Curbside pickup of requested items, computers by appointment, and other limited services are available.  Please contact your library for specific information on services provided. 

Virtual storytimes available

Virtual storytimes with Rachelle are available under the Children’s Services tab on the left side of our website. New recordings are available weekly!

Accurate information essential for democracy

by Beth Cronk, Meeker County Librarian

President James Madison said, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.” Accurate information is essential to a healthy democracy. Disinformation is a danger to it.

As a librarian, I actively seek and provide sources of accurate information, and I encourage everyone to evaluate the accuracy of the information they encounter.

The American Library Association has some tips you can use to evaluate the information you come across, especially online:

  1. Consider the source. Look up the organization or publication that posted it, and see what its mission and contact information say.
  2. Read past the headline. Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks and reactions. Read an article before you share it or comment on it.
  3. Assess the credibility of the author or the expert quoted in an article. Do a quick search for them. What is their area of expertise, and what organization do they represent?
  4. Look at the links and sources supporting the article. Does that information actually support the story? Are those sources reliable?
  5. Check the date. Could the age of the article affect its accuracy?
  6. Consider that the item might be satire. Sometimes an article is meant to be humorous. Quickly look up the site and author to find out before you believe something outlandish.
  7. Consider that it might be promotional. Is the purpose of the site to sell a product?
  8. Check your biases. That’s a hard one! We are drawn to reading, believing, and sharing things that fit into our predetermined ideas. Pause and question something from an unproven source even if you want it to be true – in fact, especially then.
  9. Search other news outlets to see if the story is widely reported. Be skeptical of information appearing in only one place that you can’t confirm.

In today’s online environment, anyone can present their story in a way that looks professional, but it’s essential that we all consider whether the information is accurate.

Read, listen, and watch stories from many different news outlets. If you rely on only one or two sources of information, you’re limiting your understanding of a topic. Local and regional newspapers and broadcast news programs are good to include in your information diet, with the connections and accountability they have to people in your area.

You’re more likely to get reliable news and information when you go to library databases and Pulitzer Prize-winning news sources, as well. You can search library databases by visiting elibrarymn.org.  On that page there’s a button for “News & Magazines” where you can search for information published in a huge number of reputable publications, some of which have articles available to read there the same day they come out in print.

Did a friend share a meme about current events and you’re wondering if it’s true? Go beyond the short and sensationalistic and look for reliable sources and for experts who know what they’re talking about. If you need help finding accurate information on a topic, give me a call at the library, (320) 693-2483, or send me an email (my address is available on the library’s website), and I will do my best to find you the most accurate information I can locate.

Accurate information is one of the foundations of our democracy. Join me in making an effort to check sources, separate fact from opinion, and pause to verify before sharing. We all can do our part for the common good.

Face coverings required for library appointments

Per Minnesota Executive Order 20-81, face coverings are required in the library. For details, visit https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/facecover.html.

Some important details:

  • Types of face coverings can include a paper or disposable mask, a cloth mask, a neck gaiter, a scarf, a bandanna, or a religious face covering.
  • A face covering must cover the nose and mouth completely. The covering should not be overly tight or restrictive and should feel comfortable to wear.
  • Any mask that incorporates a valve that is designed to facilitate easy exhaling, mesh masks, or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material, or vents are not sufficient face coverings because they allow droplets to be released from the mask.

If you do not wear a face covering and are age 5 or older, you will not be able to come into the library for an appointment, but we will be happy to accommodate you with curbside delivery, wifi, and/or assistance by phone or email.

Full face shields are allowed for patrons who have a disability or health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Per the mandate, face shields must extend from the forehead to the chin and ear to ear with no gaps.

Library resources for students and parents

by Beth Cronk, Meeker County Librarian

Public libraries help provide support for education. Whichever way your child is going to school this year, the public library is happy to help provide resources for your family.

Pioneerland Library System has recently begun offering Brainfuse, an online resource that can be used anywhere. It includes a range of resources for all ages.

Brainfuse HelpNow offers personalized homework help in core subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.  Live tutoring is available through the Brainfuse site every day from 2:00-11:00 p.m. Because students communicate with online tutors in real time using an interactive virtual whiteboard to chat, write, draw, and graph, the tutors can provide individualized help to students of diverse needs and backgrounds.

HelpNow also offers skills building and test prep resources a student can work on alone, then take a quiz before connecting with a live tutor to review the quiz results. All live tutoring sessions are saved and can be replayed as well as shared with friends and teachers.

Students learning French or Spanish can use the Language Lab to either get live help from a tutor or use a variety of games and flashcards to practice skills.

The Writing Lab feature provides assistance at any time of day. Students can submit papers for detailed feedback.  The Send Question Center is similar but for help with non-writing assignments such as math or science.

Students who want to form an online study group with friends can do so through BrainFuse’s Meet feature, using the interactive whiteboard.

Is your student getting ready for college? Brainfuse offers SAT test prep and assistance with filling out the FAFSA for financial aid. I have wished for help with the FAFSA so many times! The eParachute feature helps people of any age discover college majors and careers that match their skills and interests.

If kids are a little rusty as the summer draws to a close, direct them to the Summer Camp feature, intended to sharpen math, science, and writing skills to avoid the summer slide.

All of these online resources are available now, and will be through the school year. Students can use them in conjunction with their in-person, hybrid, or distance learning, or parents can use them for assistance with homeschooling.

Speaking of homeschooling, libraries always offer a wide range of books and other materials that are useful for that. Some books are available for parents who are figuring out how to homeschool, such as the newer books The Brave Learner and The Call of the Wild and Free. But most of the resources homeschooling parents use from the library are the vast numbers of books for children and teens that are available on every subject and in every literary genre. If we don’t have it at our local library, we can usually order it from somewhere. Don’t forget documentary films as an educational resource; the library has those, too!

Whatever your school year holds, our library will be glad to help you find books and other resources to help. Remember that you can check out a device to get internet at your house for up to four weeks, and that you can pick up the library’s wifi outside the building 24/7.

Internet access in a new way

In today’s world, it’s very difficult to do without internet access. In addition to offering one-hour computer appointments in the libraries, as well as wifi outside the buildings, Pioneerland has just added a new way for people to get internet access, at least for a little while.

Pioneerland libraries now have mobile hotspots available to check out. These devices provide wifi you can use at home, through T-Mobile.

You use your library card to check them out, just like a book. And like a book, they have a loan period of four weeks. They can’t be renewed.

To request one, you’ll need to call the library, rather than placing a hold through the catalog. If one is available, we can get it to you through curbside delivery right away. If they’re all checked out, we’ll put you on the waiting list and let you know when one is ready for you to pick up. These have been very popular in other library systems, so we anticipate demand.

If you keep the hotspot past the due date, it will turn off and become unusable. There will be a late fee of $1 a day for late returns. If the hotspot is not returned or if it comes back damaged, there is an $85 fee for replacement, and if any of the accessories are missing, there will be a charge for the amount the library spends buying a replacement for that piece. The cases for the hotspots are very sturdy and well-padded, so you can safely return them in the book drop. Staff will wipe down the equipment and cases between patrons.

Internet service relies on cell tower technology and coverage, so the signal will be stronger or weaker depending on where you live, and in some locations they won’t pick up a signal. Because of this, the Cosmos Library does not have any hotspots available to check out; they are unlikely to work in that area. The Litchfield Library has five, the Dassel Library has three, and the Grove City Library (where the signal is spotty) has two. The devices don’t go out through interlibrary loan; they can only be checked out at the library they belong to.

The hotspots have filtering software installed on them in accordance with Pioneerland’s Internet Use Policy, but the library is not responsible for individual activity on the internet. We encourage you to always follow safe internet practices. Pioneerland does not track your internet usage, data, or information while you’re using the hotspot and, in accordance with library privacy requirements, does not provide your information to the service provider.

If you need to print, the libraries do have e-printers that can accept emailed print jobs that meet certain parameters (Word document, photo, or PDF, but not a webpage, for example). The HP e-printing service sometimes doesn’t work well, so talk to library staff over the phone if you need to try using it, and allow plenty of time for the print job to come through. We can deliver printouts curbside.

If you check out a hotspot for a project and you complete it before the due date, please return the device so that someone else can have access to it sooner. We hope that these mobile hotspots will give you a way to get essential things done online at home during this unusual time.

Digital library cards now available!

Digital library cards now available! Did you miss out on getting to the library for a card before everything closed? You can sign up on Overdrive/Libby for a temporary digital library card that will allow you to check out our ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. You’ll enter your cell phone number to demonstrate that you live within our regional library system.

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