by Heidi Lauritzen on January 30th, 2015
I long have been a fan of author Charles Todd’s mystery series featuring the character Ian Rutledge. A Fine Summer’s Day is the just-published, perfectly-presented prequel to the sixteen novels in the series. It is a satisfying detective story in its own right, but what’s best is learning some of the back stories of the series’ characters.
If you are already a fan too, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this installment. It takes place just as England is mobilizing to enter World War I. Rutledge is a detective at Scotland Yard and is courting Jean, the young woman who we know will break their engagement upon Rutledge’s return from the war. Many other familiar characters whom we have come to know are introduced here as well.
Why do I like the series so much? Ian Rutledge is an honorable and intelligent man who is haunted by the horror of the war. How he solves mysteries while trying to regain some emotional stability in his life are complimentary and compelling themes. His Scotland Yard assignments take him all around England–and sometimes to Scotland–and the places and historical settings come to life.
When I recommend the series to readers, I always suggest that they read them in order. While there is enough background information repeated in each novel to make them understandable if you don’t read them in order, the character development does flow from book to book and you see the natural progression of the characters’ lives. Now I will suggest that readers begin with this book.
A couple more notes about the series’ characters: you don’t get much here about Hamish MacLeod–which makes sense because he becomes part of Ian Rutledge’s life only when Rutledge enters the war. And there’s a tantalizing reference to Simon Brandon, a name you will recognize if you read the Bess Crawford mysteries, by the same author. I wonder if we can look forward to a merging of their stories sometime soon?
by Heidi Lauritzen on January 15th, 2015
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.
by Heidi Lauritzen on December 24th, 2014
You can track Santa’s progress to North America by checking out NORAD’s Santa Tracker. To find out where Santa is right now, go to noradsanta.org.
NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa’s journey since 1955. There’s a wonderful interview from NPR with the adult children of Col. Harry Shoup of the Continental Air Defense Command (now called NORAD), who took the first call from a child who had dialed a misprinted phone number to talk to Santa.
If you go to noradsanta.org, you will see a 3D presentation of Santa and his sleigh flying over the countryside below. If you do not have a very fast internet connection, you can make an easy switch to a 2D presentation, which shows the places he has already been and where Santa is headed next. As I write this, Santa is over western Africa…..and only hours away from Iowa.
by Heidi Lauritzen on October 6th, 2014
While working at the Reference Desk last week, I got a question from a couple of young students. More than anything I wanted to give a simple answer that would signal to them that the Library is easy to use. But no such luck, because the question—Where are your books on prairie plants?—resulted in two places to look.
The Dewey Decimal Classification scheme, used in many public libraries, provides a framework for grouping materials together by subject. More than 100 years old, the scheme has been resilient and adaptable. But sometimes it conspires to keep similar things apart, if the approach to the subject matter differs. I think the best illustration for this is the 500s and 600s. The 500s are “Pure Science” and the 600s are “Technology,” sometimes referred to as “applied science”.
The Dewey Decimal classification numbers in the 530s are about physics, with electricity at 537. But if you are interested in wiring your house, you would look at applied physics in 621.31924.
In the 580s you find books about the natural history and identification of plants; and in the 600s, you find the books about gardening and cooking with plants.
In the classification number 590, you find books about animals—their history and biology. But look in the 600s to find books about animals in the subject areas of farming, cooking, and keeping animals as pets.
Doing a subject search in the catalog will help you identify all the places you can look for what you need. If you do a subject search for “parrots”, the catalog will send you to 598.71 for “Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide” and also to 636.6865 for books on training and caring for a pet parrot. If you do a subject search for “prairie plants,” as I did for the students last week, the catalog will direct you to 581.744 for “An Illustrated Guide to Iowa Prairie Plants” and also to 635.95 for “A Practical Guide to Prairie Reconstruction”.
Browsing an area of the collection that you know is one way of finding what you need, but there may be similar items of interest in other areas. We hope that you will check with staff at the Reference Desk whenever you have a question about where to find a subject that interests you. Chances are there is more than one place to look, and we can help you find them all.
by Heidi Lauritzen on September 18th, 2014
Until recently, the first thing that came to mind when Sir Walter Scott was mentioned is that he is one of the authors in my Game of Authors card deck. When I heard about the exciting upcoming programs on Scott and his Waverley novels, though, I knew I had to read at least one of the novels, and I’m very glad I did.
Waverley; or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since was published anonymously in 1814 to great acclaim; for the next thirteen years Scott continued publishing novels which were known as “by the author of Waverley” and he only officially claimed authorship of them in 1827. Some of Scott’s better-known titles today are Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and the long poem The Lady of the Lake.
Waverley often is called the first historical novel, and is about a young Englishman–Edward Waverley–who is posted to Scotland, and whose loyalties become torn between his English origins and the Scottish Highland clans in the Jacobite rising of 1745. Scott is a terrific story-teller, bringing to life characters from all levels of 18th century society and painting beautiful pictures in my mind of the Highland lochs, stones and mountains. I was prepared for the long, descriptive sentences but surprised—happily—by Scott’s dry sense of humor; I found myself smiling often as I read. Reading Waverley now, as modern-day Scotland is voting on whether to separate from the United Kingdom, reinforces just how old and complex this quest for independence is.
Scott was a contemporary of Jane Austen and she had this to say about Scott and Waverley: “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…” I should have taken Austen’s word for it a long time ago. And I will definitely read more of the Waverley novels.
Don’t miss learning more about Sir Walter Scott and the Waverley novels at ICPL’s program at noon on Friday, September 19th, and on October 5 at the Iowa City Book Festival.
by Heidi Lauritzen on August 5th, 2014
I recently enjoyed two new books on England’s Bloomsbury Group. So much has been written by and about this group of writers, painters, and thinkers, it seems a bit surprising that a new angle could be found. But these two books are a delight, and if you enjoy gardening, cooking, or English history, check them out.
Virginia Woolf’s Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk’s House is written by Caroline Zoob; she and her husband lived as tenants in this National Trust property for more than ten years, nurturing the gardens and taking care of the house. The photographs are by Caroline Arber, and they beautifully present the gardens, paths, and orchard on the property, as well as some interior shots of the house where the Woolfs lived for many years. (I lingered especially over the the pictures of Leonard’s and Virginia’s writing tables.) Mixed in with these current photos are archival pictures of the Woolfs and their guests in the gardens. The text describes the extensive work that the Woolfs (primarily Leonard) did to create garden rooms, develop the orchard, and grow food for their table–which was often shared with guests.
The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls is a little more story and a little less recipes, but that’s ok. The book nicely summarizes the chronology and personalities of the Bloomsbury Group through anecdotes and the recipes of its members (and their cooks). You will find the Woolfs here, and Vanessa and Clive Bell, and Lydia Lopokova Keynes, Dora Carrington, and Lytton Strachey, to name just a few. Some of the recipes are more atmospheric than utilitarian (where would I find a calf’s brain?) but some of the vague measurements have been updated and there is a chart at the back that provides temperature conversions from centigrade to Fahrenheit, and imperial measurements to metric. The many illustrations, most of which are paintings by members of the Group, are another highlight of the book.
by Heidi Lauritzen on July 15th, 2014
Any new books at the Library? There’s a quick answer for that, on the front page of the catalog. Once a week–usually on Tuesday–the list of materials just added to the Library collections is updated. Not all sections will have something every week, but most do and sometimes the lists are quite long. Just click on the “New Materials Lists” link to get started.
The New Materials Lists page is easy to search and browse: it first is divided into Adult, Teen and Children’s collections, with more sub-categories listed below those headings. If you like Adult Fiction, you can limit your browsing to just Mysteries or just Large Print books. If Nonfiction is your first choice, the list is separated by the Dewey Decimal classification numbers: 100/200/300 and so on. I routinely check the 900s and Biography, because I like reading about history and travel. And then I check the DVD TV section, because I’m hooked on a number of British TV series. And then it’s on to the Mysteries…
Most formats are represented, including DVDs, music compact discs, books on disc, and eBooks and eAudio. The display of the book cover (or DVD cover, or CD cover) beside the title is helpful, and there’s a direct link to the regular catalog entry where you can place a hold if you wish.
The majority of the items on the list are newly-published, but you will also see other things new to our collection even if they were published several years ago.
It’s a great way to browse our virtual New shelves. Check back once a week!
by Heidi Lauritzen on June 17th, 2014
I believe most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when four planes were turned into weapons and crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside. I was already at work here at the Library when I became aware of a group of staff clustered around a television in our audiovisual services area. When we realized the magnitude of what was happening we opened our big meeting room to the public, showing the ongoing news coverage on the big screen there. In the Library’s annual report for that year, Director Susan Craig described what it was like: “It was incredible to sit in the darkened room and watch the news with strangers, some in small groups, most just individuals. When I was there no one actually spoke, but I felt a connection with everyone in the room.”
The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum reconnects us to the events that day and the long recovery process that followed. The Museum is part of the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood. The pictures in this book are simple but evocative. The essays which accompany them—more like letters to the reader—are written by staff members of the Museum.
Many of the artifacts in the Museum are from the crash sites; others include the transcripts from phone calls from people on the planes, missing-person posters that blanketed New York City, and the Memorial Urn, with the names of the 2,977 victims on it, created by ceramicist Tom Lane.
It is difficult to choose just one or two examples to tell you more about. Should it be the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s hijack report? Or Karyn’s flight attendant wings, or the Last Column at Ground Zero, or patrol dog Sirius’s leash, or the wreckage of Engine 21 of the Fire Department of New York?
Each story brought goose bumps or tears, and often both. The professionalism of the flight attendants on the planes and the emergency responders on the ground, the many expressions of compassion and generosity during the tragedy and in its aftermath are unforgettable reminders of the prevailing goodness in humanity. If you are unable to visit the Museum in person, this book is the next best way to witness that.
by Heidi Lauritzen on April 15th, 2014
Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is a pleasure in three parts: a biographical summary of Potter’s life; a look at her gardens by season, through her writings, paintings and period photographs; and finally, detailed lists of all the plants that appeared in her children’s books and in her gardens. If you want to create Mr. McGregor’s garden in your own backyard, this book will tell you what to plant.
The book’s greatest strength is the illustrations that appear on almost every page. There are contemporary photos of Hilltop, Potter’s home in England’s Lake District, as well as many black-and-white period photographs of her childhood in London and her later farming life in the Lake Country. Many of her watercolors and ink drawings are included, from her early botanical drawings of fungi to the illustrations she created for her books for children to the later sketches of her farm animals and countryside around her.
The story of Beatrix Potter’s life is briefly told, but the notable events are all here. Author Marta McDowell does a nice job of including enough information about the social mores and historical events of the time to show us just how extraordinary Potter was as an author, landowner, preservationist, wife and farmer.
Potter the gardener is quite recognizable. She liked to share plants with neighbors and friends, and occasionally was guilty of taking a snip of something without express permission. She planted vegetables and flowers, and tended fruit trees too. When she was a child, Beatrix Potter had many animals as companions and her love for animals was evident throughout her life, but Potter the gardener did despair over the damage that rabbits and birds could do to her gardens.
It is arguable which is Beatrix Potter’s greater legacy: her Tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck and all the others, or her gift of over 4,000 acres of Lake District farms and hills to the National Trust. Her gift to the Trust allows us to still see the landscapes and plants and creatures that are so captivating in her children’s books written more than a century ago. Check out Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, enjoy the wonderful photos and watercolors, and see how many ways there are to admire this amazing woman.
by Heidi Lauritzen on April 14th, 2014
Recently I joined several other ICPL staff members who attended the Public Library Association conference. We were in the unfortunate position of having to choose just one session from ten or twelve in each time slot, but a lucky choice I made was a session on helping genealogists–both experienced and brand-new ones–use public library resources. My favorite tidbit from that session was the discovery of the handwriting tutorials in FamilySearch.
FamilySearch is produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and searches genealogical records worldwide including the International Genealogical Index, and census and other vital statistics sources. You can find a link to it among the online resources on our website in the Biography, History and Genealogy category. FamilySearch provides many tutorials on doing genealogy, for all levels of experience.
If you have ever looked at original source documents, such as census forms or ship passenger lists or church records, you know that reading old-fashioned handwriting can be difficult. When those documents are in other languages, the challenges increase exponentially. The FamilySearch tutorials on the scripts of many languages–including English–can help. Pictured above and below are examples of Scandinavian Gothic. The tutorials are self-guided, and usually incorporate opportunities for practice.
To access the tutorials, you do need to create an account within FamilySearch. There is no charge to do so. You can find the handwriting lessons under Get Help/Learning Center Video Courses; it’s easiest to then search by the country you are interested in.