big Talk From Small Libraries online conference. Registration is still open, so head over to the Registration page and sign up!

We have a full agenda for the day, with speakers from academic and public libraries presenting on a wide variety of topics: fundraising, Memory Cafes, summer reading, accessibility audits, afterschool meals programs, DEIB: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and much more.

This event is a great opportunity to learn about the innovative things your colleagues are doing in their small libraries.

And, Nebraska library staff and board members can earn 1 hour of CE Credit for each hour of the conference you attend! A special Big Talk From Small Libraries CE Report form has been made available for you to submit your C.E. credits.

So, come join us for a day of big ideas from small libraries!

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Throwback Thursday: African American Orchestra

Happy Black History month from Nebraska Memories, here’s another #ThrowbackThursday for you!

Dated December 8th 1937, this 8 x 10 acetate negative shows an orchestra of African American men playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska. There are ten men playing a variety of instruments all being led by their conductor and his baton.

This image is published and owned by The Durham Museum and is part of the William Wentworth collection. The collection contains over 4000 photo negatives depicting life in Omaha, Nebraska from 1934 – 1950.

See this collection and many more on the Nebraska Memories archive!

The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information.

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2024 One Book One Nebraska: Now Available on BARD!

Dancing with the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crimeby Debora Harding is now available on cartridge and for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

This memoir of native Nebraskan, Debora Harding, is all about a traumatic childhood event, the aftereffects of which would change her family forever. Harding expertly weaves the past with the present in a riveting story of survival and family dynamics.

“With remarkable narrative skill, Harding untangles the lingering effects of family dysfunction and criminal trauma. This is a page-turner with a deep heart and soul, full of forgiveness but demanding of accountability.”

BookPage, “Best Books of 2020: Memoirs

This title has been selected as the 2024 One Book One Nebraska. The program is now in its 20th year of bringing Nebraskans together for the reading and discussion of one great book written by Nebraska authors or that have a Nebraska theme or setting. Nearly every One Book One Nebraska winner is available on cartridge and for download on BARD.

The narration was done by Connie Healey, who has been volunteering for Talking Book and Braille for 10 years and received a Nebraska Library Association Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2022. The recording took over 30 hours in the studio and an additional 20 hours of post-production to prepare for our patrons. Connie has now read three One Book One Nebraska selections, the other two beingThe Bones of Paradiseby Jonis Agee andPrairie Forge by James J. Kimble.

TBBS borrowers can request “Dancing with the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crime,” DBC02052, or download it from the National Library Service BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. If you have high-speed internet access, you can download books to your smartphone or tablet, or onto a flash drive for use with your player. You may also contact your reader’s advisor to have the book mailed to you on cartridge.

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NCompass Live: Using Creativity to Grow & Develop

On next week’s NCompass Live, Justin Hoenke shares his experiences moving from the super creative world of youth services in libraries to the still creative but not the same kind of creative world of leading a library.

Sign up to join us for ‘Using Creativity to Grow & Develop’ on Wednesday, February 21, at 10am CT.

Justin discusses the pros and cons of moving into leadership and managing teams and how to use your creativity to engage your team and community.

About the Presenter: Justin Hoenke is a human being and a librarian. He’s worked in public libraries in the USA and New Zealand, and is currently looking for his next work-related adventure in life. His professional interests include creativity, youth services, public libraries as community centers, and content creation. He offers library consultancy services for public libraries and can be contacted at https://justinthelibrarian.com/

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Feb. 28 – Pretty Sweet Tech: Evolve Project: Shaping the Libraries of the Future
  • March 13 – Winning Grants for Your Library Programming
  • March 27 – Pretty Sweet Tech

To register for an NCompass Live show, or to listen to recordings of past shows, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website.

The show is presented online using the GoTo Webinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoTo Webinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Only One Week Until Big Talk From Small Libraries 2024!

Small libraries! Awesome ideas! FREE Online Conference!

There’s only one week until Big Talk From Small Libraries 2024!

Check out the full schedule and register to join us next Friday, February 23.

Sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), this free one-day online conference is tailored for staff from small libraries – the smaller the better! Each of our speakers is from a small library serving fewer than 10,000 people. This event is a great opportunity to learn about the innovative things your colleagues are doing in their small libraries.

Everyone is welcome to register and attend, regardless of how big or small your library. But, if your library serves a few hundred to a few thousand people, this is the day for you!

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Friday Reads, Mickey 7, by Edward Ashton

Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton is hard science fiction set in the far future. Mickey Barnes was born on a colony world where the hardest part of settling the colony is over. The planet is terraformed, and it’s safe to live there. Life is nearly ideal, except Mickey has no scientific or technical talents; he’s a historian on a world where everything can be looked up online. He does get a subsistence pay, but he’s gotten into deep debt, and needs to get off the planet, and there’s only one way off—the colony ship that’s been put together at great expense to the colony. Everything is weighed to the last milligram, and even the colonists pared down belongings aren’t allowed on, at the last minute. And his only way on is to become an “expendable.” The one member of the new colony that can die and be printed from a vat, with his mind transferred. You see, on the trip, and in the settlement, the robots they have can’t be replaced, but the expendable can. Plus, they have found, that the human body takes longer to shut down in adverse situations, like intense heat or radiation, than the electronic bots.

Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton


The story starts in real time stream, starting with Mickey 7, on the new colony world, an ice planet, falling down a crevice, and getting slightly (for him) injured. His air cover won’t come to help him, for fear of the creepers, the local life forms. He’s too deep to be rescued, but is rescued by a huge creeper, and set outside tunnels running under the planet’s surface. This is the source of the latest problem, when the air cover flyer got back to the settlement, he reported Mickey dead, so number 8 was printed. And Mickey 7 returned. The colony can’t support one more person, but neither want to die. There is a taboo about having more than one duplicate existing at a time. The explanation of the taboo, Mikey’s multiple deaths, and research into how other colonies have begun are the rest of the story. The author handles several heavy themes quickly, with humor. Where do you go for privacy, in a colony with just public spaces, with only under 200 people, when you can’t be in your room? Not being seen by the same people in overlapping times is much more difficult than one would suppose, and Mickey 8 is far less concerned about dying, that Mickey 7.


And then there are the creepers. When the planet was surveyed, it was done from their home planet. Since no industry was detected, and it seemed to have enough oxygen, and was just in the “Goldilocks zone” for life, it was thought habitable. When they got there, it was covered in ice, with unbreathable air. The creepers showed up, and seemed to be mere animals. However, Mickey discovers that their tunnels are evenly spaced at one hub. He has had a sneaking feeling for a while that they may be sentient. Which is just another of Mickey 7’s problems—to report, or not report. Especially since he believes, the leader of the expedition will not only end his life, but the indigenous life forms, too. So, of course, it gets much more complicated from there.


An interesting, and surprisingly funny stand alone, with some deep thinking hidden inside.

Mickey 7, by Edward Ashton, hardback, St. Martin’s Press, ISBN 978-1-250-27503-6, 27.99.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hold on to your husbands, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

This week’s BookFace, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel” by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Atria Books, 2017), is a hot ticket in our Book Club Kits Collection. It rarely spends time on the shelf!

Sometimes it can be difficult for book clubs to schedule and secure some of the more popular titles. If this happens to you often, we suggest using our Multiple Month – Year-At-A-Time Request Form. This allows us to help you plan out in advance your book club reads and get you in line for the most coveted titles. This title is available as an eBook and Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a popular author; NLC has two of her books in our Book Club Kits Collection and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has seven.

“The epic adventures Evelyn creates over the course of a lifetime will leave every reader mesmerized. This wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet and her tumultuous Tinseltown journey comes with unexpected twists and the most satisfying of drama.”

—PopSugar

Our model this week is a new addition to the Nebraska Library Commission! Welcome to Bailee Juroshek, our new Office Specialist for the Public Information and Communication department. She worked previously as a freelance illustrator and is originally from Ogden, Utah. When it comes to books Bailee said one of her favorite series is “The Kingkiller Chronicle” by Patrick Rothfuss, and that she “loves a detailed fantasy world that you can get lost in.” Outside of reading, her hobbies include playing DND, creating artwork, and singing karaoke. She has three cats that keep her busy at home. “Their names are Coco Bean, Lilith, and Azmo, and they’re all adorable little trouble-makers.” If you get the chance, say hello to Bailee!

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#ThrowbackThursday – Herpolsheimer Soda Fountain

Happy #ThrowbackThursday from Nebraska Memories!

This 8 x 10 glass plate negative is a snapshot from 1915 of the soda fountain inside the H. Herpolsheimer Company department store, located on the southwest corner of N and 12th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Patrons of the soda fountain had a variety of treats to choose from, including: Dickinson’s maple mousse, mallow bitter sweet chocolate sundaes, puritan ice cream, Coca-Cola, old fashion butter scotch, and boxes of Vassar chocolate.

This image is published and owned by Townsend Studio, which has been in continuous operation since its foundation in 1888 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The studio holds a collection of glass plate and acetate negatives of early Lincoln and its residents.

See this collection and many more on the Nebraska Memories archive!

The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information.

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Computers in Libraries 2024 (March 12- March 14)

I do an overview session of the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference every year on NCompass Live sharing all the latest trends, tools, and techy tips. This year I remembered to tell you about the conference ahead of time! If you’re wondering, CIL is a magical time of year where libraries come together to talk about all things technology.

This year (March 12-14) there are tons of sessions on AI in the library, website re-design, next-level makerspaces, building knowledge hubs, cybersecurity, creative partnerships, tech for marketing, innovation spaces, and everything your techy little heart desires. It’s my happy place. I’ll also be doing two sessions and a workshop if you’re interested.

The Nebraska Library Commission offers discounted rates for CIL registration. If it’s not in the cards for you this year, tune into my NCompass overview session on April 24, 2024. Or do both, it’s hard to catch everything.

Learn more about the Computers in Libraries Conference, or register on their website. It’s always in Crystal City, VA, a short train ride from the Smithsonian museums and all the attractions in D.C. if you want to multitask. Remember to grab the Commission’s discount code first!

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Book Club Spotlight – When Stars are Scattered

Cover for When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Two young Somali boys walk together, shoeless, through a encampment. They are smiling hopefully up at the night sky.

Happy Black History Month from Book Club Spotlight! The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which honors the incredible contributions of African Americans to culture, music, art, and literature. And what better combination of art and literature is there than graphic novels? So, to wrap up our mini-series, we will follow young Somali refugees displaced by civil war. Where the Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, is based on the childhood of Mohamed, who grew up in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The list of honors for this book is massive, including being a National Book Award Finalist, the School Library Journal Best Book of 2020, and a 2021-22 Golden Sower Chapter Book Nominee.

Omar and his brother Hassan have been in the Dadaab refugee camp for seven years! Without their parents, the boys live on their own, watched over by an aging foster mother, Fatuma. Having the responsibility of caring for himself and his nonverbal brother, everyday Omar must clean the floorless tent they sleep on, hide any valuables from thieves, and wait. Wait for water, wait for food, wait for his mother to find them, wait for the war to end, and wait to leave the refugee camp. When Omar gets a chance to attend school, he is far behind other children his age, and soon, the pressure of school and chores begins to make him angry and resentful. As he grows and becomes continually frustrated with his situation, he sees how everyone else is stuck just like him—especially the girls, who, like Omar, are burdened with too many responsibilities. With encouragement from his friends and community, Omar grows more confident in his abilities and in Hassan and starts dreaming about a future outside the camp. And one day, Omar’s and Hassan’s names are called for an interview with the UN for a chance to finally leave Dadaab, an exciting and terrifying possibility. 

“It was nice talking like this. Pretending we were normal kids, with normal futures to look forward too”

– Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Written for middle grades and up, all will be deeply moved by reading this graphic novel. With wars waging worldwide, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and powerless, and listening to stories of those going through these tough times matters. When Stars are Scattered is an excellent representation of the day-to-day life in refugee camps. Maybe your Book Club Group wants to learn more about what life is like for refugees, or your students have questions about what is happening to displaced children like them. Since moving to America, Mohamed has dedicated his life to serving his community back in Dadaab and improving the living conditions of refugees, especially young girls through his nonprofit foundation, Refugee Strong.

“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path. I hope my story will inspire you to always persevere.” 

Omar Mohamed

If you’re interested in requesting When Stars are Scattered for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Black Voices book club titles, visit here.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar. When Stars are Scattered. Penguin Random House. 2020

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United for Libraries Learning Live: Ask the Experts: Boards of Trustees, Friends Groups, and Foundations

All Nebraska public libraries are members of United for Libraries through the Statewide Group Membership purchased by the Nebraska Library Commission. The Commission provides this membership to ensure that public library staff members, Friends, Trustees, and Foundations can take advantage of United for Libraries’ services to enhance fundraising, advocacy, and public awareness.

United for Libraries Learning Live: Ask the Experts: Boards of Trustees, Friends Groups, and Foundations

Tues., Feb. 13, 1:00 PM (CST)

“A panel of experts will address common issues that arise among library Boards, Friends groups, and Foundations, and how to solve them. Featured panelists will be Brenda Langstraat Bui, President & CEO, Chicago Public Library Foundation; Nicolle Davies, Colorado State Librarian, and Dr. Andrew Smith, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University in Kansas, and past chair of the Emporia Public Library. Each panelist will present an in-depth scenario and provide tips and best practices. During a “lightning round” session, speakers will field questions from attendees.”

Registration and Details

Statewide Group Members receive FREE registration for the live webinars and on-demand access for the duration of the active statewide group membership. These “Learning Live” sessions are recorded and can be accessed through the United for Libraries eLearning course.

For more information, please visit: Previous “Learning Live” Sessions

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#BookFaceFriday “Main Character Energy” by Jamie Varon

Big #BookFace Energy!

There’s nothing like a good romance in February, especially if it’s all about learning to love yourself. This week’s #BookFace “Main Character Energy: A Novel” by Jamie Varon (Park Row, 2023) is the perfect book for those looking for a feel-good romance. This title is available as an eBook and an Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! You can find it along with 13,000 other titles in the Romance section on OverDrive. Did you know you can search the entire digital collection by subject, whether it’s as broad as Fiction and Nonfiction, or as niche as Self-Improvement or Mythology?

“Poppy is bright and complicated and utterly enchanting in Jamie Varon’s debut.”

—Ashley Poston, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Dead Romantics

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls by Angela Sterritt

Several years ago, I heard my dad scream in the middle of the night. It was such a foreign sound I thought it was leftover from the dream that had woken me up in the first place. I froze on high alert, listening. Nothing. I had nothing in my memory to compare the sound against, so it was easy to quietly dismiss the scream as a dream.

Months later, my dad and I were watching a movie about missing and murdered indigenous women and I found out my aunt had been murdered long before my life was even a possibility. He said the only time he ever screamed was that night when he woke up and saw her face next to his bed. The scream was real, and I did nothing. I didn’t know what to do with that information. I wanted to know more, but nobody ever speaks her name. The pain is still too great. There are probably others I don’t know about who were lost.

So I read Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls by Angela Sterritt, a Native journalist who grew up on the streets of Vancouver, Canada. I’ve read a lot on this topic. The book is part memoir and part investigative journalism as Sterritt blends together her own story of survival with the stories of those who were lost along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. This is a stretch of highway where more than 40 Indigenous went missing or were found murdered. I thought it would be hard to read, but it wasn’t. Each story is filled with an equal amount of love and heartache. As I read, I wondered about my aunt’s story.

Sterritt tells these stories because “She could have been me”. I share the book because this problem is bigger than Canada. My aunt was found in Seattle. In the state of Washington alone, in a single year, over 5,000 Indigenous women and girls went missing. In smaller numbers, similar stories can be found in Alaska and other parts of the nation. As Sterritt shared her experience of walking the same streets as these lost women, I realized that I probably walked on the same street where my aunt lost her life. I’ve been to that area in Seattle several times, often at night. The statistics were mind-boggling. The stories struck me to the core.

As I read deeper, I remembered my mom telling me that I shouldn’t wear my beaded earrings, even though I love making them. They make me feel good. She wouldn’t say why, but she was disturbingly adamant that I shouldn’t wear them. At the time, I interpreted this as disrespecting a heritage that wasn’t her own. I wore them secretly in rebellious Native pride. Now I realize I was missing vital information. My aunt was murdered by a serial killer targeting Native women in Seattle. On the wrong streets, those earrings make me a target. I still make and wear my beaded earrings proudly, but when the shadows come out at night, I hide my heritage in a jewelry box in my purse. 5,000 women in a year. She could have been me.

I used to lay awake at night wondering if I would wake up in the dead of night and see her face. Would I recognize her? Did she spill over from a nightmare my dad was having? Would I share the same dream? I wondered if the desecration of murder was so powerful it could scream through the generations. 

All I know is that this book was a journey for Sterritt. It was a journey for me. The stories of these women deserve to be told. Sterritt lived a hard life, but she emerged Unbroken. She seeks justice for the women who were lost along the Highway of Tears. She uncovers unbelievable acts of racism and unfounded hatred for Indigenous people. She shows how law enforcement ignored the problem and more went missing. She refuses to allow the media or the public to turn a blind eye to difficult topics. She lived on the wrong end of justice for long enough to show she speaks the truth.

Most of all, she shows how Indigenous women can survive and thrive in life. This book may be hard for some to read, but knowledge is power. Now I know what my earrings really mean. It’s not fair or just, but I have the power to make myself a little bit safer. It did help in a gas station parking lot late one night. That night, I was white. The world should know that statistically, the world is more dangerous to Native women. Read and learn the root causes of these terrifying numbers, especially if you have a Native population. Help keep that population alive.

STERRITT, ANGELA. Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls. GREYSTONE BOOKS, 2024.

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New Postal Rates

New prices for Library Mail from the USPS went into effect on January 21.  The new rates, which represent about a 6% increase, can be found here. The Library Mail rates are scheduled to increase again in July 2024.

In July 2023 the USPS introduced a new product line entitled USPS Ground Advantage.  For libraries that need to ship heavier items in a non-time sensitive manner, but would like the items to be insured, this may be a good alternative to FedEx or UPS, as all Ground Advantage packages are automatically insured for $100 at no extra charge, with tracking included. Click for the new rates

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NCompass Live: WiFi in the Library

Do you have WiFi questions? Sherm has the answers! Join him to learn all about ‘WiFi in the Library’ on next week’s NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, February 7, at 10am CT.

On this episode on NCompass Live, the Nebraska Library Commission’s Library Technology Support Specialist, Andrew ‘Sherm’ Sherman, will cover:

  • The current standards of WiFi technology
  • What WiFi standards and equipment libraries should be utilizing
  • The pros and cons of the different WiFi configurations in a library environment
  • The assistance Sherm can provide to libraries with their WiFi and other technology needs

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Feb. 14 – ConnectEd Nebraska: Bridging the Digital Divide through Innovative eduroam Expansion
  • Feb. 21 – Using Creativity to Grow & Develop
  • Feb. 28 – Pretty Sweet Tech

To register for an NCompass Live show, or to listen to recordings of past shows, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website.

The show is presented online using the GoTo Webinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoTo Webinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida

Sometimes art imitates #BookFaceFriday

After the holiday frenzy I needed to read something that would serve as a mental palate cleanser–the literary equivalent of a deep, cleansing breath. Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida, fit the bill.

Yoshida, a Tokyo-based artist who works as a professional background illustrator in the game/anime industry, first published Houses with a Story in Japan in 2020. The English translation came out in November 2023. Language isn’t the most important component of this book, however. Instead, detailed illustrations of over 30 imaginative dwellings, along with brief text hinting at a backstory for each, predominate.

Each of Yoshida’s 30+ houses get at least a two-page spread featuring both a street view and a cut-away drawing that lets you see inside the structure’s various rooms. This allows you to view nooks and crannies, furnishings, and basic possessions. Sketched floor plans are also sometimes included.

One of my favorite dwelling/character combos is the Methodical Witch’s House. Her small abode is divided into two rooms by a partial wall, which includes a two-sided hearth designed to heat both. The witch grows herbs and vegetables in an outdoor garden (also depicted), which she then harvests and uses in cooking and medicine. According to a “Concepts and Commentary” section at the back of the book, Yoshida imagines this house existing in mid-nineteenth century Scotland.

As a librarian, I also love Yoshida’s Library of Lost Books. This temple-like compound of unknown origin exists in an imaginary, isolated, Tibet-inspired landscape. According to the accompanying annotation, it supposedly contains “all the books that have been entirely lost to this world.” The lone librarian’s main duty is to comb the shelves for newly lost books that appear daily in order to catalog and organize them—a seemingly unending task.

The publisher of Houses with a Story recommends it for fans of Studio Ghibli, which makes sense given their similar aesthetic. I also think that adults who enjoy looking at architecture, floor plans, and photo spreads of enchanting and unusual living spaces will be enthralled. Finally, if you were a kid who loved poring over Richard Scarry, I Spy, and Where’s Waldo books, this might be a good selection for adult you!

You can find “Houses with a Story: A Dragon’s Den, a Ghostly Mansion, a Library of Lost Books, and 30 More Amazing Places to Explore” by Seiji Yoshida and many more in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

This week’s BookFace “model” is a painting by the late Lincoln artist Larry Griffing, which hangs in librarian Lisa Kelly’s home. Thank you Lisa for capturing this photo for us!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available in our Book Club collection, permanent collection, and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

Yoshida, Seiji. Houses with a Story. Abrams, 2023.

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Book Club Spotlight – Survivors of the Holocaust

Cover for Survivors of the Holocaust

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, today’s Book Club Spotlight, Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children, is a graphic novel that commemorates the Jewish children who were displaced by World War Two. This book will be read in conjunction with next month’s spotlight, When Stars are Scattered, which follows two Somali brothers as they are growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp. While these children all survived, it’s important to remember those who are still being displaced or, worse, by war and apartheid. Survivors of the Holocaust is adapted from a six-part animated interview series, Children of the Holocaust, which won the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award for Youth Honor. It was edited by Kath Shackleton and illustrated by Zane Whittingham. 

The graphic novel begins with a foreword by Lilian Black, who was the Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. She introduces us to the six storytellers, Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek, who were all children at the beginning of World War II and were impacted by the Holocaust and its systemic persecution of Jewish people. Split into individual sections, we begin by meeting each child shortly before war breaks out during Hitler’s rise to power. Some are forced to flee with their families, siblings, or all alone. Others are stuck in Germany and manage to survive their time in concentration camps. Their stories are told through evocative and mildly disturbing illustrations that work to bring the sense of terror that Hilter’s reign imposed on their young lives. Sections following the main stories include short paragraphs about each of the children as they grew up outside of the war, a timeline of events, a helpful glossary of terms, and further online resources.

“It is not easy for them to tell their stories. They agreed to because they want people to know what can happen when people are subjected to discrimination and persecution for being seen as “different”. Their dearest wish is that no one should suffer as they did and that people who never again stand by when injustice is taking place.”

Survivors of the holocaust – Foreword: Lilian Black

Appropriate for ages ten and above, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a solid reference point for young readers who are just learning about the Holocaust. As written by The Jewish Book Council: “These accounts rep­re­sent a good cross-sec­tion of expe­ri­ence, since plu­ral­i­ty of expe­ri­ence is vital in pre­sent­ing the Holo­caust to young read­ers. The illus­tra­tions make the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors clear and the maps used as back­grounds pro­vide geo­graph­ic ground­ing for bor­der cross­ings. Ren­der­ings of pho­tographs and pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments add anoth­er lay­er of under­stand­ing”. However, there are minor inconsistencies that often occur through retellings. From classrooms to adult reading groups, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a multifaceted approach to our continuing Holocaust education and commitment to victims of displacement.

As with many of our Book Club Kits, discussion questions and an Educator’s Guide are available to help teachers and Book Club Group leaders through discussion resources and additional information. 

Other Resources: 

If you’re interested in requesting Survivors of the Holocaust  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Shackleton, Kath. Survivors of the Holocaust. Sourcebooks Explore. 2019.

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