Category Archives: Books & Reading

Celebrating Romance and Love in the Library

Recently the Library Commission purchased the following DVD: Love Between the Covers.

“Romance fiction is the behemoth of the publishing industry; it outsells mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet no filmmaker has ever taken an honest look at the global community romance writers and readers have built – until now. This funny and inspiring look into a billion-dollar industry turns up trailblazers who’ve found fortunes and fulfillment in romance, who are on the front lines of a revolutionary power shift in publishing. Creating online empires and inventing new markets are authors like pioneer of African American romance Beverly Jenkins, Shakespeare professor and romance rockstar Eloisa James, surgeon and lesbian romance legend Len Barot, and the incomparable Nora Roberts. For three years, we follow the lives of five published romance authors and one unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with upheaval, and earn a living doing what they love. In the process, we discover a global storytelling sisterhood. Love Between the Covers takes us into one of the few spaces where strong female characters are always center stage, where justice prevails in every book, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.” —

Please feel free to contact us to borrow this DVD.  In the spirit of celebrating romance, here are some lists of librarian romances that I think are worth highlighting – happy love in the library!

30 Tales of Librarians in Love

Bookshelf Babes and Hardcover Heroes: Favorite Librarians in Romance

Librarian Romance:

Love in the Library – Reader Roundup with Amy Alessio

A Mega-List of Lovely, Lusty Librarian Romance

Romance Books about Librarians and Archivists:


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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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NE 150 Book Display

“The Nebraska 150 Book Selection Committee chose 150 notable Nebraska books to highlight for the Nebraska 150 Celebration.  These books represent the best literature produced from Nebraska during the past 150 years.  The books highlight the varied cultures, diverse experiences and the shared history of Nebraskans.”

The Library Commission owns many titles from the 150 list and has displayed them in our reception area. They will be featured throughout 2017 as Nebraska celebrates its Sesquicentennial. Come take a look and check them out!


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Health Information Resources for the 65 and Older Population

The 65 and older population will grow in the U.S. from 46 million in 2014 to 88 million in 2050 (Colby & Ortman, 2014, p. 5). During those decades, the percentage of 65-and-older population compared to the total population of the U.S. and World will also increase.

This growth will likely result in an increased need for treatment, management, prevention, and wellness resources specifically for older adults as well as their caregivers. There are already a number of sites created for older adults by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and other Health and Human Services agencies.

NIHSeniorHealth,, is a portal for older adults to search many government sites at once for health topics pertinent to them and caregivers. They can also browse topics and categories such as Bladder Health, Creating a Family Health History, and Talking with Your Doctor.

NIHSeniorHealth also has a Toolkit for Trainers for those that help older adults find reliable information. The toolkit includes lesson plans, promotional flyers for students and trainers, and a tip sheet on creating a “senior friendly computer classroom.”

Go4Life®,, from the National Institute on Aging at NIH focuses on fitting in exercise and physical activity into older adults’ daily lives. There are resources for various activity levels and abilities including videos, exercise guides, tips, and success stories.

MedlinePlus,, has a great deal of health information for all ages. Seniors may be most interested in Health Topics such as Health Aging or Seniors’ Health. If print information is preferred, sign up for a free subscription to NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. Librarians can even order the magazine in bulk. If Spanish is the primary language, try

National Institute on Aging (NIA) Publications has resources available in Spanish and a few other languages. Many of these are easy to read online, save, or print. Examples include Menopause: Treatment for Symptoms, Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, and Online Health Information: Can You Trust It? AgePage. One that seniors and caregivers may find useful in communicating with doctors, surgeons, and other health professionals is Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People.

A document that seniors may want to have when talking with their doctors is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Pill Card. People can download this document to customize their own card for keeping track of medicines.

In addition to these online resources, don’t forget about area agencies on aging. In Omaha, we have the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, and other Nebraska area agencies can be found at

If you have questions about these resources, please contact me at or 402-280-4156.

Works Cited

Colby, S. L. & J. M. Ortman. (2014). Projections of the size and composition of the U.S. population: 2014 to 2060. Current Population Reports, P25-1143. Washington, DC:  U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from

*Note: 65 and Older Population will also be referred to as “seniors” and “older adults.” These terms can also include a larger age-range and many of the resources listed here are relevant to those ages as well.

**Information provided by:

Annette Parde-Maass
Community and Global Health Librarian
Creighton University Health Sciences Library
National Network of Libraries of Medicine MidContinental Region



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CIA’s Once-Secret Stash Now Online

The largest collection of declassified CIA records is now accessible online. The documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in Maryland. Approximately 930,000 documents, totaling more than 12 million pages, are now available in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room on CIA’s website.

Since 1999, the CIA has regularly released its historical declassified records to the standalone CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) system that was only accessible in person at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland. Moving these documents online highlights the CIA’s commitment to increasing the accessibility of declassified records to the public.

“Access to this historically significant collection is no longer limited by geography. The American public can access these documents from the comfort of their homes,” notes Joseph Lambert, the CIA Director of Information Management.

The CREST collection covers a myriad of topics, such as the early CIA history, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Berlin Tunnel project, the Korean War, and the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. The documents also extensively address developments on terrorism, as well as worldwide military and economic issues.

The documents include a wide variety of records, including collections of finished intelligence from the 1940s to the 1990s prepared by the Directorate of Analysis (or its predecessors, such as the Directorate of Intelligence), Directorate of Operations reports from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Directorate of Science and Technology research and development files, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency policy files and memoranda, National Intelligence Council estimates, National Intelligence Surveys, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) records, Directorate of Support administrative records, and imagery reports from the former National Photographic Interpretation Center (reviewed jointly with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)).

CREST records also include large specialized collections of foreign translations, scientific abstracts, ground photo descriptions, and special collections such as STAR GATE remote viewing program files, Henry Kissinger Library of Congress files, and other miscellaneous CIA records.

The declassification of 25-year-old records is mandated by Executive Order 13526, which requires agencies to review all such records categorized as permanent under the Federal Records Act for declassification. As a result, following CIA’s review, documents are regularly added to this collection.

The CIA’s Electronic Reading room offers a full-text search capability of CREST records, and the collection can be viewed at CREST: 25-Year Program Archive.

Reprinted from CIA Press Release,, January 17, 2017.

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Friday Reads: The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, published in 2013, was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I had read reviews and commentaries about the book, looked it over in a bookstore, and considered borrowing or buying a copy. I resisted because I was daunted by its length – the hardcover edition is 760 pages. I recently found a paperback copy in a Colorado library on the books for sale shelves. For a two dollar contribution to the library’s friends group the book was mine. It’s the second longest book I’ve ever read and it was a long haul, but a good one. During the course of reading it I also borrowed from Lincoln City Libraries the excellent digital audiobook version.

The Goldfinch begins with a terrorist act – a bomb explosion in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – and the resulting tragic destruction and loss. What follows is an evolving mystery about a missing painting – a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Included are theft, drugs, the art black market, the craft of antique furniture restoration, and the complex relationships among family, friends, friends of friends, swindlers, and much more. Art, in many forms, is central to the book. The characters are vivid, the settings are rich in detail, and the plot pulls the reader along toward a surprising end. For me, it is the kind of book you don’t necessarily want to come to an end.

Stephen King, in a New York Times Book Review commentary, said “The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind…..” Donna Tartt has also written the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend.

Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch: A novel. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 2013.


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State Agency Publications Received at the Nebraska Library Commission in 2016

Nebraska State Government Publications 2016 is a compilation of the state publications received in 2016 by the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse, a service of the Nebraska Library Commission.  The items are arranged in two separate lists: by broad subject categories and alphabetically by title.

All documents have been cataloged, and the OCLC number is listed.  To make access to the documents as user friendly as possible, you can click on the link above, or scroll through the .pdf below and click on the URL for the item.  Clicking on the URL will take you directly to the item online, where you can read it or print it out.

For more information about the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse and Nebraska state agency publications, please contact Mary Sauers or Bonnie Henzel at the Library Commission:


Mary Sauers | Government Information Services Librarian | Nebraska Library Commission | 402-471-4017 | Mary Sauers

Bonnie Henzel | State Documents Staff Assistant | Nebraska Library Commission | 402-471-6285 | Bonnie Henzel

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Teachers and Librarians Invited to Host Letter Writing Clinics

LAL Letter Writing ClinicsTeachers and Librarians Invited to Host Letter Writing Clinics

Books make a difference in the lives of Nebraska young people. We know this because they say so in the letters they write to authors for the Letters About Literature competition. In her 2014 winning letter to Gary Soto, Sydney Kohl says, “The work inspired me to be true to myself, and also taught me the importance of each and every small perk in life. Our time on Earth is short, and might not be perfect, but as long as we take advantage of the opportunities given to us, maybe that’s okay.” *

Nebraska teachers and librarians are invited to apply for $300 grants to conduct Letters About Literature Letter Writing Clinics. Funding will be provided to introduce students to the Letters about Literature (LAL) contest and letter writing techniques, and to work with them to select books and craft letters to the authors. Grant funds can be used for items such as instructor honorariums, supplies, marketing, small participation prizes, etc. Applicants will target their efforts to specific age groups: grades 4-6, grades 7-8, or grades 9-12

For more information about the LAL Letter Writing Clinic grant (due March 30), see or contact JoAnn McManus, Nebraska Library Commission, 402-471-4870, 800-307-2665. This grant opportunity is sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book and Nebraska Library Commission and supported by Humanities Nebraska. More about how the LAL national reading and writing promotion program encourages young readers in grades 4-12 to explore what books mean to them by writing a personal letter to an author is available at

* Get inspired by listening to Nebraska winners Ashley Xiques and Sydney Kohl read and talk about and their winning letters to the authors that meant something to them at NET Radio’s All About Books.

NOTE: The Letters About Literature competition is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries, and other organizations. Letters About Literature is coordinated and sponsored in Nebraska by the Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission, with support from Houchen Bindery, Ltd. and Chapters Bookstore in Seward.

LAL Grant Sponsors Logos


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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for January 2017.  Included are titles from the Mid-America Transportation Center, the Nebraska Crime Commission, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the University of Nebraska, to name a few.

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What’s Sally Reading?

School Library Journal’s 9th “Battle of the Kids Books”

This is the ninth year that School Library Journal has invited well-known authors of children and/or teen books to read and judge two titles placed before them. This elimination contest is designed like a “March Madness” for books. Only one book moves ahead to the next round, and favorites could fall.   Read about this year’s event on the School Library Journal blog.

The sixteen titles for the elimination rounds were announced on January 18.  For the first time the contest includes four picture books, so the phrasing “Battle of the Kids Books” is more appropriate this year.  The titles are:


FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie

FREEDOM OVER ME by Ashley Bryan

GHOST by Jason Reynolds


THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge

MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich  — (look, Makoons is here too and I didn’t know it before last Friday)

MARCH BOOK THREE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell


SAMURAI RISING by Pamela Turner and Gareth Hinds

SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet


THUNDERBOY JR. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales

WET CEMENT by Bob Raczka

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad


The judges for the contest will be named on February 6 and the competition begins on March 13. The victor will be announced on March 31. It is enlightening to read the judges comparisons of very different genres and his or her reasoning for naming the winner of that round. Each year one of my favorites bites the dust. But, last year the final judge, Ann M. Martin, selected The Marvels by Brian Selznick as the winner, a favorite of mine I was hopeful could go the distance.

This is an event you could design and hold in your library at any time of year, for example have kids or teens each read and present their book as if in a debate.  Then the judge (choose them wisely) will make the decision between the two titles.  Or you can encourage your students or patrons to be involved in this year’s event by writing a promotional piece for a favorite contender.

One of the contenders this year is Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka.  It contains a collection of 21 clever and inspiring poems.  Concrete poems are designed so the lines of poetry are laid out to look like the topic of the poem.  My favorite in this collection is entitled “PoeTRY” and says it all in five lines, although this one is a less concrete poem than those in the rest the book.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Friday Reads: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

When a fan approaches the autobiography of a rock star, the bar is set pretty high. And with Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, I thought the high bar was reached and sailed over. I didn’t really know what to expect. I always thought the real Bruce was probably a combination of the characters that shine out from his songs, but of course that’s an oversimplification. The character that comes off the pages of this book does have a lot in common with the characters that are seen in the narratives in his music. But Bruce Springsteen is a multi-layered guy and he is complicated. He is the real deal, for sure. He came up on the streets of New Jersey and early Greenwich Village, and his reflections on those early days (and what came later) take the reader into a slice of America that goes well beyond voyeuristic star gazing. When he says, “The grinding hypnotic power of this ruined place and these people would never leave me,” (in reference to his hometown) you can bet it won’t be leaving the reader soon either.

This book was written over seven years in several drafts and redrafts. Springsteen likens the process of writing the book to song-writing. That comparison isn’t lost on this reader. He writes the book in the same cool, clean voice that brought us “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream / At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines.” The pages of this book ring just as true as the lyrics to the Springsteen songs that this fan listened to over and over on a front porch in Nebraska on hot summer nights.

I was also struck by the fact that for an autobiography there is a ton of rich, juicy detail about the others on this journey with him. His family is finely drawn and very interesting. And there is lots of intel on the cast of characters that made up his bands through the years. For me, Stevie Van Zandt (think stellar musician and one of the central members of the Sopranos cast) and the late sax great Clarence Clemons are tremendously compelling characters that really help paint the picture of Springsteen. Knowing more about his close relationships really rounds out the reader’s understanding of who “The Boss” really is. You’ll love this book if you ever sang along to “We gotta get out while we’re young / `Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.” Even if you didn’t, this autobiography is worth your time.

Review by Mary Jo Ryan


Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Simon & Schuster, 2016

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The Pulitzer Prize Turns 100

As this famous award celebrates its Centennial year, here is some information about its beginning:

“The Pulitzer Prize was the brainchild of Hungarian-American newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, who bequeathed several million dollars to Columbia University to administer the award. In 1917, Columbia University trustees ushered in the start of what is now considered one of the most prestigious national honors.

The Pulitzer Prize board receives more than 2,400 submissions annually. From this vast pool, Pulitzer judges select just 14 prize winners in the field of journalism, five total prize winners in letters, and one prize winner each in drama and music. The category winners are honored each spring at Columbia University’s New York City campus.”

The Nebraska Library Commission Book Club Collection has 24 Pulitzer winning titles in the collection, something from almost every decade.  Here they are below listed by their award year. Perhaps it’s time for your group to select one of these titles to celebrate this important literary anniversary? Click on the title below to initiate a request.

1921 Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, 24 copies
1923 One of Ours by Willa Cather, 9 copies
1932 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, 4 copies, (also 1 Large-Print copy)
1940 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 18 copies
1947 All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, 20 copies
1949 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 17 copies
1953 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 17 copies
1961 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 23 copies, (also 1 Video (DVD) copy)
1972 Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, 21 copies
1983 The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 14 copies
1988 Beloved by Toni Morrison, 15 copies
1992 A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, 9 copies
1994 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, 7 copies
1997 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, 13 copies, (also 2 Large-Print copies)
1999 The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 19 copies
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo, 13 copies, (also 1 Audio Cassette copy)
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 8 copies
2005 Gilead by Maryilynne Robinson, 17 copies
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks, 9 copies, (also 1 Audio CD copy)
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 18 copies
2009 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, 6 copies
2010 Tinkers by Paul Harding, 3 copies
2014 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 4 copies
2015 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 15 copies
2015 The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, 1 copy

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Youth Media Awards Announced at ALA Midwinter

Monday, January 23, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2017 Youth Media Awards. The winner of the John Newbery Medal is The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. Three Honor books were named:

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

The winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal is Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat illustrated and written by Javaka Steptoe. Four Honor books were named:

Leave Me Alone! illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol

Freedom in Congo Square illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford

Du Iz Tak? illustrated and written by Carson Ellis

They All Saw a Cat illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel

For a complete list of the winners and honor books visit the ALA press release.  I hope you already have a few of the named titles in your library collection.

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Bill of Rights Exhibit at the Nebraska Library Commission

The Bill of Rights and You exhibit is now on display at the Nebraska Library Commission. This new free-standing exhibit from the National Archives commemorates the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.  Explore the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, and learn how Americans have exercised those rights through the exhibit and Resource Guide.  The exhibit is brought to us by Humanities Nebraska and the Federation of State Humanities Councils.


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Friday Reads: League of Denial

Let me say up front (gasp!) that I am not a football fan. Not one bit. OK, I admit that at a time in my life long ago I might become moderately interested in seeing a good game (and rooting for the underdogs), but in today’s day and age I have little interest. I read the bulk of League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru while hanging out in airports and on airplanes during a recent trip. Before getting into the content of League of Denial, it might be beneficial to describe the authors’ backgrounds, as well as why these brothers have different last names (including the origin of the hyphen). Steve Fainaru is an award winning reporter for the Washington Post (known for his field reporting in Iraq). His brother Mark (he hyphenated his name with that of his wife’s) has a background in sports reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle, worked on the BALCO steroids reporting (subsequently co-authoring Game of Shadows), and is a current investigative reporter for ESPN.

League of Denial details the NFL’s concussion crisis. It describes the first players that were diagnosed (post-mortem) with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease that had previously only been identified in boxers or other persons that suffered repeated blows to the head. League of Denial chronicles a number of former NFL players who suffered from the effects of CTE, from their playing days to their life struggles after retirement. The first former player to be diagnosed with CTE was Pittsburgh Steeler hall of fame center Mike Webster. Webster’s story is interesting because his life is illustrative of the struggle that many former players go through during and after their days in the NFL. It’s a very sad story. League of Denial chronicles Webster’s retirement financial troubles, living out of his truck, addiction to various prescription medications, and the fact that he often couldn’t sleep unless a friend hit him with a Taser, rendering him incapacitated for brief periods of time. To illustrate, this interview, taken from the PBS Frontline documentary (titled League of Denial) shows the depth of his brain injury, as well as the struggle of former NFL safety Gene Atkins.

Then there are the suicides. A number of these former players that committed suicide were diagnosed with CTE afterward. League of Denial describes some of these, including Terry Long (45 years old, drank antifreeze), Dave Duerson (50 years old, shot himself in the chest and left a note indicating that he wanted his brain to be used for research), and Junior Seau (43 years old, another gunshot to the chest). League of Denial has a bit of it all, including intrigue, mystery, and cover-ups. A land where NFL doctors argue with independent ones, former players fight for disability payments, and the NFL (by far the leader in worldwide sports revenues fights to maintain its image (among fans, players, and moms). A lot of parallels exist between the NFL concussion crisis and the tobacco industry, and many of the league insiders have called for a different handling of the crisis by the NFL, which up until recently denied any link between football’s inherent traumas to the head and CTE. Dr. Ann McKee, longtime Packers fan and professor of Neurology & Pathology at Boston University, aptly sums things up by saying:

“Football is an American sport. Everyone loves it. I certainly would never want to ban football. . . . We haven’t banned cigarette smoking. People smoke. People make that choice. But they need to make an informed decision. They need to understand the risks and it needs to be out there if they want to pay attention to what those risks are.”

I would recommend this book, even though Ann is wrong about everyone loving football. It is an easy read and informative, whether you are a fan or not a fan, and the science surrounding the concussion crisis is presented in an interesting way.

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What’s Sally Reading?

School Library Journal’s Best Books 2016

Every year the editors of School Library Journal announce their choices of the best books published that year.  A total of 66 titles have been honored this year and are listed on this page.  Divided into five lists the categories are: Picture Books (17 titles), Chapter Books (2 titles), Middle Grade (14 titles), Young Adult (15 titles), Nonfiction (18 titles).

Once you click on one of the categories you will see a slide show of the titles. Scroll down to find a form to fill out in order to download a printable PDF version of the full list. There is also an “Other Bests” link on the right side of the screen which contains a print list of eight additional categories, such as “Top 10 Graphic Novels,” “Top 10 Latinx” (a new gender-neutral term to include Latina and Latino) titles, and “Top 10 Apps.” I hope you can find some time to explore these pages.

One of the titles included on the School Library Journal’s “Best Books 2016,” Middle Grade list is Makoons by Louise Erdrich (The Birchbark House series, Bk 5).  Continuing the story of an Ojibwe family, this title focuses on Makoons, twin brother of Chickadee, both of whom are determined to succeed as buffalo hunters. Makoons has a vision that shakes him to his core.  Will his family be able to handle the coming challenge?  This series has been widely praised and has appeared on numerous “best” lists. Makoons is intended for grades 4-6.

The first book in the series, The Birchbark House, was published in May of 1999.  Following it are: The Game of Silence (Bk 2) which received the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, The Porcupine Year (Bk 3), Chickadee (Bk 4) which also received the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, and, of course, Makoons.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Friday Reads: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami’s birthday was yesterday, and because this is a library blog, this week I’ve chosen to write about The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. While this is available as an audio book, I must recommend the Knopf print edition if you are able to read that instead. The book design is by Chip Kidd, and it’s lovely. The cover alone references the narrative in several creative ways, and the illustrations within the book are plentiful and thoughtful.

The art design struck me even more as a vehicle for the story, a vehicle almost approaching a translation of the story, because of a recent article about Murakami. If you’re interested in Murakami, you should read “The Murakami Effect” by Stephen Snyder, which appeared on Literary Hub on 01/04/2017. You may agree or disagree with the writer’s arguments (here’s a clue to its contents: the subtitle is “On the Homogenizing Dangers of Easily Translated Literature”), but reading a critique of the translation of Murakami’s work does give you an insight into how the author structures his works. Murakami does not write about complicated ideas as much as he juxtaposes unexpected, easily visualized entities and actions, which allow the reader to fill in the complicated ideas themselves, around those entities and actions. This happens to make him very easy to translate—or, he writes this way because it’s easy to translate, according to Snyder.

I have more of an appreciation for Murakami after reading the Lithub article, which may not have been the author’s intent. Snyder attempts to take some wind out of the literary sails of Murakami’s reputation, comparing him to other Japanese writers (like Minae Mizumura, whom you might want to learn more about) and finding him, in the end, pop.

But I like pop. Murakami is nuanced enough to be quality while being accessible. And letting the reader draw some conclusions is one of my favorite things that an author can do—I love this about Flannery O’Connor, for example. It is important, though, not to take Murakami’s work as any sort of object lesson about Japanese life, just as we can’t expect to learn all we need to know about the South from O’Connor. This is another point in Snyder’s article—how Americans see Murakami’s writing as synecdochical for all things Japanese, overwriting reality with a magic key they think they learned from some magical realist novels. Readers need to try to be smarter than that, and I think we can be.

The Strange Library is a quick read—for a less marketable author, this would have just been a short story in a magazine. So hipster grad students won’t be able to carry it around as long as they can carry around their copies of 1Q84… but it’s a good introduction to Murakami if you’ve been interested and yet haven’t taken the leap. And you know you want to read a book called The Strange Library. And yes, that’s all I’m going to tell you about the actual text.

Fun facts about Haruki Murakami: not related to writer Ryu Murakami (whom I recommend if you want something grittier) or artist Takashi Murakami (if you want something even more pop). And if there’s anything more precious, predictable, and yet still enjoyable, than a McSweeney’s humor piece about Haruki Murakami, I don’t know what it would be, so here that is.

Murakami, Haruki, and Ted Goossen. The Strange Library: 107. , 2014. Print.

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Governor Ricketts Proclaims 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks

January 11, 2017

Rod Wagner

Governor Ricketts Proclaims 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks

On Jan. 9, 2017 Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation honoring 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt. In this year people across Nebraska are encouraged to read this novel. The story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people, offers readers much more than a glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk’s searing visions of the unity of Humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres and generations. The 2017 One Book One Nebraska selection is among 150 books chosen to highlight the 150th year celebration of Nebraska’s statehood. Rod Wagner, Director of the Nebraska Library Commission, presented the governor with a copy of the book. “The John G. Neihardt Foundation and State Historic Site in Bancroft is honored to take part in sharing this story, as well as our heritage and history, together with Nebraskan readers and beyond,” said Amy Kucera, Executive Director at the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site. “This transcendent tale is a true gift – created from a remarkable past so we might better understand the present, it continues to inform and inspire the future as each generation takes its turn through the pages.”

Photos of the proclamation-signing ceremony are available online.

The One Book One Nebraska reading program is entering its thirteenth year and is sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska Library Commission, John G. Neihardt Foundation & Nebraska State Historical Society, University of Nebraska Press, Humanities Nebraska, and Nebraska libraries and regional library systems. It encourages Nebraskans across the state to read and discuss one book, chosen from books written by Nebraska authors or that have a Nebraska theme or setting. Libraries across Nebraska will join other literary and cultural organizations in planning book discussions, activities, and events to encourage Nebraskans to read and discuss this book. Support materials to assist with local reading/discussion activities are available on the 2017 One Book One Nebraska web page. Updates and activity listings will be posted there and on the NCB Facebook page.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission.

As Nebraska’s state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services-“bringing together people and information.”

The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website,

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Nebraska Statehood Stamp

As part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Nebraska Statehood, the United States Postal Service will issue this stamp on March 1, 2017, in Lincoln. Known for agriculture, Nebraska (the Cornhusker State), became the 37th state on March 1, 1867. Nebraska photographer Michael Forsberg set up among prairie grasses on the riverbank between the small cities of Grand Island and Kearney to capture the image shown on the stamp. In the photograph, sandhill cranes fly low to scout for shelter from nighttime predators. This mid-migratory rest for half a million birds along the Platte River is unique to Nebraska. Forsberg captured this image as winter thawed into spring around the year 2000. USPS Art Director Derry Noyes designed the stamp using Forsberg’s existing photograph.

The 5-cent stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of Nebraska statehood was first placed on sale at Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 29, 1967.

Julian K. Billings of Omaha, Nebraska, designed the stamp. An ear of yellow corn with its green husk is the background against which the artist placed a reddish-brown Hereford cow. Yellow and green were printed offset; brown was applied by the Giori press. It was issued in panes of fifty and was authorized for an initial printing of 120 million.


For those interested in other statehood stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, you can visit their website.



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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for December 2016.  Included are titles from the Nebraska Courts, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Legislature, and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System, to name a few.

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