Author Archives: Susan Knisely

Friday Reads: Rabbit & Robot, by Andrew Smith

I’m a huge fan of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle, so I’ve been anxiously anticipating his latest release, Rabbit & Robot. It arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday, September 25 (its release date), and I finished it this past weekend. Like Grasshopper Jungle, Rabbit & Robot is apocalyptic and darkly humorous; its plot unfolds in a similarly absurd fashion, and the social commentary is unmistakable.

Rabbit & Robot is set in the future, at a time when regular people work as either bonks (soldiers) or coders. v.4 cogs, humanlike robots programmed by the coders, perform all other tasks that people “no longer wanted to waste their time doing” (57), including performing surgery, building roads, and caring for children.

As foreshadowed by one of the book’s epigraphs (“Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines” – Erich Fromm), schools are the primary mechanism for turning regular people’s children into bonks or coders. To facilitate this process, students receive carefully calibrated doses of Woz, a drug designed to help them learn. The ubiquitous and addictive Rabbit & Robot television program, “which was all about getting kids to embrace their inner bonks and coders” (33), reinforces this learning.

The book’s narrator, sixteen-year-old Cager Messer, and his best friend, Billy Hinman, are not regular kids: Cager’s father, the fifth richest man in America, owns a line of lunar cruise ships and is the creator of the Rabbit & Robot television show; and Billy’s father, the richest man in the world, owns the company that manufactures the world’s supply of cogs. Cager and Billy do not attend school and have never watched Rabbit & Robot. Billy has never taken Woz, but Cager, in his own words, is “pretty much an out-of-control addict” (24). The addiction is so bad, in fact, that Billy and Cager’s caretaker, Rowan, transport him to his father’s newest cruise ship, the Tennessee – “as big as a Midwestern city, staffed by hundreds of v.4 cogs” (28) – to detox.

This act of intervention is the story’s precipitating event; me recounting the many zany and surreal events that follow won’t adequately convey what the book is actually about though. For that, we must turn to a handful of passages in which Cager directly addresses the reader. This first occurs on page one, before it’s even clear who is speaking. The as-yet-unnamed narrator asks a question, and offers an explanation:

Are you a person, or are you some kind of cog?
Either way, I feel a compelling obligation to tell you what it meant to be a human, at least as far as I can describe it accurately. (1)

The difference between people and cogs is a thread that runs throughout the story. From the start, Cager struggles against the empathy he feels for v.4 cogs, which not only look and act like human beings, but are also beginning to exhibit human emotions. He tries to short-circuit this impulse by telling himself cogs are no different from egg beaters or coffee grinders, but it doesn’t work. As the story progresses, Cager becomes increasingly unwilling to treat cogs as inanimate objects. And after a particularly traumatic, paradigm-shifting revelation, Cager begins wrestling with concepts like what it means to call someone he’s close to a thing, and how doing so makes this someone “something other than us” (403).

In a late chapter, titled “Are You One of Us?” Cager again addresses his reader:

And maybe that’s the whole point, after all – that every one of us who ever existed spent all those limited days over the thousands of centuries we were here just trying to figure out what it meant to be us. The mousetrap trigger is this precise point: Pour the word “us” into the coding of a human, and we immediately discount as inferior or useless all the not-us things in the universe. (404-405)

To summarize, then, on the surface this is a book in which a lot of weird and wacky stuff happens; in the end, though, it winds up being about what it means to be human, and the ludicrousness of some of the fine distinctions we make between ourselves (us) and others (not-us).

Smith, Andrew. Rabbit & Robot. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

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ProQuest eLibrary Database Trial

ProQuest is offering Nebraska libraries free trial access to their redesigned eLibrary database.

Description: A massive collection of multidisciplinary periodical and digital media content, designed for middle and high school students, undergraduates at community colleges and universities, instructors, and librarians. Editorially created pages provide valuable context for both common and more unusual topics of research. All content is 100% full-text, including documents from books, magazines, journals, newspapers, photographs, transcripts, and videos. The collection covers a wide range of subjects. For more information see ProQuest’s eLibrary LibGuide.

Trial Dates: September 4, 2018 through October 19, 2018.

Trial Access Instructions: Trial access instructions were distributed via a September 4, 2018 message to the Trial mailing list. Nebraska librarians who didn’t receive this information or would like it sent to them again may contact Susan Knisely.

Pricing: Price quotes are available upon request and are based on your school’s full time enrollment. ProQuest is offering a 15% discount off list price for purchase through the Nebraska Library Commission.

If you have questions about this product, please feel free to contact Laura Fingeret, Senior Account Manager, K12 Sales, by email (Laura.Fingeret@proquest.com) or phone (800-521-0600 x87223.)

Want to receive email notification of future database trials and discounted pricing? Make sure you are signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list. You can learn more about mailing lists maintained by the Nebraska Library Commission, including how to subscribe, on our Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page.

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Credo Source Database Trial

We are pleased to announce that during the month of September, Credo Reference is offering Nebraska libraries free trial access to their Student Core Collection through Credo Source, their one-stop platform for preparing students for college-level research.

Credo Source features:

  • Access to 400+ top-tier reference titles appropriate for grades 7-12 with the Student Core Collection
  • Exploratory search features including 11,000+ Topic Pages and the Mind Map brainstorming tool
  • Dozens of high-quality instructional videos and tutorials covering a wide range of research topics including evaluating sources, plagiarism, and more
  • 100+ minutes of instructional materials, which can be used as an entire course or through selected components as needed
  • Flexibility to embed instructional materials and reference entries into your LMS, LibGuides, or website
  • Interactive Study Guides, allowing students to explore various topics through videos, exercises, mind maps, and assessments
  • Simplified collaboration with teachers and administrators, and easy integration of information literacy into the curriculum
  • Customizable home screen offering point-of-need instruction to expose valuable research resources while students search

Trial URL: https://search.credoreference.com/auth/ip_unpw

Trial Access Instructions: Trial access information was distributed via an August 28, 2018 message to the Trial mailing list. Nebraska librarians who didn’t receive this information or would like it sent to them again may contact Susan Knisely.

Trial Dates: Through September 30, 2018

To request a price quote contact Susan Knisely at the Nebraska Library Commission. Please include your student enrollment.

Note: Credo typically offers Nebraska libraries a 10% discount off list price via the Nebraska Library Commission unless a special offer exceeds this amount.

Want to receive email notification of future database trials and discounted pricing? Make sure you are signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list. You can learn more about mailing lists maintained by the Nebraska Library Commission, including how to subscribe, on our Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page.

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Friday Reads: Calypso, by David Sedaris

CalypsoThis spring, I consumed a lot of depressing nonfiction. As summer approached, I was ready for a change. I wanted to read something funny, with the power to transport me out of my own head. Luckily, David Sedaris’s new book, Calypso, hit the shelves on May 29, 2018. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Like Sedaris’s previous books, Calypso is a collection of personal stories (Sedaris refers to them as “realish”) told for maximum comedic effect. As his readers have come to expect, many of these tales feature family: his four living siblings; his nonagenarian father, Lou; and his long-term and long-suffering boyfriend, Hugh. His mother, who died during cancer treatment in 1991, and his sister, Tiffany, who committed suicide in 2013, are also present, even in their absence.

What’s different about this current book is that everyone is older; themes of middle age and the passage of time run throughout. This doesn’t make the book a downer though, just relatable, as I too have aged. And never fear–Sedaris’s talent for treating sober and mundane topics poignantly, while at the same time triggering barks of laughter with his irreverent, sometimes shocking humor, remains intact.

In some of my favorite passages in the book, Sedaris muses on his twenty-plus-year relationship with Hugh. For instance, in “Company Man” Sedaris writes:

We’re not a horrible couple, but we have our share of fights, the type that can start with a misplaced sock and suddenly be about everything. “I haven’t liked you since 2002,” [Hugh] hissed during a recent argument over which airport security line was moving the fastest.

This didn’t hurt me so much as confuse me. “What happened in 2002?” I asked.

Hugh’s line about not liking David since 2002 cracks me up, but I think the fact that the insult merely piques David’s curiosity about what happened in 2002 brilliantly conveys the security and familiarity of the couple’s bond, despite squabbles.

Other stories in the collection deal with, among other things, a fatty tumor Sedaris wants to have removed so he can feed it to a snapping turtle; his mother’s never addressed alcoholism; a psychic-mediated conversation between his sister Amy and their deceased mother and sister; and their father’s refusal to move out of his house despite regular falls. Depressing, yes, but hilariously so! I promise!

Sedaris, David. Calypso. New York: Little, Brown, & Co., 2018.

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Internet Librarian Conference (October 16-18) Discount

Internet Librarian 2018The Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all librarians in Nebraska who attend the 2018 Internet Librarian Conference. This year it will be held at the Monterey Marriott in Monterey, California, on October 16-18, 2018. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page at http://internet-librarian.infotoday.com/2018/

The price of the conference with the discount is $399 for the 3-Day Pass (regular rate is $549). No discount rates are available for the separately priced preconference workshops. However, the Gold Pass is available to groups at the discounted rate of $649 (regularly $789); this is the only pass to include preconference workshops. In addition, the discounted rate of $119 (regularly $209) on the Internet@Schools Track is also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance. Online registrations can be made until September 14 to receive the discounted rates. Rates will go up by $20 after the deadline.

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Friday Reads: The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border, By Francisco Cantu

Francisco Cantu brings a unique perspective to his debut book, The Line Becomes A River, a nuanced exploration of the United States-Mexican border. In addition to being a third-generation Mexican-American who grew up near the border, Cantu studied international relations and border policy at American University, in Washington, D.C. After graduating with honors, he served in the United States Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012, working in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. More recently, in 2016, he earned an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Arizona.

Given Cantu’s background and experience, he could have taken this book in many different directions; the route he chose, however, is that of a deeply personal memoir, described by reviewers as “heartfelt,” “lyrical,” “intimate,” “brutal,” and “heartbreaking.” It unfolds in three unnamed parts. Part one opens with Cantu attending training at the Border Patrol Academy, and it follows him during his initial field placements. While it includes numerous accounts of Cantu’s experiences with border crossers and fellow agents, part one is notably framed by two conversations with his mother, which establish the moral conflict at the heart of the entire narrative.

The first conversation occurs when Cantu is still in training at the academy. During her Christmas visit, Cantu’s mother struggles to understand why he wants to join the Border Patrol, which she refers to as “a paramilitary police force.” He responds: “I’m tired of studying, I’m tired of reading about the border in books. I want to be on the ground, out in the field . . . I don’t see any better way to truly understand the place.” His mother is clearly not convinced and is obviously worried about more than just his physical safety: “There are ways to learn these things that don’t put you at risk, she said, ways that let you help people instead of pitting you against them.”

The second conversation occurs at the end of part one, during a subsequent Christmas visit. When his mother asks if he likes the work and is learning what he wanted, he’s not up to having the conversation he knows she’s trying to initiate. And when she brings up “how a person can become lost in a job, how the soul can buckle when placed within a structure,” he cuts her off: “I was too exhausted to consider my passion or sense of purpose, too afraid to tell my mother about the dreams of dead bodies and crumbling teeth, . . . about my hands shaking at the wheel.”

By part two, Cantu has been promoted to doing intelligence work, first in Tucson, then in El Paso. Though he continues to recount his own experiences, his narrative increasingly focuses on the systemic violence haunting both sides of the border: the beheadings, massacres, and mass graves tied to drug cartels; and the kidnapping and ransoming of desperate border crossers by organized smuggling gangs capitalizing on stricter border enforcement. His teeth are a mess from constant grinding and his nightmares persist.

The narrative’s emotional climax occurs during part three. By this time, Cantu has quit the Border Patrol and returned to school, leaving his most intense stress behind. But completely outrunning the emotional trauma of border enforcement proves impossible. This time it affects Cantu personally, when agents detain his undocumented friend, Jose, who is trying to reenter the United States after visiting his dying mother in Mexico. Suddenly, Cantu is experiencing border enforcement from the perspective of the detainee, and the detainee’s family and friends. He does what he can to help Jose navigate the immigration and court systems, but current policies offer little recourse and his friend is deported.

In the third and final Christmas conversation with his mother, Cantu shares the pain, hurt, and conflict he feels over Jose’s situation: “I don’t know what to do, I confessed. I feel pain, I feel hurt, but it isn’t mine. . . . It’s like I never quit . . . It’s like I’m still a part of this thing that crushes.” His mother responds: “You can’t exist within a system for [four years] without being implicated, without absorbing its poison. . . So what will you do? All you can do is try to find a place to hold it, a way to not lose some purpose for it all.”

One gets the feeling this memoir—dedicated in part “to all those who risk their souls to traverse or patrol an unnatural divide”—may be one manifestation of Cantu’s effort to follow his mother’s advice.

Cantu, Francisco. The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border. New York: Riverhead, 2018.

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Are You Signed Up For the TRIAL Mailing List?

Are you signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list? If so, then you know I just sent out a mailing list message with instructions on how to get free trial access to the Statista database through April 25, 2018.

If you’re not signed up for the TRIAL mailing list, then you missed this announcement, which included a database description, a link to a demo and a link to use to get into the database for free between now and April 25, 2018. The message also included information about a 10% discount off list price for new academic and K12 subscribers.

To make sure you don’t miss future trial announcements, go to the Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page and subscribe today! To request a copy of the recent Statista trial announcement, contact Susan Knisely.

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Discounts on Books & Supplies for Nebraska Libraries

This message is a reminder that various library vendors offer discounts on books and supplies to Nebraska libraries via the Nebraska Library Commission. You can see a list of these vendors on the Discounts on Books & Supplies page of the Nebraska Library Commission website.

While some of these discounts are ongoing, others are offered for specific terms that are renewable. We are pleased to report that the following vendors have recently renewed their discount terms through the end of 2018:

  • Brodart
  • Demco
  • Ingram Library Services, Inc.
  • Midwest Library Services
  • The Library Store
  • Vernon Library Supplies

Please see the Discounts on Books & Supplies page for a complete list of participating vendors, and also to see the discount terms and the steps required to obtain the discounts.

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Friday Reads: The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen

Just over a month ago, on November 15, Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia won the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Since my knowledge about Russia, which has been omnipresent in the news lately, is lacking, and since I’ve had positive experiences with nonfiction National Book Award winners in the past, I tracked down a copy. I’ve been working my way through it ever since.

Gessen, a journalist and LGBT rights activist, was born in Russia in 1967 and immigrated to the United States with her parents and siblings in 1981. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, she returned to Moscow, eager to report on new freedoms and opportunities in what appeared to be an emerging democracy. She returned to the United States in 2013, when anti-gay legislation and rhetoric posed a serious threat to her, personally, and to her rights as a gay parent.

The task Gessen sets for herself in this book is to document not only what has happened in Russia over the last 30 years, but also to explore the how and the why. As she states in her prologue, she wanted to tell the story of “[t]he crackdown, the wars, and even Russia’s reversion to type on the world stage,” but also “to tell about what did not happen: the story of freedom that was not embraced and democracy that was not desired.”

She does this in part by tracking the lives of seven real people (her “main characters” or “dramatis personae”). Four were born in the early- to mid-1980s, just before Mikhail Gorbachev declared glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). Their stories allow Gessen “to tell what it was to grow up in a country that was opening up and to come of age in a society shutting down.” The other three were older intellectuals—a psychoanalyst, a sociologist, and a philosopher–“who had attempted to wield [the intellectual tools of sense-making], in both the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.”

I’m usually all about the personal stories used to bring historical and political nonfiction to life. In The Future is History, however, I’m actually more taken with the expository writing that appears between check-ins with Gessen’s protagonists. That’s because Gessen, with her reporter’s background, is just so good at explaining complicated social, political, and historical dynamics.

There’s no way to provide an adequate synopsis of this book’s content in a six-paragraph blog post. But, if you’re like me and have only superficial knowledge of the subject matter, I can almost guarantee that time spent with The Future is History will pay huge dividends in terms of your Russian literacy. And given the current news cycle, you will start reaping the rewards immediately. My investment has paid off several times already – and that’s just in the last week!

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Computers in Libraries Conference 2018 (April 17-19) Discount

Computer in Libraries logoThe Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all Nebraska librarians who attend the Computers in Libraries 2018 conference. This year it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA, on April 17-19, 2018. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page.

This year the Gold Pass will be available for the group rate of $599 (regular rate is $809). The Full 3-day Pass will be $339 (regular rate is $549). (No discount rates are available for the preconference seminars and workshops, unless purchased as part of a Gold Pass.)

In addition, discount prices of $599 (regularly $749) on the Library Leaders Summit (includes all three days of CIL), and $129 (regularly $219) on the Internet@Schools Track are also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance.

Deadline: Online registrations can be made until March 16 to receive discounted rates.

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Join the Nebraska WebDewey Group Purchase

This is a good time of year to remind Nebraska librarians that they can save money on a subscription to WebDewey by participating in the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase!

Dewey on the Web

Enjoy web-based access to an enhanced version of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) database through WebDewey. WebDewey includes all content from the recently discontinued print edition and features:

  • Regular updates (new developments, new built numbers and additional electronic index terms)
  • An easy-to-navigate, simple user interface that is suitable for the novice as well as the power user
  • BISAC-to-DDC mappings

Our next WebDewey Group annual subscription will begin on January 1, 2018 and run through December 31, 2018. Libraries may join the Group at any time. Mid-term subscriptions will be prorated.

If your library is interested in subscribing to WebDewey, you’ll find pricing information on our online WebDewey Order Form.

To see WebDewey in action, try the WebDewey 2.0: An Overview tutorial.

If you have any questions about this group subscription opportunity, please contact Susan Knisely, 402-471-3849 or 800-307-2665.

Note: OCLC Membership is NOT required to purchase WebDewey.

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OCLC Discontinues Publishing Print Editions of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)

According to information posted to the OCLC Dewey Services website, OCLC has decided to stop publishing English-language print editions of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC):

  • The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is frequently updated by the Dewey editorial team. These changes are available in WebDewey the next day. Consequently, print editions, with their multiyear publication cycles, became obsolete very quickly. In an effort to provide libraries with the most up-to-date information available, OCLC has decided to discontinue publishing English-language print editions of the DDC. This means that:

    • OCLC will sell remaining copies of English-language print products based on DDC 23 (including Abridged 15 and 200 Religion Class) until June 2018 or until current copies are depleted.

As of earlier this week, OCLC indicated that all English-language print copies of DDC 23 have been sold. English-language print copies of DDC Abridged 15 (well suited for the classification needs of libraries with up to 20,000 titles in their collections) are still available to purchase and will be sold until June 2018 or until current copies are depleted.

DDC Abridged 15 (print edition) can be ordered online through the Nebraska Library Commission while OCLC supplies last. The discounted price is available on the order form.

The Nebraska Library Commission also facilitates an annual group subscription to WebDewey, which allows you to:

  • access the DDC and related information
  • search or browse DDC numbers, Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), Mapped MeSH and BISAC headings
  • access authority records from links in the WebDewey records
  • add your own notes and display them in context

You can learn more about about this group subscription on our OCLC Dewey Services page.

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Friday Reads: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie

I am currently listening to the audio edition of You Don’t Have to Say you Love Me, a memoir by Sherman Alexie, written after his mother Lillian’s death in 2015. In it he wrestles not only with grief, but also with the regret, guilt, and bitterness that characterized his relationship with her.

Born in 1966, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. His family was poor, his dad often drunk and absent, his mother sober but sometimes cruel, and “On the reservation, violence [was] a clock, / Ordinary and relentless.” This is the formative experience that shapes all Alexie’s writing, but his power as a storyteller is his ability to craft a narrative both culturally specific and universal.

Speaking of the narrative, it is definitely not straightforward, and possibly not for everyone. The audiobook is read by Alexie, himself, which is a positive. He is known for his dramatic readings and has won slam poetry championships, so it’s doubtful any other narrator could own the material as he does. It has the feel of performance art, shifting seamlessly from prose with the texture of dramatic monologue, to poetry, to “rez accent” dialogue (Alexie recounts a conversation he once had with a white girlfriend, who said his mother had a “fancy accent.” When he tells her “[r]ez accents are the opposite of fancy,” she counters: “But rez accents make everything sound like music.”)

The stories Alexie tells aren’t presented chronologically, and even their authenticity is sometimes in doubt. In the first chapter alone there are multiple instances of family members questioning each other’s memories of how and if things happened. “You’re always making up stuff from the past,” his sister tells him. Even a writer friend teasingly accuses Alexie of being “the unreliable narrator of your own life,” for allegedly inventing a conversation between the two (about, of all things, storytelling and truth) and including it in the first chapter of his memoir. This is actually a perfect setup for Alexie’s subsequent examination of his relationship with his mother, a woman who told “many clever and clumsy lies,” as well as some that resonated with spiritual truth.

And that’s the thing about this memoir. Even if the anecdotes Alexie shares didn’t happen exactly as he remembers them, and even if one’s own life experiences and circumstances differ significantly from Alexie’s, the conflicted parental relationship he struggles with is recognizable and relatable, albeit uniquely described. That’s why I have appreciated this memoir so far and look forward to finishing it, though I don’t anticipate a particularly happy ending or any real resolution.

Alexie, Sherman. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Ashland, OR: Blackstone Audio, 2017.

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Internet Librarian Conference (October 23-25) Discount

The Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all librarians in Nebraska who attend the 2017 Internet Librarian Conference. This year it will be held at the Monterey Marriott in Monterey, California, on October 23-25, 2017. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page at http://internet-librarian.infotoday.com/2017/

The price of the conference with the discount is $389 for the three-day event (regular rate is $549). That’s a $160 savings! In the past, no discount rates were available for the preconference workshops. This year, however, there is a Gold Pass available to groups at the discounted rate of $649 (regularly $789). (No discount rates are available for the separately priced preconference workshops.) In addition, the discount rate of $119 (regularly $209) on the Internet@Schools Track is also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance. Online registrations can be made until September 22 to receive the discounted rates.

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Friday Reads: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

After watching I Am Not Your Negro, the Oscar-nominated documentary based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript, I finally tracked down and read Baldwin’s much-referenced 1963 book, The Fire Next Time. This book contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation,” and “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind.”

In the first essay, Baldwin endeavors to impart to his 15-year-old nephew the wisdom and advice he’ll need to survive growing up as a black man in America. Despite being “born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being,” Baldwin urges his nephew to trust his own experience, to resist internalizing messages of inferiority, and to continue to love. And in a more sophisticated exhortation than our contemporary “Make America Great Again” slogan, Baldwin writes: “Great men have done great things here and will again and we can make America what America must become.” This essay actually served as inspiration for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 book, Between the World and Me, which took the form of a letter to his own teenage son. The tragedy, of course, is that such letters are still necessary.

The second essay, “Down At The Cross—Letter from a Region of My Mind,” is quite a bit longer than the first. In it Baldwin recounts his experiences with the Christian church during his youth and the Nation of Islam as an adult, seeing in neither a solution to the racial problems that infect America. Throughout, he offers an unsparing analysis of the problematic role race has played in the development of American civilization, “which compromises, when it does not corrupt, all the American efforts to build a better world…”

This essay is a demoralizing read because of how applicable Baldwin’s criticisms remain. “People are not, for example,” Baldwin writes, “terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.” And also: “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.”

Baldwin’s writing is not without hope, but his is a bleak optimism–more philosophical choice than true faith. This perspective is powerfully captured in a 1963 television interview (“The Negro and The American Promise,” WGBH), in his response to a question about whether he is a pessimist or optimist: “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I’m forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive.” As he did in his letter to his nephew, in this essay he holds out love as the only way forward. But he makes clear that when he uses the word “love” he is referring to “a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. Ashland, Oregon: Blackstone Audio, 2008.

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Discounts on Books & Supplies

Midwest Library Service, a supplier of books to public, academic, and law libraries for nearly 60 years, would like to extend a discount offer on various book acquisitions and collection development services to Nebraska libraries.

The discount offer is effective through December 31, 2018 and includes:

  • Free access to InterACQ (Midwest’s online acquisitions and collection development system)
  • Free collection development tools including New Book Title Notifications
  • Free ILS integration including MARC order records, EDI ordering and invoicing
  • Trade Hardcover: up to 33%
  • Trad & Mass Market Paperbacks: 10%
  • University Press: 17%
  • Science/Technology: 15%
  • Standing Order: up to 10%
  • Library Bindings: 5-15%
  • Short Discounted Titles: 5%
  • Net titles: 0%

For additional information about this offer, see the Nebraska Library Commission’s Discounts on Books & Supplies page. Click on the Midwest Library Service link to jump directly to the terms of this offer.

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Friday Reads: How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, by David France

After watching Dallas Buyers Club several years ago, I wanted to learn more about the early treatment challenges that caused people with AIDS to criticize and bypass the FDA’s slow-moving and bureaucratic drug approval process. This led me to a copy of Randy Shilts’ classic 1987 book, And the Band Played On, which covered the AIDS epidemic through 1985. I hesitated to start it, however, because of the 25+ years of subsequent developments that wouldn’t be covered, including significant advances in treatment options in the mid-90s. So when David France’s How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS showed up on the New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2016” list, I jumped on it!

David France is an investigative reporter who has been covering AIDS since the early 1980s. He moved to New York City in June 1981, immediately after graduating from college and just weeks before a headline in the July 3 New York Times proclaimed “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” This put France at a major epicenter of the epidemic from its opening days—and from the very outset of his adult life. It is this embedded perspective that gives an intense intimacy to what is also a thoroughly researched and gripping account of the gay community’s mobilization to political and scientific activism and advocacy.

Although death and dying pervade France’s narrative, there is hope and inspiration in the formation of groups like Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, with its rallying cry of “Drugs into bodies,” and TAG (Treatment Action Group). Members with an affinity for research, though lacking scientific background and in some cases without college degrees, educated themselves on the inner workings of government health agencies like the FDA, CDC, and NIH, and became experts on immunology and virology. This allowed them to challenge and ultimately collaborate as partners with a medical establishment used to patients passively accepting whatever treatment options were prescribed. They were able to press for an accelerated drug approval process, modifications in clinical trial protocol, reductions in drug costs, and more.

France’s account traces drug development through the January 1996 annual Conference for Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, where breakthrough results of two clinical drug trials were reported, heralding the arrival of new treatment options supporting long term survival of people with AIDS. Finally, AIDS no longer equaled death! While this is a victorious point at which to conclude his story, a happily-ever-after ending would have been inappropriate, and France avoids one with the final words of his final chapter: “It was not over. It would never be over. But it was over.” His epilogue also bears witness to the toll the plague took on surviving activists, often in the form of depression, drug addiction, underemployment and unemployment. Not only had they lost so many friends and lovers, they were now set adrift without purpose in a life they hadn’t prepared for, because they never expect to live to see it.

Although I still plan to read Shilts’ And the Band Played On, I’m glad I started with David France’s book; it provided me with the education I was looking for, in a compelling and thorough manner. If you’re interested in this topic but don’t want to tackle a 600+ page book (either Shilts’ or France’s), you may want to consider watching the 2012 documentary written and directed by France, also titled How to Survive a Plague. It is currently available to stream on Netflix.

France, David. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS. New York: Knopf, 2016.

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Rosen Database / eBook Trial + Plug for Trial Mailing List

Rosen Publishing is offering Nebraska libraries trial access to several databases and eBook sets, beginning February 1 and running through March 15, 2017.

Databases available for trial include:

  • Teen Health & Wellness (Grades 7-12) — The award-winning Teen Health & Wellness database provides middle and high school students, with up-to-date, nonjudgmental, straightforward curricular, and self-help support. opics covered include diseases; drugs; alcohol; sex & sexuality; nutrition; mental health; suicide; bullying; LGBTQ issues; skills for school, work, and life; and more. Updated for 2016, Teen Health & Wellness features new content on bullying/cyberbullying, concussions, gender identity, human trafficking, social media, and more.
  • PowerKnowledge Life Sciences (Grades 3-6+) — Covers key life science topics: animals, classification, endangered and extinct species, food chains and webs, green living, habitats and ecosystems, the human body, life cycles, plants, survival and adaptation.
  • PowerKnowledge Earth & Space Science (Grades 3-6+) — Covers key earth and space science topics: earth cycles, ecosystems and biomes, energy and matter, landforms, maps, natural disasters, rocks and minerals, environmental issues, space, water, weather and climate.
  • PowerKnowledge Physical Science (Grades 3-6+) — Covers key physical science topics, including atoms and molecules, elements and the periodic table, energy and matter, force and motion, and temperature and measurement.

Interactive eBook sets available for trial include:

Trial access instructions (URLs, usernames, passwords) were distributed via a January 31, 2017 message to the Trial mailing list. Nebraska librarians who didn’t receive this information, or who would like to have it sent to them again, may contact Susan Knisely.

*** Note: Not all trial announcements are posted to this blog. If you are a Nebraska librarian and you’d like to receive future database trial announcements  directly in your inbox, please make sure you are signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s Trial mailing list.

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Computers in Libraries Conference (March 28-30) Discount

The Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all Nebraska librarians who attend the Computers in Libraries 2017 conference. This year it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA, on March 28-30, 2017. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page.

This year a new pass type is being introduced that includes workshops. This new pass, the Gold Pass, is being offered as part of the group discount at the rate of $589 (regular rate is $789).

The Full 3-day Pass will be $329 (regular rate is $549). No discount rates are available for the preconference seminars and workshops, unless purchased as part of a Gold Pass.)

In addition, discount prices of $599 (regularly $749) on the Library Leaders Summit (includes all three days of CIL), and $119 (regularly $209) on the Internet@Schools Track are also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance.

The registration deadline is February 24 to receive the discounted rates.

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Join the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase

This is a good time of year to remind Nebraska librarians that they can save money on the web and print versions of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system by participating in the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase!

Dewey on the Web

Enjoy web-based access to an enhanced version of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) database through WebDewey. WebDewey includes all content from the print edition and features:

  • deweywebregular updates (new developments, new built numbers and additional electronic index terms)
  • an easy-to-navigate, simple user interface that is suitable for the novice as well as the power user
  • BISAC-to-DDC mappings

Our next WebDewey Group annual subscription term will begin on January 1, 2017 and run through December 31, 2017. Libraries may join the Group at any time. Mid-term subscriptions will be prorated. Orders must be received by the 15th of the month for a start date of the 1st of the following month.

If your library is interested in subscribing to WebDewey, you will find Pricing information on the online WebDewey Order Form.

To see WebDewey in action, try the WebDewey 2.0: An Overview tutorial.

Dewey in Print

The Nebraska Dewey Group includes the print versions of the Abridged Edition 15 (1 volume) and the 23rd edition of the unabridged Dewey Decimal Classification (4 volumes).

dewey_23OCLC is offering group participants 10% off of the original list price on the DDC in print.

If your library is interested in ordering the DDC in print, you will find pricing information on the online Book Order Form.

For more information about the DDC, please visit Dewey Services.

If you have any questions about these Dewey products or the Nebraska Group, please contact Susan Knisely, 402-471-3849 or 800-307-2665.

NOTE: OCLC Membership is NOT required to purchase Dewey products.

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