Read Local With ebooks Minnesota

Ebooks Minnesota has been around for a while now, but I feel like many people still are not aware of it. Even I do not use it as much as I should. This week I attended a webinar about this great resource and wanted to share what I learned.

What is Ebooks Minnesota? It’s a collection of ebooks made available to all people in Minnesota. It’s brought to us by Minitex and the Minnesota Department of Education, and features books for all ages on a variety of subjects. There are more than 10,000 titles from Minnesota publishers.

Access to Ebooks Minnesota is geolocated, meaning that if you have a Minnesota-based internet provider, you can access the site. You don’t need to create an account in order to use Ebooks Minnesota, but if you do, you will be able to create a “favorites” list, make notes, and use bookmarks.

Creating a profile on Ebooks Minnesota allows you to save your favorites to read later, use bookmarks, and make notes.

One of the great features about Ebooks Minnesota is that its content is multi-use. So, if you are a teacher who wants everyone in your class to read a book, they can all download it onto different devices.

Ebooks Minnesota also has a focus on Minnesota authors and books about Minnesota. You’ll find books Bill Holm, Larry Millett, and Lorna Landvik, for example. In adult non-fiction, there are books by Arcadia History Press, which publishes many great historical titles. In addition to these Minnesota-based books, you’ll find many classics on Ebooks Minnesota.

Ebooks Minnesota also has some books in other languages, including numerous titles in Spanish, and a few in Somali, Ojibwe, and Karen.

You can browse the Ebooks Minnesota catalog in a few different ways. “Curations,” are put together by Minitex librarians. Current curations include “Minnesota,” “Mental Health & Social Issues for Kids and Teens,” and ” K-12 Educator Resources.” “Categories” are sorted by subject headings such as “Art,” and “Comics and Graphic Novels.” “Modules” are broader categories such as “Adult,” “Children’s,” “Scholarly Resources,” and “One Book One Minnesota” (more on that last one in a future post).

In the Menu, there are options to explore the collection by “Curations,” “Categories,” and “Modules.”

The Ebooks Minnesota Collection app is called BiblioBoard. This app, which is available in any app store, allows you to download books for later use. Books cannot be downloaded onto a computer. All of the pictures included with this post were taken of the app.

I highly recommend browsing this great resource. It’s unique to Minnesota and contains a lot of excellent material for free. In addition to the regular Ebooks Minnesota site, there is also Ebooks Minnesota for Schools, which includes only children’s and young adult content. It’s a great place to find supplementary materials for distance learning.

The “Favorites” list allows you to save books to read later on. This works well when you are browsing and find multiple titles you would like to read.

Happy reading!


ebook Tips & Tricks Part II: Reading Settings & More

One of the great parts about reading ebooks is that you can adjust the settings to suit your own preferences and needs. You can adjust the font, text size, and background color so it suits your comfort level. For example, I prefer to read white text on a dark background. I have floaters in my eyes, and they are less noticeable when I read on a dark background.

When you first open a book in Libby, it will have a preset font, background color, and size. If you’re reading on a phone, it can be pretty tiny. If you tap toward the middle of the screen, you’ll see a few different things. On the top left, it will say “Back.” That takes you back to your shelf. You can also get there by tapping “Shelf” on the bottom right. Tapping “Library” will take you to the ebook catalog.

On the upper right, you will see a magnifying glass, a bookmark, and a menu.

Reading Settings

The menu has several different options. We’ll start with reading settings. This where you can adjust the text size, background color, and font.

To adjust text size, slide the tab up or down. If you need a bigger text size than the ones offered, tap on “include accessibility sizes” below the slider.

There are three background settings – bright (white), sepia, and dark.

If you scroll down, you will see the options for fonts. You can select a serif or sans serif font depending on your preference. Libby also offers the Open Dyslexic font, which is easier for people with dyslexia to read.


If you come across a page that you want to go back to later on, you can tap the bookmark, located between the menu and search icons. You can find your bookmarks later on by tapping on menu, and then on bookmarks.

You do not need to use bookmarks to keep your place in your book. Libby will automatically open up where you left off. In fact, if you return a book you are in the middle of reading and check it out again later, it will remember where you were before it was returned!

Highlights and notes

You can also highlight specific passages in a book. If you tap and hold near the beginning or end of the passage, and drag it to the other end, it will highlight the passage. Then you can select whether you would like to define, highlight, or search. You can select the color of the highlight you would like.

When you select “highlight,” you can also add a note. This is useful if you are using the book for discussion such as book club.


If you are reading and come across a word you do not know, there is no need to get out a dictionary! You have one right at your fingertips. Just tap and hold the word you would like to define, then choose “define.”


Libby also has a handy search function. Just tap on the magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen, and then type in what you would like to find. It will bring up all of the places you will find the word or words you are searching for throughout the text.

You may not need or want to use all of these functions, but it is nice to know that they are available and how to use them.

As always, if you have any questions, email me at

Happy reading!


ebook Tips and Tricks: Getting Started on Libby

There are so many advantages to ebooks. I have grown to prefer them to print books in recent years due to their ease of use, adaptability, and convenience. I understand, however, that it can be daunting to try ebooks.

Over the next couple of blogs, I’d like to dedicate time to the ebook app Libby. Today I’ll focus on a general how-to for getting started with Libby, and tomorrow I’ll start getting into some reading tips.

First of all, you might notice that I sometimes use Libby and OverDrive interchangeably, or refer to both at the same time. That’s because you have access to the same content through both. OverDrive is the classic ebook app, and may be the only option compatible with older devices. Libby is a newer app made by the same company. You can use whichever one you like. I personally prefer Libby and recommend it if your device is compatible. I find that it is easier to set up and navigate.

The first step, of course, is to download the Libby app from your app store. Now you’re ready to begin!

Getting Started

When you first open the Libby app, you will be asked if you have a library card. Select “yes.” (If you don’t have a library card or can’t find your card, email me at and I can set one up for you.)

Next, you will be asked to find your library. Enter your zip code and you will see Tracy Public Library (or your nearest library) come up under “Plum Creek Library System.” You can also search by library name. Select that and go to the next screen.

Next, you will be prompted to add your library card number. Enter your card number first. Then, you will be asked to enter your PIN. Your PIN is the last four digits of your library card number. On the next screen, you will see your card. You can rename your card at this point. This is a good idea if you have multiple family cards entered into the same app. I usually have two cards attached to my Libby account, so I name them after the family member who is associated with the card. Tap “next,” and you are ready to look for books.


That’s it! You are ready to get reading.

On the bottom left of your screen, you will see “Library.” Click on that to browse our catalog. There is a lot to explore here, including curated collections, new materials, and more. If you see headphones on a title, that means it’s an audiobook. Once you find a book you want to check out, tap “Borrow.” If it’s already checked out by someone else, it will say “Place Hold” instead. More on that later.

When you check something out, you will be asked how long you want to check it out for – 7 or 14 days. Choose whichever suits your reading pace.


On the Shelf, you can see everything you have checked out. If you have multiple cards entered into Libby, you will be able to see what is checked out on all of them.

The default setting is to download all titles automatically. If you don’t want them to automatically download, you can change the download rules. Tap on “Actions” and then “Change Download Rules.”

Books automatically return and disappear from the shelf once the checkout expires. If you finish the book before the expiration date, you can return it early. Tap on “Manage Loan,” then “Return Early.” You do not have to return a book early if you are finished with it and there are other people waiting, but I generally do as a courtesy.

Some titles may be available for renewal. Just like when you check a book out in person at the library, an ebook can be renewed if no one has it on hold. When you get close to book’s expiration, you will be asked if you would like to renew it if the option is available.

When you tap on a book to read it, you can select whether you would like to read it on Libby or Kindle. Books checked out on Libby can be downloaded and synced on multiple devices.


You can place holds on ebooks, just like you place holds on physical materials. When you come across a title that is already checked out, you’ll see “Place Hold” instead of “Borrow.”

On the right, there is a small calendar. If you tap on that, you can see how long the approximate wait time will be.

If you tap on “Place Hold,” you will be taken to another screen. Here, you can change which card you would like to place the hold under if you have multiple cards. Otherwise, select “Place Hold.”

If you don’t want the hold right away, you can suspend the hold until the desired date. A new feature has been added that allows you to delay checking out your hold after it becomes available to you. You can select the amount of time you would like to delay delivery of the hold. By doing this, it lets the next person in line have the book, but you will stay at the top of the queue. When the book becomes available after your selected date, you’ll be the first to get it.

To see which books you have on hold, tap on “Holds” when you are in the Shelf.


Libby has a feature that allows you to “tag” books. There are three standard tags: one that looks like a stack of books, a thumbs-up, and a thumbs-down.

I think of the stack of books like that stack we all have by our favorite chair or on our bedside table. I use it as a “to-be-read” list. You can tag books that you want to read later on so they are easy to find. The other two tags can be used for rating books you like or don’t like. If these aren’t enough tags for your taste, you can add others.

To add a tag, just tap on “Tag” next to a title, and then select the desired tag.

If you’re thinking about giving ebooks a try, I hope this will help you get started. Tomorrow I’ll talk about reading settings.

As always, if you have questions, please email me at

Happy reading!


Looking for Something New? Try YA

One thing I have learned in my years of working at the library is that it’s difficult to get people to try new things sometimes. People have their comfort zones, and there is definitely something to be said for that. But when that makes us reluctant to try something new, it means we could be missing out on something really special.

I can use myself as an example. I used to read mostly classics. I turned my nose up at most books that were popular. I still love classics, but I have made an effort to branch out and try new authors and genres. I have even tried a few series, which I used to stay away from. Have I liked all of these new books and authors? Of course not. But I have discovered quite a few that I like.

YA (Young Adult, for those who aren’t familiar), is one category of books I wish I could get more people to try reading. I think there are several reasons why people resist trying YA. At the Tracy Library, we have the YA books upstairs in the mezzanine. A lot people don’t even think about going up there to browse. Some people are just resistant to trying something new. They know what they like and where to find it, so why take the time to search for something else? Some also feel that YA just “isn’t for them.” They think that because these books are written for teens and young adults, that’s who should read them. These are all valid.

If, however, you’ve ever thought about trying YA, you should go for it. There’s really nothing to lose, and you might find that you really enjoy it. I go in phases where I’ll read a lot of YA, and then not read any for a long time. It’s good to have in my rotation, though, for when I need a change.

As with adult books, there are many genres within YA. Just like in Adult Fiction, YA has mysteries, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and more. At the heart, you’ll often find a really good story. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? It is for me.

Here are a few YA books that I’ve read and would recommend to anyone looking to get into this category.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

I have read a lot of books set during World War II, but “The Book Thief” is probably my favorite. It’s about a girl named Liesel who lives with a foster family near Munich. Liesel has an affinity for books and becomes, as the title implies, a book thief. The book is narrated by Death, so you know there will be sadness involved. “The Book Thief” definitely has its share of sadness, but there is also just something magical about it. It’s lyrical and beautifully written.

Long Way Down, Jason Reynold

I discovered Jason Reynolds when we read “Ghost” for book club last year. That’s a great book, too, but I loved “Long Way Down” even more. The whole book takes place in the span of 60 seconds – the amount of time it takes 15-year-old Will to take the elevator downstairs from his apartment. It’s also the amount of time he has to decide whether he’s going to murder the person who killed his brother. It’s every bit as intense as it sounds. It’s a quick read, and very worthwhile.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

“The Hate U Give” is about a very difficult topic. The main character is 16-year-old Starr, who witnesses the shooting death of her childhood best friend, Khalil, after they are pulled over by a police officer. Khalil is unarmed at the time he is shot. As I said, this is a difficult subject, but Thomas handles it well.

“Dumplin’,” Julie Murphy

“Dumplin'” is about a teenage girl named Willowdean, who is overweight. That doesn’t bother her, but it seems to bother a lot of other people, including her mother. Willowdean’s mother’s greatest accomplishments in life are winning the local beauty pageant and fitting into the same dress she wore for the pageant every year when the new queen is crowned. Willowdean decides to enter the pageant to prove a point, and she inspires several other girls to join her. If you’re looking for a feel-good story, this might be right for you.

Pride, Ibi Zoboi

“Pride” is a retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favorite books, and generally I am not a big fan of retellings. However, I really enjoyed “Pride.” Sisters Zuri and Janae Benitez are proud of their Afro-Latino heritage. But the neighborhood they grew up in is being gentrified. Making matters worse, a rich family – the Darcys – move in across the street. Zuri’s instinct is to hate the Darcy brothers, but Janae begins to fall for the charming and handsome Ainsley. It’s a clever retelling, and I enjoyed a different take on the classic plot.

These books and many more great YA finds are available on OverDrive or the Libby app. The next time you’re looking for a change, give one of these a try or browse the YA catalog.

Happy reading!


Travel Vicariously Through Books

We are all supposed to be sticking close to home right now. There is good reason for that, but it has also meant that many people have had to cancel trips.

Many of us love to travel. We love to visit different parts of the world and experience cultures that are different from our own.

The great part about being a reader is that you can travel around the world – or even out of this world – without ever leaving your home.

Here are some ideas for places you can travel to today, without ever leaving home.


Have you ever wanted to visit a city, but wished you could do it at a certain point in history? I’ve been to Paris, but my time-travel dream is to go there in the 1920s.

Part of the reason I’d love to go to Paris during that time is because of “A Moveable Feast,” by Ernest Hemingway. It’s one of my favorite books, and it makes you feel like you are right there in Jazz Age Paris. “The Paris Wife,” by Paula McLain, is a fictionalized account of Hemingway’s book, from the perspective of his first wife, Hadley. McLain, like Hemingway, does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the city and the era.


“Circling the Sun,” also by Paula McLain, is another worthwhile read, set in 1920s Kenya. “Circling the Sun” is historical fiction and features Beryl Markham, who you might be familiar with from “Out of Africa.” The descriptions of Kenya make you feel like you are there, and there is plenty of adventure too – Markham is a pilot.

Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” is his memoir about growing up in South Africa. Noah, who had a black mother and a white father, should never have been born because it was a crime for parents to have a relationship with one another. His memoir is an interesting look at race and gives an authentic idea of what it was like to grow up in a black neighborhood there.


Swedish author Fredrik Backman became a worldwide sensation with his book, “A Man Called Ove.” It tells the story of a curmudgeonly man, named Ove, whose heart is softened when new neighbors move in next door. The book, and its characters, are sure to steal your heart as well.

Erik Larson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series is also set in Sweden. These books have great atmosphere, and Larson writes a great mystery, too.

United States

As we all know, we have plenty to do and see right her in the United States. Bill Bryson books are always good for a laugh. In “A Walk in the Woods,” he takes us on the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. It’s hilarious, and we also get to experience the landscape and various interesting characters along the way.


If you’re looking for something truly out of this world, try “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Travel with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect as they travel the galaxy and encounter a cast of unforgettable characters. Plus, they make some interesting discoveries about life in the process.

This is just a small sampling of the different places you can go when you pick up a book. Here are a few others that come to mind.

Japan – “Pachinko,” Min Jin Lee

North Korea – “Every Falling Star,” Sungju Lee

Australia – “In a Sunburned Country,” Bill Bryson; “The Thorn Birds,” Colleen McCullough

China – “The Good Earth,” Pearl S. Buck

Afghanistan – “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” Khaled Hosseini

Russia – “Doctor Zhivago,” Boris Pasternak

England – “Wuthering Heights,” Emily Bronte, “Great Expectations,” Charles Dickens

Ireland – “The Heart’s Invisible Furies,” John Boyne

I feel like that’s still only the tip of the iceberg. Thank goodness for books, for allowing us to visit all the places we could ever want to go, even if we can’t get there in person.

Happy reading!