Category Archives: General

Throwback Thursday: Bridge to Omaha

Happy #ThrowbackThursday from Nebraska Memories!

This black and white photograph from the 1890s shows an unidentified bridge, thought to be looking west over the Missouri River toward Omaha from Iowa.

This image is provided and owned by the Omaha Public Library. The items from this collection on Nebraska Memories include early Omaha-related maps dating from 1825 to 1922, as well as over 1,000 postcards and photographs of the Omaha area.

Want to see more Nebraska history? Check out the Nebraska Memories archive to search for or browse through many more historical images digitized from photographs, postcards, maps, lantern slides, books, and other materials.

Nebraska Memories is a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet. The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information.

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“All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor” Chosen as 2020 One Book One Nebraska

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 12, 2019

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Tessa Terry
402-471-3434
800-307-2665

All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor
Chosen as 2020 One Book One Nebraska

People across Nebraska are encouraged to read the work of a Nebraskan —and then talk about it with their friends and neighbors. All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor (William Morrow, 2016) by Donald Stratton, with Ken Gire is the 2020 One Book One Nebraska selection.

All the Gallant Men is the first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor. Born in Inavale, Nebraska and raised in Red Cloud, Donald Stratton joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of eighteen. On December 7, 1941 he was a Seaman First Class on the USS Arizona. Stratton’s account of the Pearl Harbor attack is seventy-five years in the making, as he finally shares his personal tale at the age of ninety-four. His story is one of survival and determination as he recovered from the severe injuries he sustained in the attack, and ultimately re-enlisted to fight again.

The Nebraska Center for the Book selection committee found All the Gallant Men to be a valuable part of our understanding of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because it was written by a survivor of the attack on the USS Arizona, the book includes details that most readers have never encountered in either history classes or through other books about the subject. The book is not only an integral part of our knowledge of December 7, 1941, but it is also well written. As we approach the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the committee felt that it was a timely choice for Nebraskans to read this account written by one of their own.

Libraries across Nebraska will join other literary and cultural organizations in planning book discussions, activities, and events that will encourage Nebraskans to read and discuss this book. Support materials to assist with local reading/discussion activities will be available after January 1, 2020 at http://onebook.nebraska.gov. Updates and activity listings will be posted on the One Book One Nebraska Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/onebookonenebraska.

2020 will mark the sixteenth year of the One Book One Nebraska reading program, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book. 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. The Nebraska Center for the Book invites recommendations for One Book One Nebraska book selection year-round at http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/obon-nomination.asp.

One Book One Nebraska is sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Humanities Nebraska, and the Nebraska Library Commission. The Nebraska Center for the Book 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 housed at and 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.”

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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.    

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A History of the Census in the United States: Part 5

The Fifth Census: Census Day was June 1, 1830.

Andrew Jackson was President of the United States
on Census Day, June 1, 1830.

Authorizing Legislation

President John Q. Adams, in his fourth address to the U.S. Congress on December 28, 1828, recommended starting the census earlier in the year than August 1. He also proposed that the collection of age data be extended from infancy, in intervals of 10 years, “to the utmost boundaries of life.” These changes were incorporated into the census act of March 23, 1830.

Enumeration

As in the previous census, marshals or their assistants visited every dwelling house for enumeration, or, as the law stated, made a personal inquiry of the head of every family in their district. Because of delays in the compilation of the census returns, the filing date was extended to August 1, 1831.

In 1830, enumerators used uniform printed schedules for the first time. In prior censuses, marshals had used whatever paper was available and had designed and bound the sheets themselves. Because federal census clerks did not have to sort through a huge variety of schedules in 1830, they were able to tabulate census results more efficiently.

The 1830 census counted the population only. After the failures of the past two censuses, no attempt was made to collect additional data on manufacturing and industry in the United States.

Further Information

Information provided from Census.gov

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#BookFaceFriday “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel” by Heather Morris (Harper, 2018) is a part of the NLC Book Club collection! Even better, your book club can celebrate Veteran’s Day all month long with our book club search engine’s Category setting. Quickly find fiction and non-fiction books covering the topic of War and Military Service. The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel” is based on the real-life experiences of a Holocaust survivor, historical fiction doesn’t get any better than this.

To many, this book will be most appreciated for its powerful evocation of the everyday horrors of life as a prisoner in a concentration camp, while others will be heartened by the novel’s message of how true love can transcend even the most hellishly inhuman environments. This is a perfect novel for book clubs and readers of historical fiction.” (Publishers Weekly)

This week’s #BookFace models are current NLC Commissioner Arunkumar Pondicherry, and past NLC Commissioner Sandy White! Arun was appointed in 2018 to his first three-year term and Sandy just finished her three-year term just this month. A big thank you to all of our NLC Commissioners for their service on our board!

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

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Pretty Sweet Tech: What is a Chatbot?

Right now, I’m exploring the use of chatbots in the library. As with any technology, there are pros and cons. Essentially, chatbots simulate human conversation in text or voice. More often than not, you will encounter chatbots in large banks or major corporations.

Most chatbots are designed to handle specific tasks, not full conversations. For example, a bank chatbot might be designed to handle requests to check a bank balance, find most recent transactions, or deposit checks. However, if you make a request outside the chatbot’s specialized task, the system breaks down and leads to customer frustration. Better designed bots will send the human to a real human agent after a certain point. This is the computerized chatbot frustration with which most people are familiar today.

This is changing. In the recent past, people could always tell when they encountered a bot in a text chat or phone operating system. However, natural language processing (NLP) is getting better. NLP is the heart of modern human-computer interaction, and will eventually allow computers to understand human requests without humans having to phrase our requests in a specific format. For librarians, that means Boolean search format, or choosing the right keyword alternative to narrow down search results, or uncover a certain navigation menu.

Humans naturally want to communicate using natural speech, including colloquialisms, slang, various accents, and more. Computers are getting getting better at this because machine learning systems are improving. NLP is a subset of machine learning (ML).

Machine learning-based systems like chatbots learn from large sets of data. ML algorithms are designed to study large amounts of data and find patterns. The system learns from the information that is available, and will make predictions based on the patterns it finds in the data. Similar to how humans learn. We do the best we can with the information we have available at the time. Processes improve as information improves.

As you can imagine, machine learning systems are improving because our available data sets are improving. For example, the natural language processing system from Google has access to text conversations, voice assistant archives, email conversations and more. Is it any surprise that their NLP systems are one of the best?

With more data, the machine learning algorithms have better information and can make a more informed guess about what the person means with a certain request. For this reason, we can all expect chatbots to become more popular and take over more routine tasks. Taking orders in a restaurant, or scheduling meetings would be a prime example. There are already bots being refined to accomplish these tasks.

The chatbot I’m working on now does not use more advanced machine learning. It uses a rule-based system where I build a decision-tree and manually tell the system which pieces of information to draw from to answer specific questions. In a rule-based system, I have to have a much better guess as to what a customer will ask, and how people will want to interact with the bot to accomplish specific tasks.

After practicing with the rule-based system, I can explore a more advanced ML-based system. When starting with new technology, it always helps to walk before I run. The fall hurts less if I’m not going at break-neck speed. I’m using Dialogflow, powered by Google, if you’re curious.

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Throwback Thursday: Student Army Training Corps

We honor Nebraska Veterans with this week’s #ThrowbackThursday!

This black and white photograph shows eight members of the Student Army Training Corps. The SATC was approved by the War Department in 1917 to train young men for military service.

This photo is owned by Wayne State College. In a continuing effort to preserve and make accessible photographs depicting the history of Wayne State College and the region it serves, the Wayne State College Library is digitizing selected photographs from its archives. Photographs from the early 1900s included in Nebraska Memories show the buildings and grounds of the campus, athletic teams, the Student Army Training Corps, and other groups while slightly later images show famous visitors to campus.

Interested in seeing more Nebraska history? Check out all the collections on the Nebraska Memories archive!

Nebraska Memories is a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet. The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information.

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Resources for Libraries and the 2020 Census

Apply by Nov. 22 for Library Census Equity Fund

The American Library Association (ALA) is accepting applications for Library Census Equity Fund mini-grants until Nov. 22. ALA will provide 25 libraries with $2,000 mini-grants to bolster their service to hard-to-count communities and help achieve a complete count in the 2020 Census.

Census hiring: Nov. 6 webinar and new tip sheet

The U.S. Census Bureau is currently hiring 500,000 temporary workers for the 2020 Census through an online application process. To achieve a complete count in the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau needs to recruit qualified and diverse applicants in every part of the country. To learn how libraries can promote awareness of 2020 Census job opportunities, register for ALA’s free webinar on Nov. 6 and read ALA’s new tip sheet, “How Can My Library Increase Awareness of 2020 Census Hiring?” (PDF).

Preparing your library for the Census: Nov. 14 webinar and new tip sheet

With the 2020 Census just a few months away, how can libraries prepare, and what funding sources may be available to support libraries’ preparations and activities? Learn more at ALA’s free webinar on Nov. 14 and read ALA’s new tip sheet, “Preparing My Library for the 2020 Census” (PDF).

Trustees invited to become Library Census Champions

Library Census Champions is a new network of state, local and tribal library Trustees helping their libraries and communities prepare for the 2020 Census. Elected and appointed library Trustees can sign up to become a Library Census Champion and receive free information, resources, and actions to take to ensure a fair and accurate census. To learn more about this program, Register to watch the recording on-demand.

Census resources from ALACheck ala.org/census for updates through the 2020 Census as ALA continues to add new resources. For instance, find Libraries Transform images, template presentation slides (PPTX) and presenter notes (PDF)

Upcoming events

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A History of the Census in the United States: Part 4

The Fourth Census: Census Day was August 7, 1820.

James Monroe was President of the United States
on Census Day, August 7, 1820.

Authorizing Legislation

The fourth census was taken in accordance with the census act of March 14, 1820, which required more detailed population-related inquiries than earlier enumerations. This census is notable for being the first to inquire if respondents were engaged in agriculture, commerce, or manufacturing.

Enumeration

The enumeration began on the first Monday of August. Its scheduled six-month completion time frame was extended by about seven months to September 1, 1821. As in previous decades, the 1820 census act again required assistant marshals to visit every dwelling house, or head of every family within their designated districts.

Data relating to manufacturing were collected by assistants in each district, sent to the marshals, and then transmitted to the secretary of state along with the population returns. The report on manufacturing presented the data for these establishments by counties, but the results were not summarized for each district and the aggregate statement that was released was based on incomplete returns. The 1820 manufacturing census suffers the same criticism as that in 1810: Poor enumerator training resulted in dramatic variations in data quality and accuracy.

Further Information

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November is Native American Heritage Month

November is National American Indian Heritage MonthThe Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.

Visit the National American Indian Heritage Month website to view a Calendar of Events, Exhibits and Collections, Audio and Video, Resources for Teachers, Images, and much more!

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Book Briefs: New University of Nebraska Press Books at the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse

The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse receives documents every month from all Nebraska state agencies, including the University of Nebraska Press (UNP).  Each month we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse receives.                UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians, for their patrons, in Nebraska.

Here are the UNP books the Clearinghouse received in October:

Back to America : Identity, Political Culture, and the Tea Party Movement                                                                                                    William H. Westermeyer                                                                                (Series: Anthropology of Contemporary North America)

Back to America is an ethnography of local activist groups within the Tea Party, one of the most important recent political movements to emerge in the United States and one that continues to influence American politics. Though often viewed as the brainchild of conservative billionaires and Fox News, the success of the Tea Party movement was as much, if not more, the result of everyday activists at the grassroots level. William H. Westermeyer traces how local Tea Party groups (LTPGs) create submerged spaces where participants fashion action-oriented collective and personal political identities forged in the context of cultural or figured worlds. These figured worlds allow people to establish meaningful links between their own lives and concerns, on the one hand, and the movement’s goals and narratives, on the other. Collectively, the production and circulation of the figured worlds within LTPGs provide the basis for subjectivities that often nurture political activism.

Westermeyer reveals that LTPGs are vibrant and independent local organizations that, while constantly drawing on nationally disseminated cultural images and discourses, are far from simple agents of the larger organizations and the media. Back to America offers a welcome anthropological approach to this important social movement and to our understanding of grassroots political activism writ large.

Franz Boas : The Emergence of the Anthropologist                          Rosemary Levy Zumwalt                                                                            (Series: Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology)

Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt tells the remarkable story of Franz Boas, one of the leading scholars and public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first book in a two-part biography, Franz Boas begins with the anthropologist’s birth in Minden, Germany, in 1858 and ends with his resignation from the American Museum of Natural History in 1906, while also examining his role in training professional anthropologists from his berth at Columbia University in New York City.

Zumwalt follows the stepping-stones that led Boas to his vision of anthropology as a four-field discipline, a journey demonstrating especially his tenacity to succeed, the passions that animated his life, and the toll that the professional struggle took on him. Zumwalt guides the reader through Boas’s childhood and university education, describes his joy at finding the great love of his life, Marie Krackowizer, traces his 1883 trip to Baffin Land, and recounts his efforts to find employment in the United States. A central interest in the book is Boas’s widely influential publications on cultural relativism and issues of race, particularly his book The Mind of Primitive Man (1911), which reshaped anthropology, the social sciences, and public debates about the problem of racism in American society.

Franz Boas presents the remarkable life story of an American intellectual giant as told in his own words through his unpublished letters, diaries, and field notes. Zumwalt weaves together the strands of the personal and the professional to reveal Boas’s love for his family and for the discipline of anthropology as he shaped it.

Skin Memory                                                                                                John Sibley Williams                                                                                (Series: Backwaters Prize in Poetry)

A stark, visceral collection of free verse and prose poetry, Skin Memory scours a wild landscape haunted by personal tragedy and the cruel consequences of human acts in search of tenderness and regeneration. In this book of daring and introspection, John Sibley Williams considers the capriciousness of youth, the terrifying loss of cultural identity and self-identity, and what it means to live in an imperfect world. He reveals each body as made up of all bodies, histories, and shared dreams of the future.

In these poems absence can be held, the body’s dust is just dust, and though childhood is but a poorly edited memory and even our well-intentioned gestures tend toward ruin, Williams nonetheless says, “I’m pretty sure, everything within us says something beautiful.”

Terrorizing Gender : Transgender Visibility and the Surveillance Practices of the U.S. Security States                                                    Mia Fischer                                                                                            (Series: Expanding Frontiers: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality)

The increased visibility of transgender people in mainstream media, exemplified by Time magazine’s declaration that 2014 marked a “transgender tipping point,” was widely believed to signal a civil rights breakthrough for trans communities in the United States. In Terrorizing Gender Mia Fischer challenges this narrative of progress, bringing together transgender, queer, critical race, legal, surveillance, and media studies to analyze the cases of Chelsea Manning, CeCe McDonald, and Monica Jones. Tracing how media and state actors collude in the violent disciplining of these trans women, Fischer exposes the traps of visibility by illustrating that dominant representations of trans people as deceptive, deviant, and threatening are integral to justifying, normalizing, and reinforcing the state-sanctioned violence enacted against them.

The heightened visibility of transgender people, Fischer argues, has actually occasioned a conservative backlash characterized by the increased surveillance of trans people by the security state, evident in debates over bathroom access laws, the trans military ban, and the rescission of federal protections for transgender students and workers. Terrorizing Gender concludes that the current moment of trans visibility constitutes a contingent cultural and national belonging, given the gendered and racialized violence that the state continues to enact against trans communities, particularly those of color.

**All synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press  (https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/)

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The Public Library Survey is Now Available

The public library survey is now available on Bibliostat. The survey is open for data collection from today (November 4, 2019) thru February 14, 2020, and covers the 2018-2019 fiscal year (typically either July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019 or October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2019).

Here is the link to the survey. There is also a training guide on our website. If you need your password, or have questions about the survey, feel free to contact me. You can also enter your e-mail in the lost password part of our website.

For other guides, and copies of the survey you can review or print before entering your data into Bibliostat, check out the main Bibliostat page on our website.

I am here to help you with the survey. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Augmented Books

Books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But they might be augmented! In fact, they already are. Check out this video from Quiver AR:

Quiver Augmented Reality is an app that can be downloaded for Android or iOS. Coloring pages can be downloaded and printed from Quiver’s website. There are a combination of free and paid options for coloring pages.

If you can color inside the lines, you can use this app. It’s a kid favorite, but fun for adults as well. Here are some quick setup tips and tricks:

  1. Go to http://www.quivervision.com/apps/ to download Quiver. Start with regular Quiver, then test out the others later.
  2. Download and print coloring pages: http://www.quivervision.com/coloring-packs/#
  3. Color!
  4. In the Quiver app, press “Packs” in the middle of the screen. Choose and download the image pack for the coloring page you chose.
  5. After downloading, press the “Butterfly icon” in the upper right corner to access the app.
  6. Press the “Butterfly” icon at the bottom to access the camera
  7. Aim your camera at the coloring page. (You may need to tap the screen to focus).
  8. Watch your freshly colored image come to life!
  9. Repeat steps 2-7 with other coloring page packs.

As simple as that, books can come to life! Now imagine how this can affect book publishing in the future. Picture books just got a whole lot more interactive. Textbooks can have better graphics for improved learning.

We can also pair books with the real world. Imagine the world as your coloring book. Start with a textbook, then pull the digital image into the real world. Learning is about to get a lot more interesting.

It’s time to change the way we think about books. Who said I have to choose between eBooks and print books? I want both. Let’s start asking different questions in the library. Change the game.

P.S. Email me at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov if you want to find out how to build your own augmented and virtual reality worlds.

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2020 Census: The Law Is Clear–Personal Information Cannot Be Shared

The mission of the Census Bureau is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality statistics about its people and economy. They couldn’t produce this information without you. Responsible data stewardship is how they maintain your trust. Being responsible stewards of your data is not only required by law but also embedded in their culture.

The Law Protects Your Information. Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, your information must be kept confidential, and your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Anyone who violates this law faces severe penalties.

They Use Cutting-Edge Safeguards To Protect Your Identity. They do not identify individuals in the statistics they publish. Their policies and safeguards help them ensure the confidentiality of your information. Our Disclosure Review Board verifies that any product they release meets their confidentiality standards. Click on the link to learn more about the U.S Census Bureau’s Data Protection and Privacy Program: Find Out More.

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Throwback Thursday: Halloween Party

Happy Halloween from Nebraska Memories!

This week’s #ThrowbackThursday features a 9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ black and white photograph of a Halloween party for the Nebraska Children’s Home Society in 1951. The Omaha North High School Red Cross provided this Halloween party with games and treats for the children.

This picture is provided and owned by the Nebraska Children’s Home Society. The Nebraska Children’s Home Society was chartered September 1, 1893. NCHS Founders had a vision for a better future and believed that every child deserved a family.

Interested in Nebraska history? Check out this collection and more on the Nebraska Memories archive!

Nebraska Memories is a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet. The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information

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Resources for Veterans, their Families, Caregivers, and Survivors

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs websites offer many resources for Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

For example, the U.S. VA website offers information on GI Bill benefits, Healthcare, Disability, Education, Veterans Day information and discounts, a website to help find old service friends, informational podcasts and webinars, and much, much more. You can even sign up for email updates to receive the latest news about VA benefits.

The Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs website offers similar information, but more specifically for Nebraska Veterans. Job Fairs in Nebraska, general veterans employment, who to contact for veterans financial aid, tuition aid, and a guide to disability claims & appeals, just to name a few.

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November Health Outreach Resources

November is …

  • National Family Health History Month
  • National American Indian Heritage Month
  • American Diabetes Month

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has just released resources to help you plan health programs and promote health information during November. Links include a program kit, webinars, electronic bulletin slides, posters, and social media materials. Visit this page for more details: https://nnlm.gov/all-of-us/national-health-observances#toc-9.

Healthfinder.gov offers a toolkit for American Diabetes Month. The toolkit provides ideas for hosting a community event, and resources to share health information through your website, newsletter, or social media. Visit this page for more details: https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/NovemberToolkit.aspx.

Christian Minter, MSLIS
Community Engagement and Health Literacy Librarian
Coordinator of Circulation Services
Assistant Professor
McGoogan Library of Medicine
University of Nebraska Medical Center
986705 Nebraska Medical Center | Omaha, NE 68198-6705
402-559-7226

christian.minter@unmc.edu

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Rural Nebraska Communities have Access to $2.2 Million for Disaster Recovery Due to FEMA-Major Disaster Declarations

Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 22, 2019 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Nebraska State Director Karl Elmshaeuser announced that Nebraska has been allocated with nearly $2.2 million in grants available through the Community Facilities Program to help rural communities continue in their recovery from the devastating effects of FEMA declared disasters in Nebraska.

“Nebraska has been hit hard by the devastating weather, with 83 of our counties receiving Major Disaster Declarations,” Elmshaeuser said. “USDA works hard to help communities thrive and this funding supports in their long-term recovery.”

The $2.2 million is included in the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act that President Trump signed into law on June 6, 2019.

Nebraska declared counties are: Adams, Antelope, Banner, Blaine, Boone, Box Butte, Boyd, Brown, Buffalo, Burt, Butler, Cass, Cedar, Cherry, Cheyenne, Clay, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dakota, Dawes, Dawson, Deuel, Dixon, Dodge, Douglas, Fillmore, Franklin, Frontier, Furnas, Gage, Garden, Garfield, Gosper, Greeley, Hall, Hamilton, Harlan, Holt, Howard, Jefferson, Johnson, Kearney, Keith, Keya Paha, Kimball, Knox, Lancaster, Lincoln, Logan, Loup, Madison, Merrick, Morrill, Nance, Nemaha, Nuckolls, Omaha Indian Reservation, Otoe, Pawnee, Phelps, Pierce, Platte, Polk, Ponca TDSA, Richardson, Rock, Sac and Fox Indian Reservation, Saline, Santee Indian Reservation, Sarpy, Saunders, Scotts Bluff, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stanton, Thayer, Thomas, Thurston, Valley, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Winnebago Indian Reservation, and York.

Grant applications will be accepted at USDA Rural Development Attn: Community Programs; 100 Centennial Mall North; Federal Building Room 308; Lincoln, Neb. 68508. Applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funds are exhausted. Grant assistance will be provided on a graduated scale; smaller communities with the lowest median household income are eligible for a higher proportion of grant funds. For application details and additional information, see page 47477 of the Sept. 10 Federal Register. In Nebraska, contact your local Rural Development Community Program Staff.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes.

Projects must be in eligible rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

*USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

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The Census and Special Districts in the U.S.

From Municipalities to Special Districts, Official Count of Every Type of Local Government is in the 2017 Census of Governments.

We know what counties and municipalities are. But what are special districts?  

Special districts are independent government units created for a limited, specific purpose and, every year, new districts are created and existing ones dissolve.

The latest in-depth, encyclopedic count of special districts and all types of local governments in the United States is now available.

Released earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Census of Governments Organization component provides statistics on governments in the United States as of June 2017 and shows changes since the last count in 2012.

Tables show counts by government type, state, population-size groups, function and school systems. 

Local governments are classified into five types: county, municipal, township, special districts and school districts.  

County, municipal and township governments are general-purpose governments. The official count for those types of governments has not changed significantly since 2012.

Then there are special districts.

They typically have a shorter lifespan and higher turnover than general purpose governments, but the difference in their counts was also relatively slim between 2012 and 2017: The 2017 Census of Governments added more than 1,500 special districts and removed roughly 1,260 that are no longer operating.

Nebraska Examples of Special Districts

Airport Authorities, Cemetery Districts, Community Building Districts, County Fair Boards, Drainage Districts, Hospital Districts and Authorities, Housing Agencies, Interstate County Bridge Commissions, Irrigation Districts, Joint Electric Power, Sewerage and Solid Waste Disposal, Water Distribution Agencies—1981 Law, Joint Public Power Authorities—1982 Law, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Metropolitan Utilities Districts, Natural Resources Districts, Public Power Districts, Reclamation Districts, Risk Management Pools, Road and Street Improvement Districts—1957 and 1961 Laws, Rural and Suburban Fire Protection Districts, Rural Water Districts, and Sanitary and Improvement Districts.

Why So Many New Special Districts?

So why are states creating special districts these days?  

In some cases, states create them to provide services to newly- developed geographic areas.

In other cases, the special purpose activity or services already exist, but residents expect a higher level of quality.  

For example, a state may have fire protection services. However, the established governmental structure may not legally allow the fire district to raise enough funds to maintain the desired level of quality services.  

That’s when a state may choose to create a special district. Most special districts can levy additional property or sales taxes, and may borrow money to buy or build facilities by issuing bonds.  

Some districts are only active for a limited time, usually as long as it takes to pay back a debt.

Multifunction Districts

Between the 2012 and 2017 census, multifunction districts grew the most.  

Multifunction districts can collect property taxes and issue tax-exempt bonds. Legislation authorizing multifunction districts was passed in most states across the nation in the 1980s.

For example:

  • In Colorado, the 2017 Census of Governments added close to 270 metropolitan districts to the master list of local governments in the state.  

Metropolitan districts can provide a wide array of services, such as fire protection, street improvements, recreation, mosquito control and television relay services.  

These districts can collect property taxes and issue public debt. That’s why it’s important to keep track of public funds controlled by these districts.  

Most of the metropolitan districts in Colorado are development districts created to provide funding for development projects.

  • In Texas, multifunction districts, called Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), also showed growth. The 2017 Census of Governments added nearly 200 units to the master list of local governments in Texas.  

MUDs provide a variety of utility services in areas not included in a municipality. These districts can finance developing infrastructure and housing.

MUDs can incur public debts in the form of bonds to finance infrastructure and/or housing, and may dissolve in 15 to 25 years after the debt is paid in full.  

As in Colorado, developers who see public-private partnerships as business opportunities usually drive the creation of multifunction districts.  

Development And Water Supply Districts

Financing capital improvement was the leading force behind special district growth in Florida.  

The 2017 Census of Governments added about 130 new Community Development Districts (CDD). In Florida, CDDs may finance a variety of community development projects, such as new sewage facilities.  

The 2017 Individual State Descriptions publication provides a comprehensive description of the governmental organization for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  

Some of these districts are similar to Community Improvement Associations (CIAs) in size and scale of operations. Both are a result of the housing boom from 2003 to 2008.

The major difference is that CDDs are considered public government units that enjoy some tax exemptions, although this comes with other regulations and required transparency in governing these districts.

The 2017 Census of Governments data also reflect the creation of more water supply districts in New Mexico. Over 150 Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Associations were included as special district governments since the last census. Other states, including California, Arkansas, Missouri and Washington, also added between 10 to 20 water supply districts.

Fire And Emergency Services Districts

Nationally, Emergency Services Districts (ESD) that provide local fire protection and ambulance services have grown this decade: 150 were created from 2012 to 2017 — 130 of them in Texas.  

The increase is centered in areas experiencing the fastest population growth in the country since the 2010 Census.

Often, ESDs are organized as a funding tool for existing volunteer fire departments.  These allow volunteer fire districts to collect additional property and sales taxes to provide service to their expanding communities.

It can be challenging to find fire-fighting funding in areas losing population and experiencing declining property values.

In Arizona, for example, laws passed in 2013 allow fire districts to consolidate into fire authorities to reduce overhead costs. The 2017 Census of Governments shows 14 new joint fire authorities in Ohio.  

Some township volunteer fire departments have recently begun to combine personnel, equipment and property tax revenue to become official special district governments.

Another way districts can improve emergency response and rescue operations is by creating Emergency Communications (911) Districts to help coordinate resources between municipalities, counties and other local governments.

Some states, including Texas, Iowa, and Oregon, have had them since 1985. Others like Washington and Massachusetts have recently introduced laws enabling citizens to create 911 districts.

Download the Individual State Descriptions: 2017 Census of Governments

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A History of the Census in the United States : Part 3

The 3rd Census: Census Day was August 6, 1810

James Madison was President of the United States on Census Day, August 6, 1810.

Authorizing Legislation

The authorization act for the third census stipulated that an assistant marshal must actually visit each household, or the head of each family, within his designated enumeration district and should not rely on hearsay or the like to complete his count. The act also mandated that the enumeration commence on the first Monday of August.

Enumeration

An act of May 1, 1810 amended the earlier authorizing legislation to require that, while they were collecting demographic data, assistant marshals also collect available economic data. These men recorded the “several manufacturing establishments and manufactures within their several districts, territories, and divisions.” The marshals transmitted the manufacturing data to the secretary of the treasury at the same time they sent the results of the population enumeration to the secretary of state. No schedule was prescribed for the collection of industrial data and the nature of the inquiries were at the discretion of the secretary of the treasury. Because of this, the collection of manufacturing data was so erratic that it was generally considered useless except to identify broad industrial trends.

Intercensal Activity

An act of May 16, 1812, provided for the publication of a digest of manufactures containing data on the kind, quality, and value of goods manufactured, the number of establishments, and the number of machines of various kinds used in certain classes of manufactures. The report containing incomplete returns for more than 200 kinds of goods and including several items that were principally agricultural, was published in 1813.

Further Information

Information provided from Census.gov

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Throwback Thursday: Dance Class

Dancing our way towards the weekend with this week’s #ThrowbackThursday!

This black and white photograph from the early 1900s is provided and owned by Wayne State College. In a continuing effort to preserve and make accessible photographs depicting the history of Wayne State College and the region it serves, the Wayne State College Library is digitizing selected photographs from its archives. Photographs from the early 1900s show the buildings and grounds of the campus, athletic teams, the Student Army Training Corps, and other groups while slightly later images show famous visitors to campus.

Want to see more Nebraska history? Check out all the collections on the Nebraska Memories archive.

Nebraska Memories is a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet. The Nebraska Memories archive is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information.

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