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Author Archive for Heidi Lauritzen

Local Halloween Activities

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.

Toy Collection at ICPL

by Heidi Lauritzen on September 21st, 2015

puzzle 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.binoculars

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–youKimber with binoculars equipped a new young explorer and made this aunt look good!

Make Your Own Wish List in the Catalog

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 acatalogclassicwithedit 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.

Add to my list with edit


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).

Create List Movies I want to watch with edits





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. mylists with edits





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).

better list of my lists




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!

Mystery at the Farmer’s Market

by Heidi Lauritzen on August 4th, 2015
Mystery at the Farmer’s Market Cover Image

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 inLois Pavelka photo 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!

Grinnell farmer photogreen beansNext, 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.Pie photo



New Archival Scanner Available

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 16th, 2015
New Archival Scanner Available Cover Image

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.

Slide Tray & slide orientationThe 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.

The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep

by Heidi Lauritzen on May 15th, 2015
The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep Cover Image

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin is a fictionalized account of Mary, mother of Jesus, in her old age.  This well-reviewed novella was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.  I did not read it at the time, but recently checked out the audio version read by Meryl Streep.  It is a fantastic reading, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys listening to books on disc.

Toibin’s novella has Mary being coaxed by the disciples to share the story of her son’s rise in popularity and power, and then his crucifixion.  The disciples have a larger message they want to impart to the world and facts that do not fit that message are conveniently ignored; Mary’s memories are those of a mother who has no agenda other than to raise and love her son.  The clash between the two purposes creates impatience in the disciples and anger in Mary.

Meryl Streep brilliantly expresses the confusion, anger and grief Mary feels as she watches the sacrifice of her son’s life and the manipulation of the story in the years that followed.  Streep delivers Mary’s short and clipped sentences, and bits of sarcasm directed at the disciples, in a way that is fitting to a woman who has little time left to tell her side of the story to an unsympathetic audience.  Streep captures the weariness of the old Mary, still trying to make sense of what happened.

This story is not the Mary in popularly-known Christian theology.  But if you are open to a different interpretation of her, Meryl Streep brings to life an intelligent, strong, flawed and believable Mary whose grief at the loss of her son is inconsolable.

Help with Travel Resources

by Heidi Lauritzen on March 25th, 2015
Help with Travel Resources Cover Image

Although there’s only one week left to browse the Travel Resources display on the second floor, staff at the Reference Desk can always help you find materials to plan your next happy escape.

The display kiosk has a few representative titles, usually specific to a country or city, from the various guidebook series we carry such as Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Eyewitness, and Fodors.  But when you are not sure where you want to go, there are many general works that can provide some inspiration.  At the moment, the display has books on traveling with children, the best beaches, literary landmarks, adventure travel, and the fun of finding back roads to reach your destination.

An intriguing title that I had to take home is 100 Places You Will Never Visit:  The World’s Most Secret Locations by Daniel Smith.  Each place is described in just a few pages, often with drawings, maps or a photo or two.  There are businesses (Google Data Center, Coca-Cola recipe vault), military sites (Guantanamo Bay Detention Center; Korean Demilitarized Zone), and other interesting places such as Air Force One, Vatican Secret Archives, Swiss Fort Knox and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Even though you will probably never go to any of these locations, it is interesting to know a little bit more about them.

Once you have picked out a place to go—one that is not in a top-secret, off-limits location—staff can help you find materials about your destination.   Our collections of architecture, history, cooking, art, and landscape gardening books and DVDs are great supplements to the factual information in the guidebooks.

Maeve Binchy: Maeve’s Times

by Heidi Lauritzen on March 10th, 2015
Maeve Binchy:  Maeve’s Times Cover Image

Maeve Binchy, beloved Irish novelist who died in 2012, got her writing start as a reporter and columnist for The Irish Times.  Maeve’s Times:  In Her Own Words is a selection of her columns and stories that appeared in The Irish Times over five decades.  These brief essays are as heartwarming and funny as her novels, but also contain serious commentary about the world around her.  She reminds me of the American political writer Molly Ivins (who also died too young).

Binchy served as the “Women’s Editor” at The Irish Times in Dublin from 1968-1973; she was then transferred to London where she worked as a reporter and columnist.  She resigned her staff position in the 1980′s but continued as a regular contributor to the newspaper.

Her reprinted columns are divided into groups by decade, and chart many societal changes you will recognize from the sixties to 2011.  She observed and recorded everyday life, from conversations at the bus stop and in the neighborhood to giving the commoner take on national politics and the royal family.  She was self-deprecating about her appearance and social skills, which just makes her easier to relate to and trust.  And as is the case in her novels, the relationships among people are her best subject.

If you have enjoyed Maeve Binchy’s novels, I predict you will like this book too.  But if her fiction was not quite your cup of tea, I encourage you to give her nonfiction writing a try.   It is informative, observant and often funny–and always enjoyable.

Inspector Ian Rutledge–The Prequel

by Heidi Lauritzen on January 30th, 2015
Inspector Ian Rutledge–The Prequel Cover Image

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?


Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”

by Heidi Lauritzen on January 15th, 2015
Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” Cover Image

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.