Library Catalog Ask a Librarian Book a Meeting Room
Catalog Your Account Menu

Author Archive for Beth Fisher

Salad Days of Summer

by Beth Fisher on June 25th, 2014

patricia wells salads

On these long steamy days of summer is there anything that sounds better than a nice fresh salad?

Some people  can create wonderful salads as if by magic.  But I’m not one of those people.  Even wandering through farmers market I get stumped on what would go well together.

ICPL has a some great salad cookbooks.  (Does one cook salad?)  Check out the new Salad pop-up display on the 2nd floor west of the Reference Desk, or at search in the ICPL catalog for subject Salads for some great ideas.


raising the salad bar schwartz salads williams sonoma salad







Roadside plants in Iowa

by Beth Fisher on June 9th, 2014

iowa roadways3If you’ve ever taken a roadtrip, you know there are all sorts of things to see when cruising down the roads of Iowa. Big cities and small towns; railroads, bridges and barns; modern buildings or historic architecture; fields of corn, soybeans or hay; and trees, grasses and wildflowers.

It might surprise you to know that many of the trees, grasses and wildflowers you see in and along the roadsides of Iowa were planted by the Iowa D.O.T.   Iowa’s Living Roadways, a small spiral bound book produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation is a guide to the various landscape designs and planting styles used to maintain the roadways of Iowa.

The guide includes photographs and plant profiles of  41 species of wildflowers and grasses- from Canadian Anemone, Blackeyed Susan, Spiderwort and Vervain;  33 species of trees -  including, 10 species of Crabapples,  five species of Maples and 4 species of Oak; and 16 types of shrubs – from Chokeberries, to Dogwood and Fragrant Sumac.    Each plant profile includes a color photograph, a description, bloom times, trivia, and possible habitats or locations.

The end of the book has a glossary, references and bibliography, and  a fun 8-page section called Amazing Plant Facts.  (Did you know that Oak tress do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old?)     You can find a copy of this book in either the Circulating or Iowa Reference Collections at 582.13/Iowa’s


Stump the Librarians Day: Sabin Elementary School

by Beth Fisher on April 24th, 2014

sabin2Today we received a call at the Reference Desk from a patron that has us stumped.   The patron asked for information about a time capsule they believe had been placed in the former Henry Sabin Elementary School building at 500 South Dubuque Street here in Iowa City.  The building was built 1917, but the patron didn’t know when the time capsule would have been placed.

Unfortunately, after searching a variety of online and print resources like the Newspaper Archives and the Irving Weber’s Iowa City volumes, and even calling the ICCSD, we’re at a loss.  We couldn’t find even a hint of information about a time capsule.  So now we’re looking for help.   Does this sound familiar to you?  Did you attend Sabin Elementary?  Have you heard stories about a time capsule being buried there?   Any information you can provide would be a great help.

In general, Librarians are a curious bunch, and we really hate being stumped.   And now we all want to know the answer too!


by Beth Fisher on April 16th, 2014
Memoirs Cover Image

Memoir is an area of non-fiction that often get lost in Library collections.   Memoirs are similar to biographies and autobiographies, but with one significant difference that sets them apart.

A Biography tells the true story of a person’s entire life.  Written by someone other than the subject, a biography tells a life story of from birth to death (or the present time) and all the events and facts in the story are verifiable.

An Autobiography is a biography written about the author’s own life.  They tell their own story.  Just as in a biography all the events and facts are verifiable, and they tell their complete life story – from birth to the current time.

A Memoir is most similar to an autobiography except its about a much smaller segment of time.  It tells the story of a specific event, story arc, or time period in the author’s life.   This is what makes memoirs so unique.  Its the true story story of how a person dealt with an event in their own life, and lived to tell the tale.  Memoirs can be found in just about anyplace in the Library’s collection, and on any topic.

We put up a new display of Memoirs on the 2nd floor today. Some of the titles include:

banishedBanished: surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church. by Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer.

dan minivanDan gets a minivan: life at the intersection of dude and dad  by Dan Zevin.  Bring on the two kids, overweight pooch, and a wife with a great full time job and Dan morphs into one great stay at home dad.

escapeEscape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer.  How a young woman, raised in an FLDS community, and married as a teenager to a man 32 years her senior eventually gets strong and finds a way out of the FLDS for herself and her 8 children.

family in parisA Family in Paris: stories of food, life and adventure by Jane Paech.  Stories from the six years this Australian family spent living in Paris.

it suckedIt sucked and then I cried:  how I had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita   by Heather B. Armstrong.


king peggyKing Peggy: an American secretary, her royal destiny, and the inspiring story of how she changed and African Village by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman.   How she went from a secretary in DC to King of a fishing village in Africa.

on the outsideOn the outside looking Indian: how my second childhood changed my life  by Rupinder Gill.   Describes Gill’s descision at the age of 30 to have the childhood she couldn’t growing up in a restrictive, traditional Indian household.

talking to girlsTalking to girls about Duran Duran: one young man’s quest for true love and a cooler haircut  by Rob Sheffield.  Being a teen ager in the 80′s meant the birth of MTV, John Hughes teen angst movies, and marking every step you took toward adulthood with pop culture references.





The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese

by Beth Fisher on April 6th, 2014
The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese Cover Image

Rarely do I read a nonfiction book and wish the author would write more.  Not necessarily more about the topic, just MORE because they are such an entertaining writer.  This book is definitely one of them.

Detroit News Finance Editor, and creator of the Funny Money blog, Brian O’Connor uses wit and self-deprecating humor to turn a book about personal finance into a fun read.  And not just basic personal finance, but “how to survive when times get really tough” budgeting.

“The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese”  started as a proposal from O’Connor to the editors at the Detroit News.  In 2009, as the economy in Michigan was tanking, O’Connor proposed a series of weekly articles on how to save $100 a week, and he offered to use his own family budget as the source for the story.

Budgeting is not a new concept, but O’Connor approached it with humor and honesty. He started where every budget program does,  by taking a serious look at how his family actually spent money. I’m not sure he was really shocked at where their money was going, but to lay it out for all of the world to see had to be a bit nerve-wracking.   He broke their budget for the former year down into categories and focused on the 10 that cost them the most each month, intent on saving $100 in each category.  He took on a new category each week, and at the end of the week wrote about his successes or failures in his newspaper column, which he turned into this book.

In the book he also approaches each category on three levels  – based on the three types of people he thought might need or want a book on budgeting: 1) “People who need to free up cash” so that they can increase their savings in case something bad happens,  2) “People who are having a hard time making ends meet” from pay check to pay check and  3) People who are “pinching pennies so hard that Lincoln is getting a headache.”

Seeing how O’Connor tackled each category in his own family’s budget, especially the challenges he encountered, turned what could have been a painfully dry subjects into a pretty fun read full of good information.


March is National Craft Month

by Beth Fisher on March 12th, 2014
March is National Craft Month Cover Image

National Craft Month What a GREAT idea!  A whole month dedicated to crafts of all kinds.

On the 2nd floor there Craft Month display with books on all sorts of crafts:  ceramics, jewelry making, felting, embroidery, stained glass making, metalwork, glass blowing, quilling, miniature making, tatting, photography, and weaving, in addition to the more common knitting, crocheting and quilting books.

Another place to check for crafting books is the New Book Shelves on the 2nd floor.   Here are a few of the new books I found on the shelf today:

The Crafter’s Book of Clever Ideas (pictured above) by Andrea Currie and Cliff Currie. If I’d been the editor, I’d have called this book “He Did/She Did.”  It’s hard to describe this book.  There are 25 crafts, but 50 projects.  Each craft has a “her” version and a “his” version. The same supplies and concepts are used to make two similar yet different projects.  None are really high tech. You might not even need to buy any supplies.  Some projects are kitschy, others are cute.  With simple instructions illustrated by color photos, none of the projects looks overly complicated.  As I flipped through this book I found myself thinking that it would be a great book for a crafty evening with friends or kids.

precut patchwork partyPrecut Patchwork Party by Elaine Schmidt.  All of the projects in this book involve some form of patchwork or quilting, but none of them are actually quilts.   Schmidt has created 18 fun projects that take advantage of precuts.*  Fabric baskets, purses, aprons, and potholders, there’s something here for anyone.

Schmidt knows her stuff.  The book begins with 18 pages of “Basics” will lead you through everything you’ll need to know about precuts, supplies, tools and basic techniques.  She’s broken the projects down into two sections:  Home Decor Projects and Accessories, Wear-ables, and Gifts.   Well written, easy to follow, step by step instructions are provided for each project along with bright color photographs.  None of the projects are very complicated, and a beginner could probably tackle most of them with no problem.  That’s not to say advanced sewists or quilters wouldn’t find something fun to make here too.     *Precuts are packets of coordinating fabric that are available in specific sizes, from 5.5″ squares to rolls of 2.5″ strips.  One of the best things about precuts is because the fabrics are all from one line they automatically all go together.

instacraftInstacraft: fun & simple pojects for adorable gifts, deco & more by Allison Caporimo with photographs by Meera Lee Patel.    The title of this book is perfect.  Each of the 50+ projects included are fun, quick and mostly use things you already have around the house.  The book is fun to flip through.  Each 2-page spread is one project, with a great closeup of the finished project, a list of supplies you’ll need and simple step by step instructions.  The author also includes an “extra” in each project.. be it a tip, listening suggestion, a recipe to try while waiting for something to dry, or other entertaining tidbit.  It gives the book a fun twist not found in most craft books.   Most of the crafts would be great to do with younger kids, or for older kids to do with supervision (spray paint and glue …) and many of them use recycled items. Definitely a great new choice for the ICPL craft collection.



Questions from the Reference Desk.

by Beth Fisher on February 28th, 2014

Recently I had a conversation with one of our teen volunteers about what I liked most about being a Librarian. To me, being a Librarian is like being on a never-ending treasure hunt. Its a great job for someone who is naturally curious.  Every time someone asks me a question, I suddenly want to know the answer too.

There are some questions we get over and over. “Do you have any 1040 EZ forms?” we hear a lot at this time of year.   However, most of the questions we get at the Reference Desk are one of a kind.  Some of the questions I’ve had recently have been:

Where would I need to be to see the Aurora Borealis tonight?  The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks has maps here that will show you where the Aurora is visible on any give day.

Where can I find out more information on the Emerald Ash Borer in Iowa?  Can it be prevented systemically?   The Iowa State Extension Office at Iowa State University has lots of information about the Emerald Ash Borer  here  and it includes an section on the management of Ash trees which includes methods that might help prevent Ash Borer infestation.

How many different names does author Dean Koontz use?   Dean Koontz personal web site provides a list of his pen names in the section “facts for collectors”  here  He has used 8 pen-names:  David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Aaron Wolfe.


Armchair Travel: Take Me Somewhere Warm!

by Beth Fisher on January 30th, 2014

January is almost over, but does knowing we have at least 7 more weeks of winter make you want learn to hibernate?  Does watching yet another snowstorm blow through give you the winter blues?  ICPL has the cure!

Check out the new Arm Chair Travel display on the 2nd floor.  You’ll find all sorts of great travel guides guaranteed to make forget about the snow:

Pocket Phuket, 3rd edition.  A guide to the island province off the south western coast of Thailand.  Phuket, along with much of the Western coast of Thailand was seriously damaged by the December 2004 Tsunami, and the government and people of Thailand have made a fantastic recovery.   This guide, with wonderful pictures and maps, also has lots of lists.  Lists of places to visit, things to see, places to eat and places to stay.  Just flipping through its pages will get you lost in this amazing country.

Lonely Planet – Australia, 16th ed.  It’s hard to cover an entire country in one book, but the Lonely Planet people have created a great introductory guide to travel in Australia.  From places to visit, sights to see and things to do the Lonely Planet guides are fun to read.  This guide will have you wanting to find koalas or kookaburras in their natural habitat, hiking through the Blue Mountains National Park, or just laying on the sand at Bondi Beach.

Moon Handbook: Tahiti  If you’ve ever wanted to run away to the French Polynesian islands, this guidebook is for you.  With beautiful maps and lists of things to see, places to go as well as where to eat and where to stay,  this book will have you dreaming about mountains and rainforests and black sand beaches.

Stop by the display or the Non Fiction collections for more travel guides in print or on DVD.

Spring is on the way.

by Beth Fisher on January 23rd, 2014
Spring is on the way. Cover Image

It’s official: Spring is coming! How do I know this? I found my first seed catalogs in my mailbox this week!  I had to knock the snow off the mailbox to open it, but the catalogs were there waiting for me.

Yes, I admit it.  Rather than bleed black and gold like many in Iowa City, I have mud in my veins. I’m a gardener, and I’m ready for winter to be over and done so I can get back to playing in the dirt!

But for now I’ll be content with my new seed catalogs and the new gardening books at ICPL. So far this one is my favorite:

Midwest Gardener’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide by Melinda Myers.  Nicely organized and illustrated, this guide to Midwestern gardening is just that – a general guide.   It covers a bit of everything: annuals, bulbs, groundcovers & vines, lawns, perennials, roses, shrubs, trees and vegetables & herbs.  It sounds like a lot to cover in a 256 page book, but Myers does it well.

Each of the nine sections of the book are laid out the same, beginning with a discussion of things to think about – from soil prep to choosing seeds or established plants, proper planting techniques and pest management.  Then there are page after page of suggested plants – including a short but thorough descriptions of each plant (hardiness, bloom period etc), a “Why it’s Special” description of why the plant was included in the list, and “How to Plant & Grow” and “Care & Problems” sections.   Each chapter ends with a month by month calendar that includes things that need to be done each month of the year (including the winter months).

The last 20 pages of the book are so packed with information they should be their own book.  The 10 page appendix includes charts on how much mulch, soil or how many plants to buy given your space, four pages on proper pruning, pages on creating beds or designing and building raised beds, dealing with tree roots, and twelve state zone maps showing individual counties.  A glossary, bibliography, common name and Latin /botanical name indexes follow.    Myers book is definitely worth a look if you’re new to gardening, new to the Midwest, or someone who just likes concise, well written basic gardening books.

Winter garden forums are back!

by Beth Fisher on January 3rd, 2014

To most people, winter means ice and snow.  But for some of us – the ones with mud in our veins – winter is time to start thinking, dreaming and planning for our gardens.   And what better way to get back in the mood to garden then by getting together with 150+ other gardeners to talk gardening!

For over 20 years, Project GREEN and ICPL have joined together to bring the Second Sunday Garden Forums to the gardeners in our area. The 2014 forums will take place in January, February and March, and the guest speakers should be a lot of fun.

January 12th, Iowa City’s own recycling coordinator,  Jennifer Jordan, will present “Resources for Gardeners at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center” giving us the the inside scoop on the things available at the Iowa City Landfill and East Side Recycling Center.


On February 9, Polk County Master Gardener Rita Minard will present “Social Climbers … Clematis for All Occasions.”  Rita grows more than 100 clematis  in her own gardens. She will offer suggestions on planting, pruning, displaying and photographing different varieties of clematis.

March 9th, former garden writer and editor at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine Susan Appleget Hurst will present “Dream Garden Design” in which she’ll share the lessons she has learned about gardens and garden design.

All programs will begin at 2:00 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month in ICPL Meeting Room A, and will be broadcast live on The Library Channel, Iowa City Cable Channel 10.