Category Archives: Books & Reading

It’s our Aluminum Anniversary!

Several years ago, shortly after attending Lincoln City Libraries’ annual book sale, my colleague, Allana Novotny, said to me – do you think it would be a good idea to have multiple copies of books we could lend to libraries for their book groups?  That was ten years ago and not only have we not looked back, now we struggle to make room for our ever growing Book Club Collection of over 1,200 titles and nearly 12,000 physical volumes.  Each month we average a circulation of over 1,000 volumes   (including regular and large print books, audiobooks, and DVDs) from this collection to libraries around the state.

Looking back, there are many people to whom we owe thanks for helping make this service such a success:

  • First and foremost – to Vern Buis, our Computer Services Director, who helped create and design a very user-friendly database and webpage,with auto-fill request forms, special search capabilities by holiday, Nebraska themes, and most recently the Nebraska 150 book list celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial.
  • To Devra Dragos who created a special template for entering records in our catalog so we can reserve and check out book kits when they are requested by a library.
  • To the many librarians and patrons who have donated books to our collection – many directly from their book group after reading and discussing that title.
  • To all the shoppers at book sales, thrift shops, and used book stores, who have purchased (and many times delivered) books for our collection.
  • Last but not least – thank you to the libraries and schools who use our collection and tell us how helpful it is to their community.

I’m pleased that we support book clubs throughout the state and have heard wonderful stories of your gatherings. To continue assisting you, we have provided NCompass Live sessions on how to select titles and lead discussions with your book group.

Because of the great success of the book groups, we very nearly wear out Mary Geibel, who works with you all to make and confirm reservations, sometimes for many months in advance. She sends out books and checks them in with email confirmations and conducts an annual inventory each summer to make sure everything is correct as advertised on our webpage.

If anyone had told me in library school that I’d spend a significant amount of time on book clubs and a special collection just for serving groups in the state, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have believed it. Growing and cultivating this service has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my years at the Library Commission. Happy Anniversary.

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Friday Reads: “Runaway” by Alice Munro (Vintage, 2005)

RunawayAliceMunroThis stunning collection of short stories illuminates the human condition—warts and all! “Runaway,” the title story, is such a carefully crafted examination of three flawed humans that when I reached the end I sucked in my breath, put the book down, and debated whether to pick it back up again to read the next story. Eventually I did and I’m so glad I did, but I did need a little time to catch my breath.

“Powers,” divided into five sections, uses diary entries and letters to tell the story in the real, genuine voices of the characters. We meet these characters over a period of time and the interplay between them really shows the depths of their personalities and their true natures. The story shows a lifelong journey toward self-awareness, but do they make it to the destination?

One set of stories— “Chance,” “Soon” and “Silence,” —allows us to peek in on the protagonist’s life at various stages. Together these three stories give such a complete detailed picture of her that readers feel like we know her very well, even though we’ve only seen her through three short vignettes. As with all these stories, we may get to know ourselves a little better as we reflect on her feelings and reactions to key incidents in her life.

Munro’s skill as a writer is so evident in all of these stories. She is never manipulative, always presenting straight-forward and minimalist prose. And did I mention stunning? In 2013, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature for “Dear Life: Stories” (Vintage, 2012), another book that demonstrates why she is considered by many to be the “best short-story writer in English today.”

Spoiler Alert (especially for my Bookclub): If you are into happy endings, they are not to be found in this book. But even though the stories are dark, the prose is so light that they are not depressing—just sad. But I promise you’ll be thinking about these characters and their stories long after you finish the book.

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Federal Trade Commission Raises Awareness About Scams

U.S. Federal Trade Commission building.  October 16, 2012.  Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL.As part of their ongoing effort to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community, the Federal Trade Commission has developed a series of “fotonovelas” in Spanish. The stories are based on complaints to the FTC from Spanish speakers throughout the nation and offer practical tips to help detect and stop common scams. You can order copies of the Spanish-language fotonovelas — for free — and distribute them in your community.  Here are some examples:


Maria and Rafael Learn the Signs of a Debt Relief Scam

This fotonovela alerts readers to the common signs of a debt relief scam and tells them where they can find legitimate credit counseling help.

Car-Buying Trouble

This fotonovela tells how to avoid trouble when you finance a new or used car through the dealership and where to report problems with dealer financing.

Notario scams

This fotonovela tells readers the warning signs of a notario scam, where to find help with the immigration process, and how to report scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

Debt Collectors

In this fotonovela, Juan learns his rights when dealing with debt collectors, where to go for information, and how to file a complaint.

Income Scam

This fotonovela alerts Latino consumers to the signs of an income scam, and provides advice to avoid falling for a scam.

Government Imposters

This fotonovela tells readers how to identity a government imposter and warns of the dangers of sending money to a stranger.

For more information, visit Fotonovelas at the Federal Trade Commission.

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NCompass Live: Friday Reads: The NLC Blogs Books

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “Friday Reads: The NLC Blogs Books”, on Wednesday, July 20, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Two years ago, the Nebraska Library Commission started a regular blog series, Friday Reads. Every Friday, one of the NLC staff writes a post sharing a book they have read and enjoyed. Our staff have varied tastes and as a result, the posts have covered just about every genre: non-fiction, memoir, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, history, horror, graphic novel, young adult, chick lit, historical fiction, biography, self-help, thriller, classic, and more. Join us as some of the NLC staff chat about just a few of the books they have reviewed. You’ll be sure to find something new for you or your library’s collection.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • July 27 – The Queer Omaha Archives
  • August 3 – The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund: Grants to Nebraska’s Small-Town Public Libraries
  • August 10 – Clouding Up: How to Use Cloud Storage
  • August 17 – Nebraska 150 Books: Read Nebraska Authors!
  • August 24 – Making the Most of Maker Camp at Your Library
  • August 31 – Coding Corner @ Your Library

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, 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 GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

grasshopperI first listened to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle in fall 2015, and it instantly became my new favorite book! Since then I’ve read other Smith books (Winger, Stand-Off, 100 Sideways Miles, The Marbury Lens), and while I liked them all I’d have to say that Grasshopper Jungle stands out as something completely unique. As a piece of writing, it is distinctive – not just from Smith’s other books but from most other books I’ve read!

In part, this might be because Smith wrote it at a point in time when he had decided to get out of the business of writing for publication. “I never felt so free as when I wrote things that I believed nobody would ever see. Grasshopper Jungle was one of those things,” he confesses in the acknowledgements section of the book, which someone else evidently did read since they convinced him to publish it. (Publication was obviously a good idea: Grasshopper Jungle was a 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.)

What the book is ostensibly about, versus what I love about it, are two different things. On the surface, this book is about an apocalyptic plague of six-foot-tall, man-eating praying mantises, accidentally unleashed in the fictional, economically-depressed town of Ealing, Iowa. What I love most are the main characters, sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba, who narrates, and his best friend, Robby Brees. They are, among other things, smart, sincere, loyal, witty, matter-of-fact, unflinching, hilarious, and respectfully profane.

One thing I particularly love about Austin is his obsession with history and truth, which are recurring themes throughout the book. Austin begins his narration with the following rumination on history:

I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.
We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future.
But even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we’ve ever done, we also manage to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit.
This is my history.

Austin has been recording his own history for years, as evidenced by the thigh-high stack of journals in his closet; and his book narration is a continuation of this process. Included in Austin’s stream-of-consciousness recitations are his thoughts on the nature of history, the act of recording it, and the impossibility of getting it all down. These thoughts, at least in my opinion, inform, and are reinforced by, the stylistic quirks that permeate Smith’s writing in this particular book.

These quirks include repetition of words and phrases to the point where they become epigrammatic refrains; use of an almost clinical, detached language to describe horrifying and distressing events; and Austin’s practice of reporting not just the main event, but also a multitude of other events that are occurring simultaneously, to other people, in other parts of the world. While this last quirk would be considered digression in another book, in Grasshopper Jungle it is a manifestation of Austin’s beliefs about how to report history in order to approach the truth. Austin’s girlfriend Shann describes his process thusly: “I love how you tell stories. I love how, whenever you tell me a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction . . . .”

Elsewhere, addressing the futility of this endeavor, Austin states: “You could never get everything in a book. Good books are about everything;” and “Even when I tried to tell everything that happened, I knew my accounts were ultimately nothing more than an abbreviation.”

Austin is as devoted to telling the truth as he is to accurately recording history. To others, he never lies, especially if asked a direct question. The most he sometimes does is not volunteer the whole truth. (About a partial truth he told his parents, he says: “It wasn’t a lie; it was an abbreviation.”) From himself, he hides nothing, even if the truth is embarrassing or confusing. It’s why he doesn’t shy away from the realization that he is in love with, and sexually attracted to, both his best friend Robby, who is gay, and his girlfriend, Shann. He might not know what to do about these feelings, he might not know what they mean, but he never tries to lie to himself about them.

I also love the fact that Austin and Robby have favorite poems, which they recite out loud to each other. According to Austin:

Robby’s favorite poem is Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. It is a poem about war and lies, youth and thievery. . . .

My favorite poem is The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Wallace Stevens. It is a poem about everything else: sex, lust, pleasure, loneliness, and death. . . .

Because favorite poems often reveal something about character, and because I suspected they might reinforce the underlying themes of the book, I sought them out to read in their entirety. Although very different on the surface, both call on readers to reject artifice and sentimentality in favor of seeing things exactly as they are – at least to the extent humanly possible. In “Dulce Et Decorum Est” a gruesome description of a World War I soldier choking to death on poisonous gas is presented in stark contrast to the slogan (“That old Lie”) used to encourage young men to enlist at the start of the war: “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” (The Latin phrase, borrowed from Horace, can be translated as “it is sweet and right to die for your country.”) And in “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” we are told to “Let be be finale of seem.” This philosophy definitely informs Austin’s approach to recording history, as evidenced by the matter-of-fact tone and blunt language he favors in his narration, along with his commitment to objectivity: “I do not know why, but that is not my job. My job is saying what.”

If you like quirky, irreverent books with absurd plots, which also have depths you can plumb, Grasshopper Jungle might be for you. As Andrew Smith said in a February 18, 2014 interview with Walter Heymann, “. . . Grasshopper Jungle is very realistic, but at the same time, it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s the same way our world is.”

Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. New York: Dutton, 2014.

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New State Agency Publications Received at the Library Commission

Nebraska-150-logoNew state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for June 2016.  Included are titles from the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, Nebraska Public Power District, The Nebraska State Board of Health, and the Nebraska Department of Veteran’s Affairs, to name a few.

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Nebraska 150 Books : July 2016 Featured Titles

NE150Books (2)Summer in Nebraska provides a rich environment for authors to reflect on the agriculture and natural phenomena of the Great Plains.  The featured books for July highlight the magestic aspects of Nebraska’s land and climate:  thunderstorms, endless corn fields, big sky, and all of the creatures that are native to this land.

Fiction: Haven’s Wake, by Ladette Randolph.  Early July, and the corn in eastern Nebraska stands ten feet tall; after a near-decade of drought, it seems too good to be true, and everyone is watching the sky for trouble. For the Grebels, whose plots of organic crops trace a modest patchwork among the vast fields of soybeans and corn, trouble arrives from a different quarter in the form of Elsa’s voice on her estranged son’s answering machine: “Your father’s dead. You’ll probably want to come home.”

When a tractor accident fells the patriarch of this Mennonite family, the threads holding them together are suddenly drawn taut, singing with the tensions of a lifetime’s worth of love and faith, betrayal and shame. Through the competing voices of those gathered for Haven Grebel’s funeral, acts of loyalty and failures, long-suppressed resentments and a tragic secret are brought to light, expressing a larger, complex truth.   University of Nebraska Press, and 2014 Nebraska Book Award for Fiction.

Non-Fiction: Keith County Journal, by John Janovy, Jr.    To learn from nature, not about nature, was the imperative that took John Janovy Jr. and his students into the sandhills, marshes, grasslands, canyons, lakes, and streams of Keith County in western Nebraska. The biologist explores the web of interrelationships among land, animals, and human beings. Even termites, snails, and barn swallows earn respect and assume significance in the overall scheme of things. Janovy, reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau in his acute powers of observation and search for wisdom, has written a new foreword for this Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press edition.

Children’s Literature: Night of the Twisters, by Ivy Ruckman.    When a tornado watch is issued one Tuesday evening in June, twelve-year-old Dan Hatch and his best friend, Arthur, don’t think much of it. After all, tornado warnings are a way of life during the summer in Grand Island, Nebraska. But soon enough, the wind begins to howl, and the lights and telephone stop working. Then the emergency siren starts to wail. Dan, his baby brother, and Arthur have only seconds to get to the basement before the monstrous twister is on top of them. Little do they know that even if they do survive the storm, their ordeal will have only just begun. . . .

Poetry:  Nebraska : This Place, These People, by former Nebraska State Poet William (Bill) Kloefkorn.  This 128-page poetry collection is filled with more than 80 of Kloefkorn’s superbly-crafted accounts of prairie and city life. This is the only book in Kloefkorn’s distinguished writing career devoted entirely to Nebraska. It’s infused with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, plus excerpts from other great Nebraska writers such as Willa Cather and John Neihardt, offering insight into Kloefkorn’s vision, inspiration and adoration of our amazing state.

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Friday Reads: M Train

M TrainMy awareness of Patti Smith was that of a rock musician, and more specifically one influential in the punk rock genre. There wasn’t all that much awareness and not much interest. Then I heard her interviewed on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. I learned that Smith is not only a singer-songwriter musician, she is an accomplished poet, writer and artist. That interview was from several years ago when she wrote Just Kids, the 2010 National Book Award winner for nonfiction. Just Kids is the story of Smith’s younger years (1960s and ‘70s) as a developing artist and her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

More recently I heard Smith interviewed on another Fresh Air program following publication of her most recent book, M Train. Smith is quoted as describing M Train as “a roadmap to my life.” The book is a memoir with mixed reflections about many things including her marriage to Fred “Sonic” Smith, family life, wanderings, music, and relationships. Notable to me was her favored writing locale – a Greenwich Village café – and her passion for TV cop shows. There are commentaries about her travels, New York City life, and her fondness for hot black coffee. There is also the curiosity of her purchase of a run-down seaside bungalow timed, unfortunately, just prior to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival.

Patti Smith came across to me as an extraordinarily gifted yet down to earth person. Seeing her writing in her notebook at a corner table in her favorite café wouldn’t be all that memorable. But her reflections are memorable and M Train is a remarkable book.

Smith, Patti. M Train. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf). 2015.

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What’s Sally Reading?

 Find a book, hide a book…play Book Scavenger!

Looking for a new activity for your children and teen library users? Try finding and/or hiding a book! If you are familiar with the children’s title Book Scavenger, then you may be excited to know that the fictional game is now a reality. It is similar to geo-caching, except now people are hiding books in public places and leaving written clues rather than using GPS coordinates. And, once you find the book you are encouraged to read it, then hide it somewhere else and leave clues on the web site.  What a fun way to share books you love.

If you are hiding a book for its first time, they suggest printing out a game plate to identify it as part of the Book Scavenger game.  The plate is found on this page, just scroll down a bit.

Wonder where books are currently hidden? Go here.  If you go to the web page you will find plenty of books hidden in Nebraska communities. To find only titles hidden in Nebraska, go here.  Dorchester, …Hebron, … and more.  The one hidden in Lincoln was recently found by an eager young reader!  I hope you and your library’s children and teens have a great time and read a book or two.

Bertman026Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman tells of Emily (12) who is a big fan of the online game, Book Scavenger, invented by Garrison Griswold.  When her family moves to San Francisco she hopes she can compete in one of his local games.  She finds a copy of The Gold Bug in the BART station where Mr. Griswold was injured during a mugging.  It could be the first clue in a new game he was planning, but he is in a coma and may never wake up.  Emily and her new friend James try to find more clues while a couple of thugs try to find them.

(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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Nominations Accepted Until August 15 for Literacy Awards

NE AffiliateNebraska’s Champions of Literacy and Literature Deserve an Award! The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines award (n.) as “something (such as a prize) that is given to someone or something for being excellent or for doing something that is admired.” Each year the Nebraska Center for the Book honors individuals and organizations that we greatly admire with awards for their “excellent” support of Nebraska reading and writing. Do you know an organization that has demonstrated this by providing “excellent” literacy services? (HINT: It’s fine to nominate your own organization.)

The Nebraska Center for the Book is accepting nominations to honor Nebraska’s champions of literacy. Awards will be presented at the Celebration of Nebraska Books on October 29 at the Nebraska History Museum in downtown Lincoln. The Jane Geske Award is presented annually to a Nebraska organization for exceptional contribu­tion to literacy, books, reading, libraries, or literature in Nebraska. It commemorates Geske’s passion for books, and was established in rec­ognition of her contributions to the well-being of the libraries of Nebraska. Jane Pope Geske was a founding member of the Nebraska Center for the Book, former director of the Nebraska Library Commission, and a long-time leader in Nebraska library and literary activities. The award is sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book and Nebraska Library Commission, and is supported by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress as part of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program.

Nominations will be accepted until August 15. For more information see Nominations forms are available at or contact Rod Wagner, Nebraska Library Commission Director, 402-471-4001, 800-307-2665.


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Friday Reads: Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan

CahalanBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness is a medical memoir that may have caught your eye on library shelves—an attractive young woman on the cover, an author’s name spelled in a way that patrons (and maybe even staff) would search for incorrectly—it’s Susannah Cahalan, not Callahan. You’ll see buzz about it again soon, because a movie based on the book is in post-production—starring Chloe Grace Moretz.

Brain on Fire is the compelling tale of a young professional who exhibits disturbing behavioral symptoms, which are easily misdiagnosed by medical professionals looking for horses instead of zebras. Their incorrect diagnoses lead to treatments that do more harm than good. Cahalan’s symptoms seem to suggest mental illness, which doctors are eager to label her with since she’s a young woman in a stressful profession. One doctor is sure she’s “partying too much.” But the truth is more complicated, because her brain and body are in battle with each other. She has a rare autoimmune disease, only recently discovered. It’s only because of Cahalan’s tenacity that she keeps searching for better treatment—and she knows that’s she’s lucky to have the skills to advocate for herself, and to be able to find a doctor current enough on research to be able to see the real problem. Not every person with the illness would be so fortunate. (This is where the reader gets scared, if they aren’t already frightened by the author’s symptoms which are reminiscent of Friedkin’s Exorcist.) Her family is a big part of her confidence, and her recovery, and she writes about them with compassion and honesty. Getting to the correct diagnosis is the first half of the journey—then the treatment and recovery are dramatic as well, and will keep you turning the pages.

Brain on Fire is different from other examples of the popular genre of medical memoir because it’s not written by a medical professional (where, suddenly, their field is humanized for them) or by a complete layperson (where the author is at first lost in jargon but comes to an understanding about their disease). Our author, Susannah Cahalan, is an up-and-coming investigative reporter at the New York Post at the beginning of the book, and she uses her journalistic skills both to research her illness and to describe her journey through her illness. Her disease takes away her ability to work, and her career is very important to her. This book is her way of showing her chops in her field—she wants to prove she’s ready to get back in the game of newspaper work. Writing the book is an act of redemption for Cahalan—a way to illustrate that she has her identity and ability back. Cahalan also co-wrote the movie screenplay with director Gerard Barrett (who’s helmed gritty Irish dramas Pilgrim Hill and Glassland). The author’s perspective on her illness and her life make this medical memoir cross over into a coming-of-age story—a young woman fighting to establish her place in the world, and in her own life, and even in her own body and mind.

I’d recommend Brain on Fire to medical memoir fans, and the New Adult/Mature YA reader. It is a surprisingly quick and attention-grabbing read for a heavy topic, so it’s a good plane read as well. You might think that since Cahalan was a reporter for the New York Post that the book would have a “Man Bites Dog” tone to the narrative—I was hesitant about the book for that reason at first, but I was pleasantly surprised by her enjoyable style. The tone is approachable and authentic, like an especially engrossing magazine article; but it’s still written with the authority of a piece that’s been thoroughly fact-checked. No one’s going to come back and tell you it was boring.

Cahalan, Susannah. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.

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Friday Reads: Disrupted

disrupted_coverIn Disrupted, Dan Lyons tells the story of his time working as a writer (mostly blogs) for the tech startup company HubSpot. Prior to working at HubSpot, Lyons had a number of writing gigs and most of them were technology related. His previous work included writing for Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, and writing the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs blog. When his position at Newsweek was eliminated, he found himself looking for work at the age of 50, while married with two kids to take care of (his wife had medical issues and was not working at the time). He started the search for new employment and eventually landed at HubSpot, a company that provides software for “inbound marketing.” Disrupted tells the story of Lyons searching for and then subsequently obtaining new employment (and the challenges that go with that) as an “older” adult (and with much younger colleagues), but also his general experience working within the unique tech environment. While not geographically Silicon Valley (HubSpot is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts) Lyons provides an apt description of an insider’s view from within a tech startup.

Lyons, albeit somewhat reluctantly, accepted the job at HubSpot for a few different reasons. For one, it was geographically close to home and his family. Secondly, he had a number of friends who reaped large financial benefits from working in tech startups (and had vouched that HubSpot was indeed legit), so there was a motivation of financial self interest. And thirdly, after writing about tech issues and companies for so long he was curious about experiencing the culture from an insider’s perspective. His experiences, as Disrupted details in often humorous and depressing fashion, were overall less than stellar. As he became immersed in the HubSpot culture, the realism of the organization he now was a part of settled in:

“This is the peppy, effervescent, relentlessly positive, incredibly hubristic and overconfident attitude that everyone in the HubSpot marketing department exudes from [the head] on down. These people are super cheery cheerleaders. The whole world of online sales and marketing is filled with people who listen to Tony Robbins audiobooks on their way to work and dream of unleashing the power within themselves, people who love schmaltzy, smarmy motivational-speaker guff about being passionate, following your dreams, and conquering fear.”

Lyons has now moved on from HubSpot, subsequently writing for HBO’s Silicon Valley (a gig he started while still at HubSpot). The thing that Lyons nails is his apt portrayal of the culture, including how these startups often don’t really make money, the lack of diversity (and apparent non-concern about it), sexism and ageism (Mark Zuckerberg once said that “Young people are just smarter”), and more concern with the fact that employees have bean bag chairs, ping pong tables, and unlimited supplies of beer, candy, and hype than actually producing a decent product that the average person understands. Lyons sums this up when mentioning the co-founders of Twitter (incidentally, Twitter hasn’t ever turned a profit), specifically Biz Stone, who has an estimated net worth of $200 million. Since leaving Twitter, Stone started two companies, Jelly and Super. As Lyons notes, no one understands what the companies actually do, including Stone himself:

“I know this is eye-rollingly, hallucinogenically optimistic…but our mission is to build software that fosters empathy.”

If you are interested in an insider’s view of tech startups, Disrupted is an easy and most entertaining read. If you liked HBO’s Silicon Valley, you would also like this book. And for the record, if you want to foster empathetic relationships, begin with your day to day interactions with real life human beings. Start with Hi. You don’t need software for that.

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NCompass Live: 2016 One Book One Nebraska: The Meaning of Names

Join us for next week’s NCompass Live, “2016 One Book One Nebraska: The Meaning of Names“, on Wednesday, June 22, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

In this twelfth year of One Book One Nebraska, Nebraska libraries and other literary and cultural organizations continue to plan activities and events to encourage all Nebraskans to read and discuss the same book. Join us to hear more about this statewide reading promotion activity, sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission, Humanities Nebraska, and the Nebraska Center for the Book.

We are very pleased to announce that our featured guest will be Karen Gettert Shoemaker, author of the 2016 selection, The Meaning of Names.

Join Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner and Nebraska Library Commission Communications Coordinator Mary Jo Ryan to:

  • Learn about how to create a successful local reading promotion using Nebraska’s year-long, statewide celebration featuring The Meaning of Names, by Karen Gettert Shoemaker.
  • Brainstorm strategies to read and discuss The Meaning of Names, a Nebraska-set novel with a World War I backdrop, which follows a German-American woman trying to raise a family in the heartland and keep them safe from the effects of war and the influenza panic, as well as from violence and prejudice.
  • Find tools to help engage your community in local activities to encourage them to come together through literature to explore this work in community-wide reading programs.
  • Learn about the Celebration of Nebraska Books, set for October 29, which will celebrate this book, along with the winners of the 2016 Nebraska Book Awards.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • June 29 – Innovating Access to Information with Libraries Without Borders
  • July 6 – Making Your Catalog Work for Your Community: How to Develop Local Cataloging Standards
  • July 13 – Libraries on the Edge

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, 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 GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: Seneca Falls Inheritance

For this weSenecaFallseks’ Friday Reads, I’ve decided to share a book related to my chosen craft, librarianship – Seneca Falls Inheritance, by Miriam Grace Monfredo.

As a historian and former librarian, Monfredo definitely has the skills and knowledge to write a fun and clever historical murder mystery. The story takes place in 1848 in upstate New York State during the first Women’s Rights Convention, and is the first in a series featuring librarian Glynis Tryon.

The feminist in me loves this book for the independent Glynis, who has been asked by Elizabeth Cady Stanton to help organize the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. The fact that Glynis is a librarian doesn’t hurt either. She’s a smart, stubborn, educated woman struggling to solve a woman’s murder in her small town. The New Yorker in me feels very much at home in Seneca Falls, a city I have actually visited myself.

I’ve re-read Seneca Falls Inheritance at least three times now, and I still find it both educational and entertaining. There are five more titles in this series, so once you’re hooked on Glynis and her adventures, there’s plenty more to read.

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Doc Spot : Firearm Laws in Nebraska–A Legislative Research Office Backgrounder

                                                                                             Firearm Laws in Nebraska–A Legislative Research Office BackgrounderCoverL3800B039-2016 provides an overview of laws  governing firearms in Nebraska. It also describes federal firearm laws to the extent they constitute a framework for state law.

Firearms are governed by myriad laws at the state and federal level. For purposes of this Backgrounder, we focus on laws pertaining to buying handguns, carrying concealed handguns, criminal history background checks, and the role of federally licensed firearms dealers. We also provide a reference guide to Nebraska’s other firearms laws, a chronology of significant federal law, and supplemental firearms information in a “Q and A” format.

This Backgrounder is not intended to take a position on the ownership, possession, sale, or use of firearms—issues many find polarizing—nor to offer legal advice. In writing this report, we have endeavored to be neutral on firearms while providing information during a time when the debate over firearms has intensified.

As evidence, at least 20 proposals pertaining to firearms were pending before the Legislature in 2016. (A list of the proposals can be found in Appendix B.) We hope senators and the public, in debating firearm issues, will find the information contained in this report to be a useful, introductory guide to Nebraska’s firearm laws.

The content of this report relies on state and federal laws and supplemental material produced by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

In addition, several individuals aided our understanding of the nuances of firearm laws. In particular, we would like to thank Nebraska State Patrol Captain Mike Jahnke and Jeff Avey, records analysis supervisor, criminal identification division of the patrol.

If you have further questions about firearms, or any area of legislative interest,
please contact the Legislative Research Office, 402-471-2221.

This publication can be printed out by clicking the picture or title link above.
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Friday Reads: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo


Longo055Harper (17) and her best friend Kate have held to the plan for their futures since sixth grade: to become ballerinas and share an apartment in their home city of San Francisco. Then things fall apart. Kate is on her way to their dream, Harper is not. Her body cannot do what Kate can do. With her dream lost, Harper goes to Antarctica to “winter over” for six months as a research assistant (and to patch herself back together). Told in alternating chapters of “Antarctica” and “San Francisco” the book slowly reveals what Harper should have seen coming but chose to ignore. Booklist says, “An adventure story with lots of heart.”

I found this book interesting because Harper knew little about Antarctica or the science studies connected with wintering over, but she lucked into a lesser assistant position. The reader learns about Antarctica and what Harper’s strong points are as Harper learns them (though a couple of times I did want to whack her upside the head). Still, people have to learn in their own time and way – and that does happen for Harper. I liked that Harper was good at her job, organizing the scientist’s notes and data. Ultimately she is generous to an unlikable member of the winter over team.

An unusual setting for a teen novel, it features two people who were dedicated to their futures and approached them with unfailing intensity and effort.  To lose that would be devastating, and it does take Harper quite a while to move ahead.

Longo, Jennifer. Up to This Pointe. New York: Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016.

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Friday Reads: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligibleYou may be familiar with Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia; their mother desperate to make them good matches, and their father smart enough to try to stay out of the way.  But what if Liz Bennett was a magazine writer, Jane a yoga instructor, Mary focused on her online degree, Kitty and Lydia into CrossFit, and the family lived in Cincinnati circa 2013?

Meet Curtis Sittenfeld’s 21st century Bennett family.  In this retelling, Liz and Jane have moved to New York City to pursue their careers, but the rest of the girls still live at home in Ohio, where Mr. and Mrs. Bennett belong to the local country club and ignore the decay of their Tudor home, their rapidly dwindling fortune, and the failing state of Mr. Bennett’s health.  After their father ends up hospitalized, the older daughters return home, and Mrs. Bennett wastes no time in trying to set up one of her girls with reality television star-slash-ER-doctor Chip Bingley.

While a romance blossoms between Chip and Jane, Liz finds herself fending off advances from tech-whiz Cousin Willie and trying to save her family members from themselves.  Enter neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy and…well, if you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you already know how this one goes…

Sittenfeld, Curtis. Eligible. New York: Random House, 2016.

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New Government Publications Received at the Library Commission

Nebraska StatehoodNew state government publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for May 2016.  Included are reports from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, the Nebraska Criminal Justice Partners, the Nebraska State Electrical Division,  Mid-America Transportation Center, and the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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Eleanor & Park to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

June 1, 2016

Mary Jo Ryan

Eleanor & Park to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

The Nebraska Center for the Book selected Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) to represent Nebraska at the 2016 National Book Festival. The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s “Discover Great Places through Reading” brochure and map. Each state selects one book about the state, or by an author from the state, that is a good read for children or young adults. The brochure and map will be distributed at the Festival on September 24 and featured in the “Great Reads about Great Places” links on the websites of both the National and Nebraska Centers for the Book.

Set over the course of one school year, Eleanor & Park is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—outsiders that meet on the school bus who are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but are brave enough to try. Nebraska’s “Great Reads about Great Places” book is chosen from former Nebraska Book Award winners and this book was awarded the 2014 Nebraska Book Award in the Young Adult Fiction category. Entries for this year’s Nebraska Book Awards will be accepted until June 30—see

The National Book Festival will feature presentations by award-winning authors, poets, and illustrators at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Festival goers can meet their favorite authors, get books signed, have photos taken with mascots and storybook characters, and participate in a variety of learning activities. States will staff exhibit booths to promote reading, library programs, and literary events. Find out more about the 2016 National Book Festival (including a list of featured authors) at

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 the 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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Friday Reads: The Reckoners (series)

Action! Adventure! Supervillains!

An unknown Calamity has caused certain people to develop all sorts of extraordinary superpowers. With their new abilities, these Epics have also become quite corrupted and seemingly invincible. Using their powers for destruction and control, the world has become fractured with people living under the Epics’ rule. The good guys are a small band of ordinary people called the Reckoners who are fighting back against the Epics with the help of Prof and his fantastic technology.

The series begins with our scrappy (and sometimes awkward) protagonist, David, in his obsessive quest to join the Reckoners and take down one of the most powerful Epics, Steelheart, who killed his father ten years earlier. Twists and turns move the story along very quickly as David and the Reckoners face the war that they’re about to start.

In all of his writing, Brandon Sanderson’s world-building and magic (or superpower) systems are incredible. He’s a favorite. I haven’t listened to any of the audiobook versions, but according to other reviews, MacLeod Andrews does a wonderful job with narration.

Random House Kids. (2013, September 5). Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. [Video file]. Retrieved from

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