Rethinking how we talk about the unserved

For over 100 years, the Indiana State Library has sought a solution to the “unserved” areas of Indiana. As someone who grew up in one of these areas, this has been a topic that I have long wanted to see addressed. As I look back at some of the articles written in the 1930s in Library Occurrent, I find that this issue has been on the minds of folks working with libraries for a long time. Maybe it’s time we started to change the conversation. What if we stopped talking about “unserved areas” and started talking about the “library deserts” that exist in our state?

In calling the areas unserved, we have unintentionally painted this as a problem for the libraries to deal with, and one that seems to be the fault of the libraries. “Why won’t the library serve those people?” First of all, having grown up in rural Hancock County before Sen. Beverly Gard was able to make changes with CEDIT, and change the service area, this was something the folks at the Hancock County Public Library wanted to see changed. While my friends and I would make the 20-30 minute drive to the Hancock County Public Library to do research, we were constantly teased by the worlds that could be opened up to us through all the books available for check out, but not to us. As high school students, all striving for admission and financial assistance to colleges, our focus was beyond the “why” we couldn’t check out the books, beyond the “why” behind the fact that we had to purchase most of the books we wanted to read. We had more immediate concerns that would impact our futures greatly, and didn’t even realize how much we were missing just because our neighbors had fought against paying taxes to the library.

By talking about library deserts, we can begin to shape the conversation around the citizens of this state who are at a disadvantage. Yes, they are welcome to go to any public library and use the materials while there, but it’s not the same level of access that the residents of that district have. It is a civic inequity that exists because of decisions made long ago and/or by a vocal group of individuals striving to protect their own interests. Every child in this state can expect to receive an education, starting at least with kindergarten. But there is so much work to do before those children ever get to kindergarten. Every Child Ready to Read and other early literacy programs have been growing in popularity throughout the public library network. But what about those pre-K kids who don’t have a public library of their own? Maybe they’ll still get to story hours, but what fun will it be when all of their friends get to leave with stacks with books and they have to go home empty-handed? And our colleagues in library districts that are juxtaposed with these library deserts have to have difficult conversations every day explaining what we all know: that library service is not free, that patrons contribute to the fiscal success of every library through some kind of tax and that the individuals who are paying those taxes should not have to carry the burden for everyone who doesn’t pay taxes.

Inequities among students who have restricted access to adequate broadband, varying levels of digital and general literacy and inequity in income noticeably affects their potential, as highlighted by this February 2019 ACT report. Obviously, library access does not solve all these problems, but ensuring all citizens have a basic level of access to information may help level the playing field for all our citizens. The ability to convey the benefits of library access to all members of our communities, and to all citizens of the state could be enhanced if we made a minor shift in our language to better reach more people.

This post was written by Wendy Knapp, deputy director of Statewide Services at the Indiana State Library.

Solar eclipse 2017

Imagine you are unfamiliar with electricity and the only light you know is from the sun. Your family has lived this way for centuries. The sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Most daily activities occur when the sun is out. Night is a time for stillness and rest.

One day, the bright sun suddenly develops a dark shadow. In that moment, the stars are visible as if it were night and the air begins to cool. All light disappears and a thin, glowing ring surrounds the moon.

What would your thoughts be? How would you feel? Would all be lost? Would your family be afraid, or would they accept it?

In 2013, National Geographic collected various myths and misunderstandings from around the world which explained the occurrence of solar eclipses. One myth among the Batammaliba people of Togo and Benin, West Africa, is that during a solar eclipse, the sun and the moon are fighting and need to resolve old conflicts.

Arguing aside, during a solar eclipse, which will happen for us on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a New Moon will completely block out the sun’s light for two minutes or so. This is significant because the total eclipse will be visible in a 60-70 mile path across North America beginning in Newport, Oregon and ending on the coast of South Carolina. The last time the total eclipse was visible across the country was 1979. The remainder of the U.S., Canada and Mexico will see a partial eclipse. The National Weather Service’s interactive map of the Path of Totality can help you discover where your own location relates to the path.

NASA describes the science and beauty of the upcoming solar eclipse on its new website Total Eclipse 2017. There, you’ll find facts about how an eclipse works, maps of where to view it, locations of celebrations and resources for education and activities.

The Indiana State Library federal documents collection contains a U.S.A. War Department “Report on the Solar Eclipse of July, 1878,” published roughly 140 years ago. Within this report are observations made by the Signal Service of the Total Eclipse of the Sun on July 29, 1878. Field notes, letters, and other documents were collected from over 100 stations across the country, including seven Indiana locations.

“Shortly after 4 p.m. the sky cleared and showed the eclipse progressing. About 4:30 p.m. there was about one-half of the sun’s disk covered. Was prevented from timing the beginning and ending of the eclipse by occasional clouds. Temperature in the shade not affected during eclipse, but light toned down to a peculiar yellowish light.”1 

Some observations are quite poetic and colorful:

“The white lines shot out and flickered uniformly; the inner circle of light during totality was of a purple hue, around which was a circle of pale yellow skirted with a circle of orange, from the edge of which the irregular striae were observed. During totality there was no appreciable change in the color of the striae, which color was white with a yellow tinge, and no red flames were observed.”2 

You can see more Solar Eclipses of Historical Interest on the NASA Eclipse website. Historical records of eclipses dating beyond 3000 B.C. can be found at NASA’s Solar Eclipses: Past and Future webpage which provides a catalog of eclipses over the last five millennium throughout the centuries all the way back to 2000 B.C.

For a current description of what happens ‘When the Sun Goes Dark,’ check out the new illustrated book published by the National Science Teachers Association and written by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz, reviewed here by It’s recommended that you order it no later than Monday, August 14 to ensure delivery before the eclipse. It’s also available as an e-book.

You can view this month’s solar eclipse in a number of ways, but remember to protect your eyes!

On Monday, Aug. 21, 10 different Indiana state parks have programs for solar eclipse viewers. Find out which 10 parks are having viewing programs here on the IN DNR calendar. A handy online guide from the American Astronomical Society will show you how to safely view the solar eclipse.

If you’re not sure where to view the solar eclipse, read the article The road to watching this summer’s solar eclipse starts in the library? and view the map of participating libraries for viewing events.

Enjoy the myth and the magic behind stories of solar eclipses while observing this fantastic scientific event!

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference & Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

1. Report on the Solar Eclipse of July, 1878. Indiana: Indianapolis. July Journal, C.F.F. Wappenhans, sergeant, Signal Corps, U.S.A.

2. Report on the Solar Eclipse of July, 1878. Indian Territory: Fort Sill. – Special report by John McCann, private, Signal Corps (O.C.S.O. 4389, Obs., 1878).


A letter from Afghanistan

In the Harriet L. Paddock collection, in between folders of genealogical research on the Paddock and other families, is a letter from Bill Castor to Harriet’s father William S. Paddock. During the latter part of 1954, Bill decided to take a trip to Afghanistan, a place that had long fascinated him. In his letter he also recounts his travels through the region including his time spent in Tehran, Iran after the 1953 coup.

The following correspondence is available in the Indiana Digital Collections.

Harriet L. Paddock taught in the Business Department of Butler University for 28 years. She attended Indiana State University, graduating in 1929. She later received her master’s in education from Harvard University and a doctorate from Indiana University.

Her collection of genealogical research and correspondence relating to the Paddock, Lewis, Rea and other families is available to view in the Genealogy Division on the first floor of the library.

“This blog post by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or email”

Innovation in library micro-grants from the Awesome Foundation

The Awesome Foundation is a worldwide community devoted to “forwarding the interest of awesome in the universe.” Created in 2009, the foundation distributes $1,000 grants, no strings attached, to projects and their creators.

Library Pipeline’s Innovation Committee has partnered with the Awesome Foundation to found an innovation in libraries chapter that will, each month, award a $1,000 micro-grant to a project that suggests creative solutions, proposes a new way of thinking about library services and supports under-served and diverse communities. Grant applications are due by the 15th of each month, with awardees announces by the first of the following month.

According to the Awesome Foundation, “The Awesome Innovation in Libraries Chapter was created by a small working group of passionate librarians within Library Pipeline who wanted to provide a catalyst for prototyping both technical and non-technical library innovations that embody the principles of diversity, inclusivity, creativity and risk-taking. Naturally, we embedded these principles into the grant selection guidelines. We are thankful for our dedicated team of trustees and sponsors who make this initiative possible.”

Award recipients are asked to report back publicly on what worked, what didn’t and what they learned, as well as to make the results of their efforts openly available to other to reuse in communities across the world.

To apply, submit your application on the Awesome Foundation website. Applications are constantly being accepted; please check the website details to confirm the next deadline.

This blog post was written by Amber Painter, southwest regional coordinator. For more information, contact the Professional Development Office (PDO) at (317) 232-3697 or email  

State library staff meet Governor Holcomb

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, staff from the Indiana State Library met Indiana’s 51st Governor, Eric Holcomb. After learning he was an American Civil War buff, Associate Director of Public Services Connie Bruder, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor Bethany Fiechter and Rare Books and Manuscripts Program Coordinator Laura Eliason presented a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

Bethany Fiechter shows Governor Holcomb a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

The Governor Oliver P. Morton Civil War Soldiers Photograph Collection (P001) includes three carte de visite albums to perpetuate the remembrance of Indiana regiment officers. The portraits are arranged alphabetically by last name with notations indicating the name, rank, regiment and, if applicable, place of death.

L to R: Bethany Fiechter, Governor Holcomb, Laura Eliason and Connie Bruder.

For more information about Governor Oliver P. Morton, view our finding aid here. Interested in more Civil War photographs? The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division has made available over 80 photographs here.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at

Indiana State Library website named to Family Tree Magazine’s list of best state websites for genealogy in 2016

We are pleased to announce that the Indiana State Library (ISL) website was recently named to Family Tree Magazine’s list of “75 Best State Websites for Genealogy in 2016.” This list appears in the December 2016 issue of Family Tree Magazine and it can also be accessed for free here. The list honors the best websites specializing in genealogy research for each of the 50 United States. No matter where your ancestors lived within the United States, this list will be of immense help in tracing your American ancestors.

From Family Tree Magazine:

Indiana State Library: Genealogy Collection 

In the Site Index at the left, [on the ISL Home Page] click on Databases and Indexes and scroll down to Resources Provided by the Indiana State Library. There, search indexes to marriages (1811-2013), commercial newspaper death listings, biographies and newspapers. Indiana Memory has digitized images of many resources, including county histories, oral histories, plat books, city directories, photos, newspapers, yearbooks and more. The VINE database has local history and vital records from libraries, historical societies and genealogical societies.”

ISL has subscription databases that can be accessed within the library, including, but not limited to Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3, Heritage Quest, NewspaperArchive and There is also a lengthy list of resources that can be accessed remotely. A few of those resources are: Hoosier State Chronicles, Indiana Biography Indexes, Marriage Indexes, Indiana Memory, World War II Servicemen, Indiana State Library Digital Collections and Indianapolis Newspaper Index, 1848-1991.

Indiana has 92 counties and ISL has innumerable resources for each county. Resources could include vital records indices, marriage records, county histories, county maps, wills and probate records, city directories, newspapers on microfilm, court records, mortuary records, church records, tax records, cemeteries indices and census records.

Be sure to check out the Genealogy Webinars and Videos webpage for further resources and tutorials.

The best method for obtaining help with your family history research or finding answers to questions about the genealogy collection is through our Ask-A-Librarian service. You can submit a question through this email service 24/7 and a librarian will get back to you within two business days.

Patrons are also directed to look at the genealogy FAQ’s webpage for answers about the genealogy collection, about beginning genealogy research and miscellaneous genealogy questions. In addition, patrons have the ability to view the ISL’s Instagram pictures, YouTube videos, Facebook page, tweets and Pinterest boards, all accessible with one click on any ISL webpage. Just look for the social media icons. Who knows, you just might find a genealogy tip that will knock down your own brick wall!

We hope everyone will agree that the ISL genealogy website is very deserving of being placed on the Family Tree Magazine’s list of “75 Best State Websites for Genealogy in 2016!”

This blog post by Alice Winslow, librarian, Genealogy Division. For more information contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689.

It’s a Vonnegut Life

*The following is a work of satirical fiction

Serving in the Reference and Government Services Division of the Indiana State Library, our scope is deep and wide. One morning, we might receive a request that results in an extreme mental exercise involving an obscure photo about a hat-wearing elephant kneeling next to a streetcar in St. Louis in 1923… in the snow. On another afternoon, there may be a novel or piece of art we’re looking for from a well-known artist. Other days, we might be helping a patron research airplane parts in government documents on microfiche.

That’s what I like most about the job: the search! There is nothing like having a blank sheet of note paper and filling it up with every step you’ve taken, right or wrong, to get to your destination, correct or not. It’s all in the journey, as they say.

So, since it’s toward the end of the year, I thought I’d entertain you with a few of my favorite requests from 2016:

  • A woman approached the reference desk sometime in the spring, and was clearly excited about her findings. “My father’s family,” she said, “I’ve traced them from Alabama to Indiana between the 1930 and 1940 censuses, but I can’t find them after that.” She seemed so sure that the records she needed were here at the library, but after a brief search, we found that she needed to contact the Alabama State Library. She asked if we could have the documents delivered directly to the Indiana State Library, to which I replied in full Vonnegut: “Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”
  • A young gentleman, a student, proposed a theory about the State Library while he was finishing his final project in a History class this year. He said to me that the four grand murals in the library by J. Scott Williams: “The Winning of the State,” “The Song of Indian Land,” “The Building of the State” and “The Song of Labor,” had many things missing from them. These murals, he posited, were somewhat flat and lacked the depth typical of the composition of landscape drawings and paintings. He wondered why Williams had chosen serene, muted colors and peaceful settings rather than bolder colors that depicted the dramatic activities in the history books. His answer to this was that a government building in the Midwest, with its stately charm and distant beauty, would need to represent the stability and sedate nature of the history of creating the state, rather than the reality of its vivid hardship, toil and death. To which I replied in full Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”
  • The third request I’ll share with you has to do with a family who was offended by some of the titles included in one of our collections here at the library. The topic of these books were not objectionable to the family, but they chose to challenge these titles because of the swearing included in some of the dialog between characters. To this, I replied in full Vonnegut: “And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those title. So, the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media; the America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”

A warm new year to all of you readers out there. You’re the reason we’re here! Thank you and have a great holiday.

A Reference Librarian

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference & Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Indiana State Data Center celebrates 40 years

On Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, the Indiana State Data Center (SDC) held a celebration at the Indiana State Library (ISL) to commemorate the beginning of a longstanding federal-state partnership between the state of Indiana and the Census Bureau. SDC also took the opportunity to celebrate Indiana’s Bicentennial.

Happy anniversary cake

Following a local level census project that began in 1972 in Indianapolis under Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, the U.S. Census Bureau began plans for a statewide project for census data users in Indiana and in April of 1976, the Indiana Census User Services Project (ICUSP) was established as the first pilot project of its kind in the nation. Its purpose was to create a model for data user education and data dissemination inside a state agency – and that state agency was ISL. ICUSP provided the model for the development of a national state data center network. The network in Indiana was already going strong when it was officially adopted into the national network in 1980.

Marilyn Sanders, regional director of the Chicago region, U.S. Census Bureau, details future federal-state partnerships for 2020 Census planning

This week’s celebration included several speakers from the Census Bureau: David Pemberton, historian; Michael Ratcliffe, geography division; James Whitehorne, redistricting and voting rights and Sarah Konya, mathematical statistician with the decennial census. Matthew Kinghorne, state demographer, spoke about 200 Years of Indiana demographics. Phil Worrall, of the Indiana Geographic Information Council, talked about statewide GIS partnerships. Marilyn Sanders, from the Chicago regional office, also spoke about Indiana and the upcoming 2020 census.

Roberta Brooker, former Indiana state librarian, displays her award for Excellence in Data Services at the 40th Anniversary of the national State Data Center Program

Perry Hammock, the executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, ended the day with a vibrant speech on Indiana’s 200th birthday celebrations across the state in 2016.

Perry Hammock, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, celebrates Indiana’s 200th birthday at the Indiana State Library

SDC is grateful for those who were able to attend the celebration. Be on the lookout for future events and training through the Indiana State Data Center Program, your safety net for stats.

Books to give for Christmas, 1949

The Indiana State Library houses thousands of pamphlets, fliers, leaflets and other ephemeral publications in its Pamphlet Collection. Among these publications are fliers created by the Indiana State Library Extension Division. This division, which has largely been absorbed by the current Library Development Office, sought to provide assistance to public and school libraries throughout the state. Part of that assistance came in the form of producing lists of books to aid in library collection development.

Santa image from “A Holiday Dictionary” (ISLO 394.2 no. 1)

In November of 1949, a librarian from the Extension Division named Grace Beecher compiled a special list entitled “Books to give for Christmas” (ISLO 28 no. 9 [3]) in an effort to help librarians recommend books that would make ideal holiday gifts. While the vast majority of the books on the list are no longer in print, some have endured and can be purchased and given as gifts today.

Below is a transcription of selected titles from the original list with accompanying descriptions, publishing information and cost as written by Ms. Beecher in 1949. These titles are still in print:

For the Pre-School Child and Beginning Reader
The Emperors new clothes by Hans C. Andersen ; illustrated by Virginia Burton. 1949.  Houghton, $2.00.
One of Andersen’s droller fairy tales illustrated in water colors.

Cowboy small, by Lois Lenski. 1949.  Oxford, $1.00.
A day in the life of junior cowboy, full of activity, and simply presented with full page color pictures. The story can be followed without reading the text.

For the Teen-Age Crowd
Journey into Christmas, and other stories by Bess S. Aldrich. 1949. Appleton-Century-Crosts, $2.75.
Sentimental family stories of the Christmas season.

Red planet by Robert Heinlein. 1949. Scribner, $2.50.
One of the best in science fiction stories in which Mars is colonized.

For the Adult Reader
Cheaper by the dozen by Frank Gilbreth. 1949. Crowell, $3.00.
Amusing account of an unusual family.

CSLP 2017 trainings underway

Does your library utilize the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP)? Are you always looking for new programming ideas to jazz up your summer program offerings? Do you enjoy having the opportunity to gather with other librarians to talk about what’s going on in their neck of the woods? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, the State Library’s new CSLP 2017: Build a Better World trainings are the place to be!

If you aren’t familiar with CSLP, it’s a consortium of representatives from all 50 states, plus several territories who work together each year to provide a cohesive, high-quality summer reading program along with program ideas, artwork and prizes. The program and manual are provided to Indiana libraries free of charge, thanks to a grant made available by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. Learn more about CSLP here:

This year we are shaking things up! I’m asking all training participants to bring at least one program idea to share, as the second half of each training will be a roundtable-style discussion! You’ll get to hear what the librarians in your area are excited about as we share successful program ideas with one another. I will be compiling all of the ideas into one sheet that will be accessible on the Indiana State Library’s website under Resources for Librarians Serving Youth:

We tested out this new format at the first set of sessions on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at the Crown Point Community Library, and it was a success—some exciting ideas were generated. I hope that you can join us at one of these upcoming face-to-face trainings. We need your input to make them great!

Face-to-Face trainings:

Join the Indiana State Library for this training where you will be introduced to the theme, the artwork, and the manual for the 2017 CSLP Summer Reading Program. Each training will last 1.5 hours, with a portion of that time reserved for roundtable-style discussion. What does this mean? Bring your program ideas! Each participant should bring at least one program idea to share with the group.  Program ideas may or may not be related to the CSLP theme Build a Better World.  We want to hear what you’re excited about! These trainings will each be worth 2 LEUs. Register here:

Evansville Public Library – Central Branch (Evansville, IN) ~ Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9-10:30am CST (10 -11:30am EST)
Teen & Adult training @ 11-12:30pm CST (12-1:30pm EST)

Kendallville Public Library (Kendallville, IN) ~ Friday, December 16, 2016
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

Alexandria-Monroe Public Library (Alexandria, IN) ~ Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

Mooresville Public Library (Mooresville, IN) ~ Monday, January 30, 2017
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library (Greensburg, IN) ~ Friday, February 10, 2017
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

West Lafayette Public Library (West Lafayette, IN) ~ Friday, February 24, 2017
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

Jeffersonville Township Public Library (Jeffersonville, IN) ~ Friday, March 3
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 9:30-11am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

Bloomfield-Eastern Greene Co Public Library (Bloomfield, IN) ~ Monday, March 13, 2017
Early Literacy & Children’s training @ 10-11:30am EST
Teen & Adult training @ 11:30-1pm EST

This blog post was written by Beth Yates, Children’s Consultant for the Indiana State Library.  For more information, contact the Professional Development Office at (317) 232-3697 or email