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Orionid Meteor Shower reaches it’s peak tonight!

by Beth Fisher on October 21st, 2016

orionid nasaIf you’re not usually outside at night, you probably aren’t aware that something special is going at night this week.  Last night and tonight are the peak nights for viewing the 2016 Orionid Meteor Shower. The Orionid meteor shower began on October 16 and ends around October 27th.  It happens every year in late October when the earth passes through the stream of ice particles and rocks trailing Haley’s Comet.


Haley’s Comet has a highly elliptical 75.5 year orbit around the Sun. It last passed through the inner part of the solar system in 1986.  Each time it passes the Sun a bit of the ice on the comet melts and rocks and larger chunks of ice break off and join the stream of debris following the comet.

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Get your craft on to support ICPL.

by Beth Fisher on October 11th, 2016
Get your craft on to support ICPL. Cover Image

Attention all crafters!   Donations are now being accepted for the 5th Annual ICPL Friends Foundation fundraising bazaar.  The bazaar is on Saturday, December 3rd, so you still have time to get your craft on to support ICPL.  Donation forms area available online or in the Library.

If you’re looking for ideas to get your crafting juices flowing, on the 2nd floor near the Information Desk we’ve put together a display of a few of the many, many craft books from our collection.  Some of the books on the display include:

Christmas Crafting in No Time by Clare Youngs  Contains 50 fun holiday projects in a variety of different crafts, including paper crafting, sewing, clay modelling, papiermache, printing, candle making.  Each project has easy to follow step by step instructions,  and project rage from quick and simple to time consuming and more advanced.  A guide to embroidery stitches in included at the end of the book.

big bookThe Big Book of Holiday Paper Crafts, by the editors of Paper Crafts magazine contains more than 500 ideas for all sorts of holidays.  Focused mainly on cards, here are also ideas bookmarks, gift bags, and holiday ornaments as well. Read the rest of this entry »

The Adult Summer Reading Program is halfway over – but there’s still time to join in the fun!

by Beth Fisher on June 30th, 2016

July 1st is here!  That means we’re halfway through the 2016 Summer Reading Program. But you still have time to play along.

This year, participation is even easier – you can do it online or with a paper game-card available at any public service desk in the Library.   For people 18 and over, all you have to do is complete 5 activities.  You can read 5 books of your choosing, or use one of the suggestions on the came card or from a recommended list on the Summer Reading Program 2016 website

Some of the Reading List topics you’ll find on the SRP website:gooreads choice

  • Adventures on a Bike
  • Books Becoming Movies in 2016
  • Change your life one book at a time
  • Explore Iowa
  • Fiction Set in Iowa
  • Goodreads Choice Awards 2015: Best Fiction
  • If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out Of The Kitchen – Grilling & Barbecue Cookbooks
  • NPR’s Book Concierge Best Biographies & Memoir 2015
  • Wanderlust – True Stories of Exploration and Adventure

NOTE:  Sorry, I can’t make a direct link into the Summer Reading Program website.  You have to log in to see the book list.  (And you want to, you really do!)
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Hiking, Camping, Fishing and more

by Beth Fisher on May 20th, 2016

With warm weather finally arriving in Iowa, it’s time to start thinking about summer fun.  If you’re looking for places to picnic, hike, camp in tents or campers, to go swimming, fishing, or boating, or for all sorts of other outdoor activities, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is a great source of information.

DNR home

The Iowa DNR web site is a fantastic source of information.

From the Things To Do dropdown menu, you’ll find links to a wide variety of activities – from camping, canoeing to hiking, biking, boating and even Equestrian Camping. (Yes, that really is a thing.)  You’ll find links to the campsite, cabin, and lodge reservation system  as well.  In the Places To Go section, you’ll find information about State Parks, Forests, Preserves, and Wildlife Management Areas, as well as hiking, biking and paddling trails.

DNR guide

If you’re looking specifically for information about Iowa’s state parks the 8 page downloadable Iowa DNR Guide to State Parks  is a great place to start.

The state is broken down into four quadrants and parks in each section are listed by name.   There is also an easy to use grid for each section, listing the parks on one axis and activities on the other, so you can find the perfect location for whatever it is you’re wanting to do.


IADNR mapNDR grid

The State of Iowa has a wealth of parks, forests, campgrounds, lakes and rivers to enjoy.  Get back to nature and enjoy your summer with the help of the Iowa DNR.










Beware the Garlic Mustard

by Beth Fisher on April 25th, 2016

Spring has arrived in Iowa City, and so have the weeds. Which means it’s time to keep an eye out for Garlic Mustard. According to the Iowa DNR “Garlic Mustard is a rapidly spreading, highly invasive non-native plant. It was introduced from Europe in mid-1800s for medicinal and herbal uses and came to the U.S. without predatory beetles or other natural controls. Garlic Mustard threatens to rob Iowa of healthy, diverse native woodlands.”  Unfortunately wildlife do not eat Garlic Mustard. Human intervention is the only way to control it.

Garlic Mustard is a woodland plant that favors shade or dappled shade, but it will also grow in sun given enough moisture.  The Iowa Wildlife Federation suggests that if you’re out hiking in your favorite woods (or hunting for morel mushrooms) take along a big garbage bag and load it up with Garlic Mustard plants before they get a chance to set seed.  Garlic Mustard is not difficult to pull, especially if there has been recent rain. If you wiggle the plant a little then pull at a slight angle, you’ll be less likely to break off the stem leaving the roots to re-sprout.

Garlic Mustard is a biennial – it flowers the second year.  The first year the plants stay short and has rounder toothed leaves.  It is often brighter green than its surroundings.



During its 2nd year, the plants spread into patches, and the leaves are more triangular/heart shaped. It gets up 12″ tall  or taller.




By late spring, you’ll be more likely to see Garlic Mustard patches in bloom.  Look for  heart shaped or triangular coarsly toothed leaves, with clusters of small 4-petal white flowers at the top of a 12″ to 36″ tall thin stalks.



The Iowa DNR has a great printable full color  Garlic Mustard brochure that contains color photographs of different ages of the plant, as well as suggested control techniques for small or large patches.  It’s a handy thing to carry with you the first time you look for the plant.

In 2011 the Friends of Hickory Hill Park sponsored a Garlic Mustard Identification program with a naturalist from the Johnson County Conservation Department, and you can watch the video here.

There are also many websites that can help you identify Garlic Mustard. One of the best is the King County, Washington weed identification website.


Houseplants make it feel like spring

by Beth Fisher on February 20th, 2016
Houseplants make it feel like spring Cover Image

Winters are long in Iowa.  By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days.  But look at a calendar and you’ll see that we are still more than a month away from Spring.

If you’re itching to get your hands in the garden there is something you can do now that might make it feel like spring – get a new houseplant!  Tovah Martin’s new book “The Indestructible Houseplant – 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow is “for all the windowsill-gardener wannabes… For all the folks who hankered for houseplants but didn’t know where to start, and for all the people who picked up the wrong houseplant and thought its hasty demise was their fault, this book is for you.”

The Idestructible Houseplant is both a good reference book and a fun read. (Yes, books can be both.) If you’re looking for a book on houseplants and you want to look up just one plant, hit the index in the back and it will tell you where to turn. Or hit the table of contents for her list of 200 plants and go from there.

But if you’re looking for a fun read, start at the very beginning.  Tovah Martin is an entertaining writer. Her snappy style and entertaining storytelling will get you hooked. She’ll tell you the story of how she got hooked on houseplants, how the idea for this book came to be, what her home is like and how she tested plants to come up with her 200 surviving “indestructibles.”

The 200+ page “Gallery of Indestructibles” lists her choices in alphabetical order.  Each new plant begins with an entertaining page or more describing the plant, a beautiful color photograph, and half-page table listing the plants features: it’s common name(s), Latin name, a rating (easy or easiest), size range, foliage description, other attributes, desired light exposure, water requirements, optimum night time temperature, rate or growth, soil type, fertilizing, issues and ideal companions.


The last 40 pages take you through what she calls “The Details” –  choosing a plant; general cautions about plant toxicity; light, humidity and temperature considerations; choosing and preparing a container.  The list of sources are mainly in Connecticut, but all have websites.

There is one thing I was surprised by.  The groupings called “Ferns” and “Ivy”  are examples of when the author groups plants into a family.  The information is general rather than specific to any of the individual types found in the index.  Not that the information isn’t good, but it might not be appropriate to ALL the different plants in either family.

This is a great gardening book, and I’m definitely adding it to my wish-list.

World Book Encyclopedia 2016

by Beth Fisher on February 3rd, 2016

world book 1Before Google was a verb, and before we carried the internet around in our pockets, checking the World Book Encyclopedia was a popular way of looking for new information. Librarians used it.  Students used it.  If you were lucky enough, your family had it’s own set – with the annual “Year Book” updates too – and you didn’t have to go to the library to work on papers for school.

The World Book Encyclopedia debuted in 1917 with 8 volumes. (the 2016 edition has 22)  In the 6th book “E” the entry for Encyclopedia begins “Encyclopedia is a collection of information about people, places, events and things.”  Followed by a 6 page article on the history of encyclopedias and how they are created – from the editors who select the experts in various fields to write each article, to the artists and layout experts who add the photographs and illustrations to compliment or supplement the text.  There is a 12 part graphic that lets you follow the creation of an individual World Book article.

world book 2Kids are full of questions, and my parent’s standard response to an off the wall question was often “Go look it up.”   Not because they didn’t know the answer, but because they knew that for their overly-curious children, reading one entry in the World Book often led to an hour curled up on the floor by the bookcase reading other entries.

Seeing the Library’s brand new 2016 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia appear in the Reference Collection recently makes me want to sit on the floor and start flipping pages.

The Winter Reading Program has begun!

by Beth Fisher on January 12th, 2016
The Winter Reading Program has begun! Cover Image

From January 4 through February 29th people of all ages can join in the fun of ICPL’s first Winter Reading Program!

You don’t even need to register – just stop by any of the desks in the Library and pick up a Bingo game card.  There are four game cards available: Babies, Kids, Teens and Adults.  Instructions for playing are on the back of each card.   To fill in a square all you need to do is read, attend a program, or explore the Library.  Everyone who finishes the game before March 1st is invited to the Pizza and Popcorn Party to celebrate.  Your completed Bingo card is your ticket to the party.

Here are some of the squares on the Adult game card (and some possible answers):

Read a book from the NEW shelf.early warning




book thiefRead a book that became a movie.





Re-read one of your favorite books.mockingbird





hitchhikersRead a book you should have read in High School.  (Something all your friends were reading, or a popular book of the time. You don’t have to read a classic that was assigned in school. Unless you want to.)



Read a book from the New York Times Bestseller List.train




Iowa weather word of the day is Graupel.

by Beth Fisher on December 28th, 2015
Iowa weather word of the day is Graupel. Cover Image


Today’s weather word of the day in Iowa City is Graupel.

Graupel is a winter phenomenon often mistaken for hail or sleet, but it’s actually quite different.  Graupel is the result of super-cooled droplets of water freezing to the surface of a snowflake. Unlike a hailstone, they are not truly round in shape, they’re more like little globs of lumpy ice and are usually only 2-5 mm in size.  The easy way to tell graupel from hail is to try and pick it up.  Hailstones are hard while graupel pellets are soft and mushy.graupe  This is a handful of graupel.

How is graupel different from hail or sleet?  Read on.



Hail is a sphere of ice that falls from the clouds during a thunderstorm in the warmer seasons. Hail is usually 5mm to 15 cm in size (about 1/4 inch to 6 inches), and is formed inside thunderstorms with significant updrafts. Hailstones are made of many hard uniform layers of ice that rise and fall inside the clouds until they weigh to much for the updrafts to keep aloft. Hail rarely forms in the winter.

Sleet, which resembles hail, forms during winter storms when a snowflake passes through a small warmer layer of air after forming.  The flake partially melts, then refreezes into a droplet shape before it reaches the ground. Sleet often falls in conjunction with very cold rain.

Freezing rain or Glaze Ice is super-cooled rain that freezes on contact with a surface that is at or below 32 degrees.

Here’s one last fun weather word: Rime.   Rime is what is created when the water droplets in fog freeze when they come in contact with something very cold – like a car windshield. Rime comes in two types – Hard Rime which forms on the windward side of objects during moderate to high winds or Soft Rime which forms on all sides of an object when there is little or no wind.

snowflakeFor more information about snow or weather check out the following:

The Snowflake: Winter’s Frozen Artistry by Kenneth Libbrecht





Thunder & Lightening: weather past, present, future by Lauren Redniss.thunder and lightning







Restless skies: the ultimate weather book by Paul Douglasskys






How to find the value of a used car.

by Beth Fisher on October 28th, 2015

Nada2At the Information Desk we are often asked to help people find the value of a used car – either one they own and are thinking of selling/trading-in or a used car they’re thinking about buying.

Two of the most commonly used sources of used car information are the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA Guides, both of which are available on the ICPL website at  Choose Reference and Research from the far left column, then Online Databases. On the Online Database page choose the category Business & Consumer Information, and scroll down the list.   Or click HERE and scroll down.

The NADA Guidebook and Kelley Blue Books are very similar – based on research, they provide suggested values for vehicles. Both have been around since before 1940.  And while they are similar, their intended audience is actually quite different.  Kelley Blue Books are geared toward consumers.  Their values are determined by considering mileage, condition, features and local demand.   The NADA Guide books are designed primarily for the members of the National Automotive Dealers Association.  Their prices are determined based on automotive sales, and show what dealers expect to sell a vehicle for.   Because these two purposes are different, the values they give for the same vehicle will almost always be different.

KBB2The Kelly Blue Book website can be used to find the price of a new or used car,  check the value of your own car,  or see reviews and ratings.   The information you provide when finding your car’s value includes the year, make, model, mileage, trim package, and options that were available when your car was made (engine size and type, transmission, entertainment, comfort and convenience options) and color. You also have to provide your zip code, as they use regional demand as a factor as well.  You are then given an option to find the Trade In or Sell To Private Party value.  But you’re not done yet – you still have to add in the condition of your car. You’re given four choices: Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Fair, with a description of what each of those categories represents.  Then you are given a page of information with a value for your car and graphic you can adjust to see how the price would vary  if your car’s physical condition were better or worse.  Unfortunately you also see adds for brand new cars you might like on this page, but advertising pays the bills.

Kelly Blue Book also provides value information for Motorcycles, Personal Watercraft and Snowmobies.


Nada4The NADA Guides website can be used to find values for new or used cars and trucks, motorcycles, RVS, boats, Classic Cars and Manufactured Homes.  According to their website their data is based on “over one million sales transactions per month” and the prices given in their guides are based on “the overall condition, mileage, history and local supply and demand.”

You fill in the same basic details here – year, make, model, mileage.  The results you see will have suggested Trade In values for cars in Rough, Average and Clean condition as well as an expected Retail Price.  Values for selling or buying a vehicle privately are not provided.

Print copies of the NADA Guides are also available at the Information Desk for use in the Library.


Edmunds1Another popular source for automotive values is  The web site has a wide variety of automotive information, but no motorcycles, snowmobiles, RVs etc.  You can find prices for new and used cars, information on national and regional incentives or rebates, dealer and inventory listings, vehicle reviews.   They have a section called Appraise Your Car which functions like Kelley and NADA websites.   Edmunds also devotes a large part of its website to reviews, research, tips and advice and a very handy section called Maintenance – which is where you can find Maintenance Schedules, Recalls and Technical Service Bulletins just by entering your cars year, make and model.   Very handy source for some times hard-to-find information.

All three of these websites- either separately or together- can help you determine a fair value for your own car or get information on a vehicle you are considering buying.