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Ripple Effects

by on January 29th, 2015

I was listening to a radio story this morning about the consequences of the steep drop in gasoline prices.  One hundred dollars a month, on the average, opened up many opportunities for people.  It got me thinking of the ripple effects spread out from this library.  Often when we seek outside funding in the form of grants the granting bodies ask what our outcomes are expected to be.  This is understandable, but we sometimes struggle with the “measurement” of our services.

We value confidentiality.  We serve all county residents as well as many people outside the immediate area.  We cannot measure what you knew or how you felt when you came in, and then measure those same things again when you leave to see if we had a positive impact.  It would be intrusive and very time consuming.  From time to time we conduct surveys, but they tend to be more general and do not measure specific outcomes.

There have been national studies that confirm that children who participate in summer reading programs are more likely to maintain their reading proficiency over the summer.  The importance of early childhood education has been proven time and time again.  Children’s services public librarians have known this decades longer than the researchers.

I accept that the ripple effects of great library service are largely unknowable.  Anecdotally, I know people who have gotten jobs, started businesses, improved their health (mental and physical), enriched their lives, begun friendships, decided to accept a job offer in Iowa City, learned to use a computer, and found their ancestors at the Iowa City Public Library.  All these things changed their lives.

I was reminded of the ripple effect earlier this week when I received an email from a former board member.  A move took her to Missouri where she also served on the library board.  She recently moved to another state and wrote to say she couldn’t believe that they didn’t read and talk about books the way we did in Iowa and Missouri!  Maybe she’ll start a one community one book program in her new location.

Where have your library ripples taken you?  I’d love to hear.

ICPL wants you to “Love Your Library” This February

by on January 28th, 2015

What do you love about the Iowa City Public Library? Our month-long Love Your Library celebration gives you a chance to share what makes ICPL special!LoveYourLibraryLogo

Family Fun(d) Night

Family FUN(d) Night: Love Your Library invites families to visit ICPL from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, for a night of activities, visits from beloved storybook characters, and crafts. Pizza, a healthy snack, dessert, and a beverage will be served.

The cost is $20 for each adult and $5 per child. Proceeds from this event will benefit the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation to support future Library programs for children and teens.

To register online, visit or contact the Library at (319) 356-5200. All registrations must be received by Thursday, Feb. 5.

Show Your Love with a Gift

Make a gift to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation in honor of your special someone, and we’ll send them a Valentine. Tax deductible contributions can be made online here.

Events at The Book End

Pick up a coupon for a free book at The Book End bookstore on the Library’s second floor. Coupons must be redeemed in February.

The Book End Book Sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, in Meeting Room A.

Celebrations in the Storytime Room

Families are invited to make Discarded Book Valentines during Sunday Fun Day from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8.

Students in third through sixth grades can learn how to make delicious no-bake treats during Totally Tweens: Sweet Treats from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Movie Night

Join us for a Valentine’s Eve Movie Night from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13. “The Princess Bride” will be playing in Meeting Room A. Popcorn will be provided.

First Floor Displays

Leave ICPL a Valentine. Our main Love Your Library Display will have paper hearts and markers available so you can tell us what you love about the Iowa City Public Library.

Blind Date with a Book: Looking for your next great read in all the wrong places? Take a chance on finding your new favorite book blind date-style. Check out our wrapped books for a surprising read. Fill out and return the “Rate Your Date” card by March 12, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a sweet treat from Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt/Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Reel Love:We can’t cook you dinner, but we can provide the movie. Check out our display of favorite romantic movies.

Fall in Love with a Good Book:Need a good book to snuggle with this month? This display has some of our favorites.

For more information, click here.

ICPL announces February Classes for Adults

by on January 28th, 2015

February is Love Your Library month at the Iowa City Public Library, so this month’s classes for adults will focus on giving a little love using social media. Learn how to stay connected or make new connections by checking out the three most popular social media sites in the U.S.: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

We will kick off our month of social media classes with Twitter. Discover how Twitter is used by many of its followers and tweeters to stay up on the news, stay current in their career, or simply connect with friends and family. Twitter Basics and Beyond will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13.

Want to understand what Pinterest is and how it is used? Join us from 10 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17 for What is Pinterest? Find out how to navigate the Pinterest interface and understand how your pins are shared and followed.

We are saving the best to last! Join us at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, for Facebook Basics and Beyond. Learn how the Facebook interface works, go over your privacy settings, and get a feel for how you can connect and stay connected with friends, family, and some of your favorite organizations.

All classes for adults are held in the Library’s Computer Lab on the second floor. Classes are free, but space is limited to 10 people per program, so patrons should register early. Visit to register online. You can also register by calling the Library at (319) 356-5200.

Overdrive Tips: Two Bookshelves

by on January 28th, 2015

I’ve gotten several comments from enthusiastic Overdrive users recently.  Overdrive is the platform that we use to lend eBooks and eAudiobooks.  There are many patrons who use this service avidly, but even veteran users are sometimes confused about various aspects of the Overdrive Service.  This is the first in a series of posts I hope will help clear up some of those issues.

ODlogo1Overdrive Media Console (OMC) is the mobile app that is needed to use our eBook and eAudiobook service.  One of the most confusing aspects of this app is that there are actually two bookshelves.  One bookshelf is called the “library bookshelf” and the other is the “app bookshelf“.

The library bookshelf (also known as your “account”) shows what titles you currently have checked out.  The app bookshelf shows which titles you have checked out and downloaded to your device.  If you have checked a book out, but not downloaded it to your device, it will show up on the library bookshelf but not the app bookshelf.  This is a common source of confusion for new users.  A key concept for OMC is understanding the difference and  being able to navigate between the two bookshelves.  See these two Overdrive help articles:

Navigating to the library bookshelf

Navigating to the app bookshelf

Stay tuned.  In the future I’ll address other topics such as Understanding eBook Formats, What’s an AdobeID?, and How To Return a Title.  In the meantime, if you have a question you’d like covered in Overdrive Tips (or maybe you want to share one), please email me.  I’ll also remind you that we have time and staff dedicated each week to answer your questions about Overdrive in Drop-In Tech Help.

Learn to Learn

by on January 28th, 2015

Ways to effectively learn have always been interesting to me.  In my quest for information/validation for the way I personally choose to gain new knowledge and skills I came across some pretty interesting material.


Make it Stick by Peter C Brown.

As I started reading  finals week at the U of I was just beginning. Every day students were in the library pouring over materials  from the semester.   I was learning that cramming was a pretty ineffective method to really learn. The author points out that the more effort that is put forth during the acquisition of new material, the better the retention and ability to apply the knowledge will be in the future. Making errors was  cited as a particularly lasting learning tool IF timely corrections are made. If this is valid, I will have a better retention of this book because I retrieved the information from my head for this blog post.

One example given is that of a professor who changed his class structure to several periodic quizzes rather than a final exam at the end of a course.  He (and researchers) discovered that by retrieving information throughout the semester that students were better able to retain what was covered during the course and as a byproduct, increased their grades by a significant amount.

He also discusses and pretty much debunks the whole theory of learning styles (visual, auditory, kin-esthetic) from the angle that one style suits an individual for all types of learning.  Research indicates that successful teaching/learning methods depend much more on the material/skills being taught than on what an individual perceives to be “their” learning method.  I know that this is certainly true for me.

This title in ICPL’s collection  is available in both print and audio.



Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

by on January 27th, 2015
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole Cover Image

Sam and Dave have dug a hole in my mind. At the risk of sounding like a heretic in the realm of children’s librarians, I’ll admit that I’ve not been a fan of Jon Klassen’s hat books. Grim humor is just not my thing. So with reluctance, and only after hearing all the buzz, I decided I did need to read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. And my first reaction was bewilderment—“What happened there?” So I read it again. And again. And yet again. And then looked at the illustrations. And then looked at them some more. I shared it with my teenage daughter, who shared it with her friends. (“Freaky!” was their verdict, which was a compliment.) And somehow, it has grown on me. I still don’t really understand it. Neither does anyone else, I’ve learned. There are many theories about what it really means. But what did the dynamic duo of Barnett intend for it to mean? And will we ever find out where Sam and Dave really are? The ending is unnerving, and I keep turning it over in my mind. The spare text, subdued illustrations, and determined characters remind me a bit of The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, though a bit grimmer. (Still, The Carrot Seed family is a bit harsh, too, don’t you think?) Will Sam and Dave achieve the same classic status? If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. And please…explain it to me!

P.S. Check out Barnett and Klassen’s other collaboration Extra Yarn, which I love. It’s sweetly satisfying and will always remind me of Iowa City’s Tree Huggers!

Like Roz Chast? Consider these two books.

by on January 27th, 2015
Like Roz Chast? Consider these two books. Cover Image

Roz Chast’s graphic memoir of taking care of her ailing parents has captured a lot of hearts in 2014. Can’t We Talking About Something More Pleasant? spent 20 weeks on the NPR Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller list, and made Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books of 2014. Here at  the library, we could barely keep the book on the shelf and saw a surge in interest just after the New Year.


If you itching for more Chast, I have two books for you. 101 Two-Letter Words is a collaboration she did with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields fame. Her expressive illustrations accompany the poems Merritt wrote to honor the 101 two-letter words allowed in Scrabble. With Chast’s illustrations and Merritt’s clever songwriting abilities, the book is sure to bring a ton of smiles. Read the rest of this entry »

A Book Babies Special!

by on January 23rd, 2015



On Friday, February 6th at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm.

Come sample West Music’s own early childhood music and movement program with your baby, Sing & Play & Grow!

This is a fun, engaging program offered here at Book Babies. You and your baby will explore activities with guest Becky Foerstner. This early childhood music and movement program includes singing, chanting, cuddling, rocking, dancing and instrument exploration.

This program is free.


Folklore, old wives’ tales, sayings and adages – do the facts support them?

by on January 20th, 2015

Are there truths behind the folklore, proverbs and phrases that many of us hear growing up?  You know what I mean, like the woolly or fuzzy bear caterpillar, and if its black stripes predict it will be a colder winter than most.  As for the woolly bear, it is not the best prognosticator of the severity of the winter.  The woolly bear’s coloring, at least according to a post on the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office’s website, depends upon a number of variables. “The woolly bear caterpillar’s coloring is based on how long caterpillar has been feeding, its age, and species.  The better the growing season is the bigger it will grow.  This results in narrower red-orange bands in its middle.  Thus, the width of the banding is an indicator of the current or past season’s growth rather than an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter.  Also, the coloring indicates the age of the woolly bear caterpillar.”

NYT 1.26.1913Many of the adages have to do with predicting the weather or some type of weather-based observation.  An expression I heard for the first time over the holidays was a green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.  I poked around on the Internet to find out just what it meant and to see if I could trace it back in time.  The most common reading of the phrase is that cold weather brings about fewer deaths.  The reasoning behind this was that cold weather killed off the germs or stalled disease that was more rampant in warm weather.  Or perhaps it was in warmer weather more folk circulated and came into contact with each other, thus spreading disease.  Either way, the cold, they thought, kept germs at bay and people at home.  Well, it turns out that cold weather or warm weather didn’t really have that much to do with the death rate at the holidays.  In fact as far back as 1913 The New York Times ran a piece disputing these nugget of weather lore based on a report from medical officers in London where a warm winter had not made for more deaths but fewer. The farthest back I could trace the adage was as an Irish seanfhocal, Nollag, ghlas, reilig mheith.

The library has a number of books of phrases and sayings and even a title devoted just to weather folklore,  Weather wisdom : being an illustrated practical volume wherein is contained unique compilation and analysis of the facts and folklore of natural weather prediction  by Albert Lee.  Are there old wives’ tales or adages that you use, weather-based or not?  And if there are, do any of them hold true? Please feel free to share them.


Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”

by on January 15th, 2015
Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” Cover Image

Mural, the 1943 painting by Jackson Pollock, has been much in the news over the last couple of years as it made its journey from the UI Museum of Art to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the remarkable conservation work done there, and then back to Iowa where currently it is exhibited at the Sioux City Art Museum.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural:  The Transitional Moment” by Yvonne Szafran and others is a fascinating look at the painting’s history and the conservation work that was completed in 2014.

The painting was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim and was first exhibited in her home.  She donated Mural to the University of Iowa in 1948, although it did not arrive in Iowa until 1951.  The painting is now acclaimed as a masterpiece of American mid-century modernism.

After a brief history of the painting and the artist, the book goes into detail about the conservation process.  The painting had dulled over the years, mostly due to a coating of varnish in the 1970s, the technique in use at the time to protect paintings.  The meticulous effort to remove the varnish is described in words and and photographs; artists who paint will get more out of the detail than I did, but I was happy to skim the technical bits and focus on the illustrations.  Cross sections of the paint on the canvas illuminate Pollock’s technique as well as show the varnish that is not original.

The painting is very large–roughly 8 feet by 20 feet–and the photographs of the conservation staff working on the painting give one a sense of the huge effort the project required. There are before-and-after fold-out pages showing the complete painting.

ICPL was fortunate to host author Yvonne Szafran, Senior Conservator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, on October 21, 2014 for a lecture on the painting and its conservation.  You can stream a recording of that talk from our website.

Mural will be at the Sioux City Art Center until April 1, 2015.  It then is destined for exhibitions in Europe, before it returns home to a new UI Museum of Art building.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural” has made me much more appreciative of this locally owned treasure.  I can’t wait to see the real thing again.