Author Archive for Heidi Kuchta

Lobby Stop Pilot

by Heidi Kuchta on November 15th, 2018

The Bookmobile has successful stops at several retirement homes in Iowa City, but we have noticed that there is a population of patrons at these stops who are not comfortable navigating the Bookmobile. There are also retirement homes that can’t accommodate the Bookmobile due to a lack of suitable parking. Staff have been thinking about how we can serve this population. One idea is a Lobby Stop Program, which provides library services in the comfort of the hosting facility. Staff learned about Lobby Stops at an ABOS (Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services) conference a couple years ago. On Tuesday, I began investigating the possibilities of this new service with my spiffy outreach wagon, a few bins of large print books, and a staff laptop. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive.

The three pilot sites for this new service are Walden Place, Bickford Senior Living, and Legacy Assisted Living. Overall, I made 14 new library card accounts on Tuesday and checked out about 10 items. I also updated several accounts, helped with Digital Johnson County related questions, placed holds, and had fun chatting with new patrons. Materials I bring to the Lobby Stops will adapt as I get to know the patrons at the sites better. Two recommendations I will apply immediately, based on patron suggestions, are the inclusion of books-on-disc and photography/art books. The plan is to continue visiting each Lobby Stop site twice monthly and re-evaluate in the Spring. Beginning in January, we will likely add Emerson Point to the list of sites we visit. The Bookmobile will no longer visit this site, but many people there come to our Tales and Travels program, so we’re hoping a Lobby Stop would be the type of service they need.

May Outreach and Summertime Fun

by Heidi Kuchta on June 5th, 2018

May was a busy month in Outreach activities, as I got ready to hunker down for my busy summer months inside the library. Jen Eilers and I kicked off May with a tech help visit down the street at Ecumenical Towers. With about six residents in attendance, we answered many questions about Digital Johnson County and how to manage your library account online. I also promoted the Senior Tech Zone which takes place at ICPL’s Digital Media Lab every Thursday 10:30AM to 12:30PM.

To those who like to donate books and other lightly used media to ICPL: your donations definitely go to good use – whether here in the library or outside of it at one of our Outreach libraries!  In May I dropped off books at several of the Outreach locations I serve – the lounge at Prelude Behavioral Services and their Transitional Housing Apartments, the Crisis Center, as well as the Four Oaks Youth Shelter.  I was very happy to give Four Oaks a collection of Harry Potter and other fun family DVDs in excellent shape. Many foreign language titles in French, Spanish, and various Asian languages have been coming in, too. I usually donate these to the Crisis Center which has many ELL (English Language Learning) clients.

At the end of May, residents of Walden Place retirement community came to visit us for a tour! Terri Byers talked about check-in and collection inspection volunteer opportunities, and Patty McCarthy spoke about volunteering at The Book End. One woman even left the Book End with a stack of books she purchased for her granddaughter! Another of the Walden Place residents was a lifelong School Librarian at Hoover, and she specifically wanted to give the Children’s Room a visit. (She was very impressed, by the way. She gathered each of the Children’s desk handouts to look at later.) Several Walden Place tour participants who are new to Iowa City chose to sign up for library cards while here.

May was such a well-rounded month that I now feel content to turn my attention to the Summer Reading Program and the brand new Summer Bookmobile schedule. I look forward to covering several Bookmobile shifts over the Summer to get out of downtown for a spell. With so much going on here at the library, we certainly have something for everyone!


Deposit Collections from ICPL

by Heidi Kuchta on February 2nd, 2018


The Deposit Collections are not a well-known Outreach offering of the Iowa City Public Library, but they provide a fun “mini browsing” experience for residents of Melrose Meadows Retirement Community, Oaknoll Retirement Community, and Oaknoll’s Health Center. Retirement and assisted living facilities in Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, and Rural Johnson County are eligible to borrow 30 Large Print books from our collection every 9 weeks. Community & Access Services works with Maintenance to ensure these temporary browsing collections are delivered and switched out on time.

I love choosing which 30 books get the honor of making the trip to each facility. Since one of the library’s purposes is to provide information and entertainment that appeals to a variety of interests and tastes, I am sure include a variety of popular literary fiction, mysteries, romances, westerns, and nonfiction. I am also careful not to send the same books out over and over, aiming instead to send a new batch each time.

Responsibility for the Deposit Collections rests with the institutions that host them, since they are loaned items and not donations. If a prospective outreach site feels they do not have a controlled enough environment to keep track of loaned books, they may choose to receive gift books instead. For more information about Deposit Collections and Outreach Libraries, you can contact me at or by calling me at 319-887-6038.

Color of Unity March for Dr. King: Monday January 15th

by Heidi Kuchta on January 8th, 2018

Iowa City’s Black Voices Project is organizing a Color of Unity march for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is next Monday! I found out about this event through Facebook, but wanted to get the word out on the library’s blog, too.

Here are the details copied from the Black Voices Project’s Facebook page:

In commemoration of Dr. King’s life, this year, we hope you will join us in honoring Dr. King’s extraordinary work and example during Iowa City’s 1st Annual “COLOR OF UNITY MARCH” on Monday, January 15, 2018.


We would like to see ALL of our community members come together in unity!
Citizens will gather at 9:00a.m. for line up procession at Faith Academy located at 1030 Crosspark Ave., and will start the walk/car procession at 10:00a.m. in a demonstration of strength and support, to Grantwood Elementary School at 1930 Lakeside Dr.

This is a kid-friendly/ senior citizen event, so you are welcome to drive your families in the parade as well!

At Home with the Iowa City Public Library

by Heidi Kuchta on November 13th, 2017

Last month Iowa City Public Library served 45 different patrons exclusively through the At Home Program. This wonderful service brings library materials to home-bound patrons via the US Postal Service. Each day, staff members in Community & Access Services bundle books, DVDs, and more for our group of active At Home patrons. We will send out anything small enough to fit in our postage-paid green mailers. (Sorry – no art prints!) Residents of Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, Lone Tree, and Rural Johnson County are eligible for this FREE service!

We love our At Home patrons, and they seem to appreciate the service too! One woman wrote to me that our books make her 102-year-old life great. (She’s very proud of her age and her library.) Another woman wrote to tell us that by sending Audiobooks to her husband, we brought him happiness after he went blind and was no longer able to read the books he loved.

Since taking over as the main point person for At Home a month ago, it’s been interesting to me how many different ways people use the service. Some people prefer calling in their requests by phone, and others solely communicate with me through email. Some people manage their accounts almost 100% on their own by placing holds online, allowing them to get a constant stream of materials from us as their holds slowly come in. Still others prefer sending their requests in writing when they send their items back to us in the mail – the good old-fashioned way! This service is designed to accommodate everyone, no matter how they prefer communicating with us.

To sign up for this service or get more information, you can call me at 319-887-6038 or write an email to



Spotlight on Short Stories

by Heidi Kuchta on March 23rd, 2017

civilwarlandI love short stories! They’re a fun way to try out a writer’s work without a 300 page commitment. If you don’t like one of the stories, you can pick another at random or put the whole collection aside.

2017 has been a great year for new short story collections, but my all time favorite is from twenty years ago, Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. “Set in a dystopian near-future…these stories constitute a searching and bitterly humorous commentary on the current state of the American Dream (Goodreads).” Upon re-reading, this book is still very relevant and very funny. Civilwarland, the brilliant setting for one of the stories, is a Civil War reenactment theme park staffed by hilarious and doleful characters. A side note: check out Saunder’s first novel that just came out, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017).

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The Couple Next Door

by Heidi Kuchta on February 9th, 2017

If you are feeling a bit blah these February days, why not pick up a thriller? The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was just what I needed to get me out of a winter reading rut. The book introduces us to young professionals Anne and Marco, who arcouple-next-doore struggling to adjust to life as new parents. Marco convinces Anne to step out for a dinner party at the couple’s house next door. Begrudgingly, Anne agrees, and goes to the party with her baby monitor and hopes of turning in early. Later that evening when they go home, their baby girl Cora has been kidnapped. From there, events move quickly, unfurling a spiral of secrets. This fast-paced tale is part mystery, part psychological thriller. It is a quick read which you will likely find difficult to put down!

Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon

by Heidi Kuchta on October 12th, 2016

Pitbull book

Pit Bull advocate Bronwen Dickey’s summer 2016 book release Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon was sometimes very difficult to read. I even put off writing this blog post because I was too emotional after I first read the book to write a proper review! I have been a Pit Bull mama for almost a decade. Saysha is a 12-year-old female Staffordshire Terrier and Mowgli is a 3-year-old male American Bulldog mix. “Pit Bull” is not an exact breed – instead it has become a catch-all term for bulldogs of various kinds, or just mutts that look like Pits. Defining characteristics are blocky heads, thick muscular bodies, and big smiles. Saysha and Mowgli have very distinct personalities and looks. Mowgli weighs over 110 pounds; Saysha weighs only around 50 pounds. Mowgli loves eating fruit and veggies; Saysha will turn her nose up at a carrot or apple slice and instead beg for a biscuit. Saysha is very friendly with a princess streak, she naps a lot in her old age; Mowgli is playful and active yet more challenging, prone to becoming territorial about the house and barking out the front window. (Nothing a couple miles around the neighborhood can’t ease.) I can’t imagine my life without them. One of my long-term plans is to own some land so I can start my own bulldog rescue here in Iowa. SayshMowgli

(Above: Saysha and Mowgli in 2014. Mowgli is the white and grey dog.)

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The Story of My Teeth

by Heidi Kuchta on June 14th, 2016

story of my teethLooking for a quick addition to your summer reading list? I loved this little book by Valeria Luiselli set in Mexico City because it is quite funny and bursting with originality. If you find yourself gravitating to heavy, serious books and want a pick-me-up or a palette cleanser, this will do the trick. Also, if you like quirky books as a general rule, check this one out! I fell in love with the aesthetics – there are beautiful full page bookplates dividing the different ‘books’ or chapters within the book. Also of note is that Valeria Luiselli wrote this book in collaboration with employees from Mexico City’s Jumex juice factory. During the book, auctioneer Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez tells us about his travels and his beloved tooth collection of the “notorious infamous” (he later admits that the Marilyn Monroe ones are fakes.) There are literary quotes and fortune-cookie fortunes sprinkled throughout like a breadcrumb trail. This book is fun and adventurous, giving one the sense of being on a bizarre yet intriguing mission. I also loved how the final ‘book’ or chapter is a timeline of Gustavo Highway’s adventures in context of other important happenings in Mexican history. There are also photographs to further provide a sense of place. The writing’s mood can be contemplative, irreverent, hilarious, or confounding. I can’t wait to read more by this author!

The Dark Net

by Heidi Kuchta on February 17th, 2016

Dark NetHidden behind the searchable internet world, there exists a network of sites that requires specific servers, browsers, or codes to access. These “dark” areas of the internet are commonly associated with bad behavior, crime, and even terrorism. British author Jamie Bartlett is not here to launch arguments in favor of censorship and surveillance, but rather provides an overview of the dark net. In this book, which came out to rave reviews in May 2015, Bartlett breaks down the dark net for the person wanting to broach the many ethical quandaries the internet provides. If you want an introduction to some of the controversies of living in a digital age, I definitely recommend you check this book out! I especially enjoyed the chapter highlighting the dark net war between the anti-immigrant British Nationalists and the group Antifa – short for “Antifascism.”

Also of particular interest was the brief discussion at the end of the book about transhumanism – a philosophy that embraces the digital age for all of the sophisticated ways it can enhance the human experience. Some computer geeks have already implanted experimental computer chips inside of their own bodies, something that seems sci-fi but is now reality.  Also, apparently some of the leading transhumanist thinkers believe that by the middle of this century we will have the capability to upload the contents of our brains onto a digital interface! This is both scary and fascinating – I will most certainly be reading more about these transhumanists.

At the heart of The Dark Net is a cautionary tale: Yes, the internet is amazing, but it can also be vile and scary – much like humanity.  I do recommend this book, but with certain warnings. The book opens with a story about a girl whose life is ruined for sport by internet “trolls” (full explanation and history of trolling included.) There is also a whole chapter about pornography, which I can fully understand some would rather skip over. This is not an appropriate book for kids, but it also isn’t terribly graphic. The book is interested in looking at how the dark net has changed the digital landscape – not glorifying particular aspects of the dark net. Just be prepared for frank discussions.