by Heidi Lauritzen on June 14th, 2016
Helen Simonson’s new novel is a great summer read, and not just because it has “summer” in the title. The Summer Before the War takes a number of interesting turns with enough suspense to keep you reading when you really should be doing something else. There are many likeable characters–and a few not-so–and the historical detail, never heavy-handed, illuminates the impact of social class, the looming Great War, and the limited role in society for a young woman.
This is the story of Beatrice Nash, who has been hired to teach Latin to the village children of Rye, England. She is in her early 20s and grieving the loss of her beloved father who broadened her mind through education and travel. Teaching is her route to financial independence and the ability to write; probable spinsterhood is embraced as a fair trade-off for a life of her choosing, of reading and writing.
World War I changes everything and everyone, beginning with the village’s acceptance of Belgian refugees and the calls to young men to serve their country. But even patriotism and military service are subject to societal pressures and questionable ethics, and no family completely escapes heartbreak and loss.
Which characters become Beatrice’s friends and allies, and who emerges to thwart her plans moves the story at a brisk pace. And as the characters develop there are satisfying transformations from nemesis to friend, and disappointments as those she admires show their true colors. One of the things I liked best is that no character is perfect; each fails at some point to live up to their own standards and beliefs, or to love generously when it is difficult to do so.
I hated to finish the book, because I had grown quite attached to Beatrice, Hugh, Aunt Agatha, and others in the story. (I felt the same way about some of the characters in Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.) The Summer Before the War was a wonderful first entry on my summer reading program log, and I hope it makes it onto yours.
by Heidi Lauritzen on May 26th, 2016
Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, and provides us the opportunity to remember and honor those who have died in service to the United States of America.
According to the U. S Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day and was established several years after the Civil War ended by an organization of Union veterans. The practice of decorating graves with flowers and flags dates to this time. After World War I, this day of remembrance was expanded to include veterans lost in all American wars. In 1971 the U. S. Congress declared Memorial Day to be a national holiday. In 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which encourages citizens to pause wherever they are at 3:00 pm local time on Memorial Day “to observe a National Moment of Remembrance to honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace”.
In Iowa City, there are three Memorial Day observances:
- Ceremony to honor soldiers and sailors lost at sea will be held on the bridge on Park Road, off N. Dubuque Street, at 8:30 a.m.
- Celebration at Oakland Cemetery, 1000 Brown Street, beginning at 9:30 a.m., sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic, American Legion Post 17 and Auxiliary, and the Johnson County Military Affairs Association, and Iowa City Parks and Recreation (see their website for more details). In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Opstad Auditorium at City High School, 1900 Morningside Drive.
- Memorial Day Service will be held at Memory Gardens Cemetery, 2600 Muscatine Avenue, at 11:00 a.m., by the Johnson County Military Affairs Association with American Legion Post 17.
In Coralville, there will be a service at Oak Hill Cemetery, First Avenue north of I-80, beginning at 11:15 a.m. by the Coralville American Legion and Color Guard. In case of rain, it will be moved to Coralville American Legion, 901 2nd Street, at 11:30 a.m.
by Heidi Lauritzen on February 29th, 2016
After the tease of warm weather last week, the first day of March promises to be cold and windy, and we even may have some snow. All of which brought to mind that phrase about March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” What is the history of the phrase? I headed for the reference collection to find out, and became happily distracted reading the definitions and origins of many other proverbs and sayings. (For instance, who knew that the mouthwash Listerine “takes its name from Lord Lister, the English surgeon who is generally considered the father of aseptic surgery”? That tidbit is from the Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.)
But back to the matter at hand. According to the Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases (1948), “March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb” is listed in John Ray’s English Proverbs published in 1670. Macmillan goes on to list more references to the phrase through the next few centuries. The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 2003 edition, cites Ray too, and also lists the use of the phrase in Charlotte Bronte’s 1849 novel Shirley. Bronte would know a thing or two about March wind on the Yorkshire moors.
The phrase seems uniformly to mean that the weather will be wild and winter-like in the beginning of the month, and soften to more spring-like weather by the end. The National Weather Service’s forecast for March 1 in Iowa City calls for a 40 percent chance of snow before noon, cloudy, a north wind around 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, and a high near 33 degrees. Lion-like for sure.
by Heidi Lauritzen on February 23rd, 2016
I always wondered why the Folger Shakespeare Library is in Washington DC, and not in England; now I know. The Millionaire and the Bard is a fascinating read about Henry and Emily Folger, a husband-and-wife team who spent their married life researching and acquiring Shakespeare’s works, and then built a library to house them.
There’s something for everyone: the history of the publication of Shakespeare’s works; the cut-throat competition in the acquisitions race for the limited number of copies of the plays; the philosophical question of where Shakespeare’s works should reside—in their home country or abroad; how the Folgers decided what the building that housed their collection should look like.
Henry Clay Folger worked his way up in the Standard Oil companies, and eventually became chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New York. He and his wife lived humbly, though, and funneled all of their financial resources into collecting printed editions of Shakespeare’s works. They were largely self-taught book collectors, and nurtured alliances with antiquarian booksellers and collectors. Emily Folger kept detailed records of their acquisitions, and when the collection outgrew their home, they began storing the documents in warehouses.
The Folgers were especially interested in the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays which was published seven years after his death. Today it is believed that 233 copies exist of the approximately 700 copies that were printed in early 1600s. The Folgers acquired 82 First Folios, along with thousands of other manuscripts, books and art about Shakespeare and ephemera such as playbills and prompt books.
The Millionaire and the Bard is great background reading in advance of our opportunity to see a First Folio edition for ourselves. The University of Iowa Libraries will be the Iowa stop this fall on a nationwide tour of a First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library.
by Heidi Lauritzen on December 4th, 2015
Recently I tried to do a quick search on the Internet to make sure I was remembering all of the 2016 presidential candidates. I stumbled onto a website that listed an amazing number of people (along with the usual suspects that most of us could name) who were identified as candidates. Was this for real? I needed to find something a little more authoritative to be sure.
The Federal Election Commission seemed like a good place to check for an unbiased and official list of candidates. Under the “Quick Answers” section, I found out what it takes (not too much) to register as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate or the Presidency. Also at the FEC website, I found their 2016 Candidate Summary, which lists all the people who have registered with the FEC or appear on an official state ballot. There are well over 1,000 names running for the office of president, although the vast majority have no cash on hand and practically no one would take their candidacy seriously. Some of the candidate names are suspect (see photo), and it’s easy to see at a glance who the real contenders are.
There is not a lot of middle ground between the FEC list, which includes so many names, and the coverage of the few candidates who register sufficiently high in polls and receive most of the media attention. Ballotpedia is a website with up-to-date information on mainstream candidates and which notes the sources of its facts. The Politics and Elections Portal lists many more candidates, but by no means all; it is interesting to read the short biographies of the lesser-known names.
If you are tired of the same old, same old when it comes to the president race, take a look at some of these other options.
by Heidi Lauritzen on October 13th, 2015
It’s time to think about pumpkin carving and trick or treat costumes. Here are some local facts to help you plan your Halloween activities.
Trick or Treat Schedules:
Iowa City: Saturday, October 31, Dusk-8:00 pm
Coralville: Saturday, October 31, 5:30-8:00 pm
North Liberty: Saturday, October 31, 5:00-8:00 pm
Other Halloween Events:
Halloween Parade & Carnival (Sponsored by the Iowa City Recreation Center): Friday, October 23, 6:15 pm–Meet at Weatherdance Fountain on the Downtown Ped Mall.
Haunted Happenings (Sponsored by the North Liberty Community Center; $3.00 charge): Thursday & Friday, October 29 & 30, 6:30-9:30 pm–North Liberty Community Center.
Creepy Campus Crawl: Histories & Mysteries at the Museums (Sponsored by UI Museum of Natural History & Old Capitol Museum): Friday, October 30, 5:30-8:30 pm–at the museums.
Tot Monster Mash (Sponsored by the Iowa City Recreation Center): Friday, October 30, 9:30-11:30 am–Mercer/Scanlon Gym.
Nearby Pumpkin Farms:
Wilson’s Orchard, Iowa City–Pre-picked or pick your own, 10-6 daily in October
Colony Pumpkin Patch, North Liberty–Open daily until October 30; check website for hours
Kroul Farms, Mt. Vernon–Pre-picked; check website for hours.
Sass Family Farm, Riverside–Pre-picked; check website for hours.
Activities Farther Afield:
Check this Cedar Rapids Gazette article for more pumpkin patches and Halloween activities in Cedar Rapids area.
by Heidi Lauritzen on September 21st, 2015
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a toddler at my house, so when I got news that my three-year-old great niece was coming for a visit I knew I had to get my hands on some children’s books and toys. The Children’s Room came to my rescue, with age-appropriate reading suggestions from Nancy and a rack full of toys in bags that I could browse.
I checked out four toys and six books, and everything got a once-over by my visitor as she unpacked the book bag and took the toys our of their plastic bags. Alas, we didn’t actually read any of the books–I think we needed to get more settled than their short visit allowed–but the toys were a hit.
My selections were the Alphabet Balloons Puzzle, the Palace Pals Hand Puppets, Otis the Tractor Doll, and the Kidnoculars. The puppets got a little bit of play and the puzzle was taken apart and put back together again with some help, but it was the Kidnoculars that were the big hit. The plastic binoculars have 2x magnification and do not require focusing. They are light, easy to use, and were perfect for scouting the yard for birds. They also had to come along on a short walk we took down the alley.
The bags of toys in the Children’s Room are all listed in the catalog and check out for three weeks. The labels on the bags give the suggested age range to help you pick out appropriate materials for the children you are playing with. The labels also contain a description of the contents, so you can be sure you have all the parts back in the bags before returning them to the Library.
The toy collection is great for someone like me, who needs toys only occasionally. It also can be helpful for families with children and toys already at home by providing a way to try out new kinds of entertainment. The toys are a popular collection so what’s available will be different each time you come in and browse the shelf.
Thanks to the Children’s Room staff for the great resources and help–you equipped a new young explorer and made this aunt look good!
by Heidi Lauritzen on September 10th, 2015
One of my favorite features in the ICPL catalog is the ability to store titles on a wish list. Too often I find things I want to borrow from the Library, but I am already deep in one book with two or three more in a holding pattern on my nightstand. I get reading ideas from all kinds of sources: publishers’ fall releases are becoming available all at once, the author line-up for the Iowa City Book Festival is being publicized now, and there’s also the excellent ICPL staff blog “From the Shelves” and the New Materials Lists in our catalog. What to do when you want to read those titles some day–but cannot commit to placing a hold on them just yet?
In your online account at the Library, make your own personal wish lists in “My Lists”. You make a direct link to the catalog when you put a title on your list, and then in that rare moment when you are not sure what to read next, check your list and find your next book. Works for movies and music too! Here’s how to do it:
Please note: you must use our “Catalog Classic” with the title/author/subject searches for this feature; unfortunately, My Lists is not a feature in Catalog Pro–our keyword search catalog.
Find a title in the catalog that you want to save for later, and at the top of the page click on Add to My Lists.
Follow the instructions to login to your account with your library card number and password/pin.
Use the drop-down menu at “Select a List” and choose “Create a New List”. Name your List anything that will be helpful to you. My example below is “Movies I Want to Watch”. Write in a further description of the list if you wish (I left mine blank).
Click on “Submit” and you will get a confirmation that the record has been saved. This list is now created and available to add more titles to in the future. It will be a choice when I use the “Add to My Lists” feature.
To retrieve your wish list records later, login to your account with your library card number and password/pin.
Click on “My Lists” and then select the List you want to browse.
In this example, clicking on Movies I Want to Watch will take me to the titles I have saved there, with their links to the catalog so I can see if they are checked in now or not, and the option to Request it (place a hold).
Please let us know if you would like some help getting started with Your Lists. I predict that your biggest problem will be lists that get too long!
by Heidi Lauritzen on August 4th, 2015
I have been enjoying a new cookbook from the Library’s collection, and when I finally settled on a recipe to try, a trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market was in order.
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook features recipes contributed by more than one hundred mystery authors. Some of my favorites are included–Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Louise Penny–and you will recognize so many others: Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, Sue Grafton, Scott Turow, and James Patterson to name a few. In addition to the authors’ introductions to their recipes, the editor has added several other short essays, one of which answers the question “What exactly is a red herring?”
Many of the recipes are for foods served in the mysteries. I chose Louise Penny’s “Madame Benoit’s Tourtiere,” a dish mentioned in A Fatal Grace. Penny’s mysteries are set in Quebec, and tourtiere is a regional dish from that province. It is essentially a meat pie, with onion and garlic, and it provided me with a chance to visit with Lois Pavelka of Pavelka’s Point Meats to get some ground pork and beef. Lois and her husband raise livestock on their farm north of Solon, and she is a regular at the Market with all kinds of delicious choices for pork, beef and lamb. Their picnic bacon is especially good!
Next, I went to Grinnell Heritage Farm’s table to get some fresh garlic, and decided that potatoes and green beans would be good side dishes to the meat pie.
The resulting savory pie was a tasty example of comfort food, and would be a good dish to bring to a potluck or family gathering. In her introduction to the recipe, Penny says that tourtiere can be eaten all year long, but is particularly associated with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
by Heidi Lauritzen on June 16th, 2015
Sometimes a simple question gets a not-so-simple answer. The question was “Does the Library have a slide projector? I found some old slides and I want to see what they are.” The quick answer was No, the Library no longer has a slide projector. But we do have a powerful new archival scanner that is equipped to view and scan slides. It is available to patrons whenever the Library is open, first-come, first-served.
The Epson Expression is a large-format flatbed scanner funded by a generous gift from the Iowa City Noon Host Lions Club. It can be used to scan photographs or documents up to 12 x 17 inches, and with a simple attachment can be converted to view or scan negatives and slides. Some basic instructions are available at the Reference Desk, where the slide tray also is stored.
The scanner software allows you to preview the slides first. You can then choose to scan some or all of the images. If you wish to save the scanned images, please bring a flash drive, or you can email the scans to yourself using a web-based email program such as gmail. Please note: scanning slides and negatives requires a higher resolution setting than you would use for a photograph, and so takes longer to scan and uses more space on your storage device.
If you want to go beyond simply viewing and begin to preserve and organize your old photos, you will find a book on our new nonfiction shelves most helpful. How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally, by Denise May Levenick assumes you are a beginner and starts at the first step, instructing you on what equipment you will need and how to set up a filing system for your digital images. It also contains advice on what scanning settings to use for different media, tips such as scanning the reverse side of a photo to save what was written about it, and has workflows for various projects. It’s an excellent resource if you have been intending to take on that shoebox full of old family pictures. Or slides.