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Author Archive for Maeve Clark

Hamlet’s Dreams : the Robben Island Shakespeare – Join the book discussion

by Maeve Clark on September 21st, 2016
Hamlet’s Dreams : the Robben Island Shakespeare – Join the book discussion Cover Image

Shakespeare in prisons is a thing, a powerful and life-changing thing. The library has books and documentaries on how Shakespeare’s works are used in prisons and other unconventional locations, such as Shakespeare Saved My Life : ten years in solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates about her Shakespeare in Shackles program at the Indiana Federal Prison.  Caesar must die Cesare deve morire, a is a documentary about inmates at a high-security prison in Rome preparing for a public performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The prisoners discover how the play resonates with them as they rehearse.

On Tuesday, September 28, Collen Kennedy will lead a discussion at the library on another work about Shakespeare in prison, Hamlet’s Dreams: the Robben Island Shakespeare by David Shalkwyk.  Shalkwyk uses the circulation of the so-called ‘Robben Island Shakespeare’, a copy of the Alexander edition of the Complete Works that was secretly circulated, annotated and signed by a group of Robben Island political prisoner in the 1970s (including Nelson Mandela), to examine the representation and experience of imprisonment in South African prison memoirs and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It looks at the ways in which oppressive spaces or circumstances restrict. Copies of Hamlet’s Dreams are available from the Info Desk on the second floor of the library.  This brief, but powerful work, is fascinating in its examination of the Robben Island prison and just how Shakespeare changed the lives of the political prisoners who read his works.   Please join us to share your thoughts on Shakespeare and the beauty and force of his words.  This program and other Shakespeare related programs and displays are done as a partnership with the University of Iowa Library and its First Folio exhibition.

The most powerful card in the world!

by Maeve Clark on September 2nd, 2016

I’ve had a library card since I was a wee one.  I grew up in Tipton, Iowa and spent hours and hours at the library. My mom was on the library board so I think I even got to go to the library when it was closed.  I can still conjure up the large red leatherette piece of furniture in the children’s section of the library where I was often sprawled reading Dr. Seuss books over and over and over again. library card When I was old enough to read nonfiction books I really started to use my library card.  There was the whole world to explore and those nonfiction books and the World Book Encyclopedia made me an expert on everything, or so I thought.  We had books at home and at school and there was the annual Scholastic paperback book order, but the library had more books, and books for everyone and I had a card, a passport to everywhere.

September marks the American Library Association’s Library Card Sign-Up Month when the Iowa City Public Library and other libraries across the nation encourage everyone to get a library card or to renew a card that has expired.  Libraries want people to use their services and at the core of our services are the books and other materials we lend.  This past April, the Atlantic Monthly, published Is the Library Card Dying? a piece by Sara Polsky that helped me understand that while a library card acted as a passport for me, it served an entirely different function for a library.

“Public libraries, funded by municipal rather than member dollars, began appearing in the northeastern U.S. in the early to mid-19th century. Cards were essential at these libraries, too. The card was the “arbiter of all disputes” when it came to missing books, wrote the St. Louis librarian Frederick M. Crunden, “and since we have had this respected referee there have been but few contested cases.”

Borrower requirements varied by library, and so did the types of library cards issued. At the St. Louis public library, adults received white cards and minors blue ones, and cardholders had to identify themselves as residents, taxpayers, students, or local employees. The cards for minors came with a warning that “only books suitable for young people will be issued on this card.” Adults were allowed second cards, but were not allowed to use them to take out novels. Teachers and members of the clergy could have three cards, with the third for professional use.

Late returns and card losses carried penalties. A St. Louis library user who lost a card circa 1900 had to “pay fivepence and wait a week for another,” Crunden explained. The dual penalty was meant to send cardholders searching harder for their lost cards, but the fine and the waiting period targeted different library users: “Most men will not much mind the fivepence,” Crunden theorized, “but if they find they also have to wait a week, they bethink them that perhaps they can find the card, and they go home and do so. Women and children, on the other hand, are generally willing to wait the week; but when it comes to the fivepence, they conclude it will be cheaper to make further search for the card.” (Crunden’s gender essentialism came with a heavy dose of moralizing. “Rules,” he wrote, “should be so framed and so applied as to make careless people pay the cost of their carelessness.”)

vintage_library_cardLibrary cards are different now and patron confidentiality is respected and enforced. However, when I was little and the Tipton Public Library’s collection wasn’t computerized, each book had a pocket and in each pocket was a card with the name of the person who had borrowed the book before.  I was fascinated with who else wanted the book that I was about to borrow.  Why did my neighbor down the street want to read about dog breeds and why did my teacher’s husband  have an interest in the Easter Islands.  Those days are long gone and it would take a court order to find out who had which book checked out (Iowa Code sections 22.2 and 22.7(13)).  Now if you are interested in who has read a book you liked, Goodreads will help, but you will just have to speculate on who in Iowa City might have also opened the pages of a book you just finished.

If you are reading this post, you are probably already a library card holder, library_card_icplbut I bet you have friends or neighbors who might not realize that a card is free and waiting for everyone at the Iowa City Public Library.    And if you’d like to see an enormous collection of library cards of all types, retired librarian Larry Nix keeps a fascinating website.

Dottie Ray – An Iowa City Legend

by Maeve Clark on August 13th, 2016

Dottie Ray, an Iowa City legend, passed away on Tuesday, August 6. I feel so fortunate that I was able to be her guest on the Dottie Ray Show with Jen Jordan, the recycling coordinator for the City of Iowa City, to talk about an ECO Iowa City, an 18-month initiative to create a greener Iowa City.  Dottie so liked the idea of the environmental partnership between the library and recycling center that she let Jen and me be her guests on a monthly basis.  (She told us to keep  quiet that we were booked each month because one of her goals was to keep the Dottie Ray Show fresh and new. Jen and I were so thrilled that we had her wide audience that we never told anyone about our special treatment.)

Dottie’s career in journalism spanned more than seven decades, beginning while she was a high school student in Eagle Grove, Iowa, working on the student newspaper and the yearbook.  At 17 she began her first job in Iowa journalism working Saturdays at the Eagle Grove Eagle.   After completing two years of junior college Dottie, (Dorothy) Klein transferreDottie Ray Pictorial Historyd to the University of Iowa in 1942 as a junior.  She joined the Daily Iowan staff, writing obituaries.  She also worked for Wilbur Schram, head of the journalism school, typing articles he submitted to the Saturday Evening Post. Schram encouraged her to apply to be the editor of the Daily Iowan.  She followed his advice and was in the running against two other finalists for the editor-in-chief position, both men. When she was selected as editor, many were surprised, and when she hired an all-female staff, the reaction was even greater. In fact, her decision to lead an all woman staff, made state-wide news. John Gerber, in his book on the history of the University of Iowa, “A Pictoral History of the University of Iowa”, included a photograph of Dorothy Klein and her all-woman staff, in a chapter on campus changes from 1934-1964.

Dottie Ray’s career in broadcast journalism began at WSUI, (now part of Iowa Public Radio), with a show aimed at women.  In a 2013 interview in Emily Busse’s series on Iowa Women in Journalism Dottie Ray recounts her history with KXIC.  “Gene Clausen convinced her to come on their radio station at KXIC, stationed above what is now Pancheros at the corner of Clinton and Washington streets.  Every Saturday, Ray became “President Alice” for half an hour. Any child who had their birthday the week before or the week after could attend the “birthday party on the radio” with cupcakes from the local bakery and chocolate milk from the dairy. For two years, she “just played and talked and had fun” with kids on air. After a couple years, Clausen had an idea for a new show, The Dottie Ray Show. To accommodate her needs, they put together a studio in Ray’s own living room. Every day for about 40 years, Ray came on the air at 11:45. Women at home sat down for lunch and listened to Ray’s show, followed by news. Ray recalls how a mother once wrote her explaining that the habit of listening to the show had become so routine, that when the music that precedes The Dottie Ray show came on in the afternoon randomly, her four year old ran to get the peanut butter out for lunch.

dottie rayAfter about 40 years, she said, “women went back to work and homes were empty.” People began listening to radio outside the home — in the car or at work — and Ray decided it was time to end her show. But the station, now owned by Clear Channel, didn’t want to lose her show. “They said, ‘No, no no. What about doing it in the morning?’” she said. So the show moved to 8:45 a.m. “I thought, ‘That’s OK. I can get it out of the way and it will be a graceful way to bow out because you’ll lose all your listeners,’” she said. “And just the opposite happened. We moved it and now people are in cars going to work or yoga or whatever.”

The Dottie Ray Show ended in 2014.  From the round table in her apartment she interviewed more than 32,000 guests.  Each guest was greeted by Dottie with the offer of a cup of coffee and a request to pull up a chair.  Dottie’s program was community journalism at its best.  She helped to share the story of Iowa City and Johnson County and promote many many worthy causes. Every Monday through Friday, for more than five decades, Dottie Rays shared with the KXIC  audience what was happening in their community.

Dottie Ray was, of course, more than her radio program.  When I shared with Patty McCarthy, Development Director at the Iowa City Public Library, that I was going to write a blog post on Dottie, she said Dottie was not only a great friend and supporter of the Library, but that in 1982 she and Ann Feddersen were the first co-Presidents of the newly created Friends of the Iowa City Public Library organization.  Dottie contributed to a multitude of community organizations and promoted initiatives for the betterment of the community.  If you would like to learn more about this amazing woman’s life, watch another remarkable Iowa radio broadcaster, Ellen Buchanan, interview Dottie in a 1990 interview that is part of  Tell Me Your Story.  This past June, a documentary of Dottie’s life, Staying Tuned: The Dottie Ray Story, premiered at the Coralville Center for the Preforming Arts.  The Documentary was produced with private funding including grants from the Iowa Arts Council, Humanities Iowa, and the Community Foundation of Johnson County. A copy of the documentary will be available later this year.

It’s not the heat, it’s the corn sweat!

by Maeve Clark on July 21st, 2016

corn-field-c-keeva999-flickr-creative-commonsCorn sweat, what on earth is that you ask? Well, let me tell you. Corn sweat is evapotranspiration and according to the United States Geological Survey evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation and transpiration. The transpiration aspect of evapotranspiration is essentially evaporation of water from plant leaves. Transpiration rates go up as the temperature goes up, especially during the growing season, when the air is warmer due to stronger sunlight and warmer air masses. Higher temperatures cause the plant cells which control the openings (stoma) where water is released to the atmosphere to open and the more humid it becomes.  And while evapotranspiration does not make it hotter, it makes it more more humid and that makes us feel much hotter.

The Washington Post just ran an etreamely informative article, complete with a map of corn acreage by county and a chart of relative humidity clearly corn mapshowing how high humidity can make it feel  oppressive inside without adequate cooling and make  activities dangerous for those who work or recreate outside.  This type of weather can also be life-threatening for livestock.  In fact the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning with the following precautions:


Most of us have air conditioned homes and workplaces, but if you don’t or if you are going to be outside for prolonged periods of time, it’s important to stay hydrated.  The American Red Cross offers the following suggestions:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.

If you would like to learn more about weather and heat and humidity and corn sweat, come find us at the Information Desk on the seconsnowfalld floor of the library.  Weather is one of our favorite subjects to research.  And don’t forget, winter is only a few short months away…





Iowa City Community School District Candidate Special Election Forums and election information

by Maeve Clark on July 11th, 2016

J.P. Claussen, Paul Roesler and Janice Weiner are in the race to fill the seat of Tom Yates, who resigned in May. There will be a July 19 special election to fill his vacant seat.

Claussen is a former West High special education teacher, Roesler is an outreach leader at Scheels and Weiner is a former U.S. diplomat of 26 years.

The Daily Iowan published piece on the three candidates as well the Iowa City Press Citizen and the Gazette.

Early voting began Tuesday at the auditor’s office, and residents can cast their votes on weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Upcoming events are scheduled as follows:

Mission Iowa City: Monday from 7-9 p.m. at Meeting Room A in the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. The event will focus on questions organizers are gathering from students, parents, educators and other community members. Those interested in posing questions can send them to Read the rest of this entry »

The Sting of the Wild : the Story of the Man who got Stung for Science

by Maeve Clark on June 30th, 2016
The Sting of the Wild : the Story of the Man who got Stung for Science Cover Image

Ouch, ouch, ouch! That hurts, that really really hurts!  Do you want to know why stings and bites hurt and why some insect stings are worse than others?  Then look no further than “The Sting of the Wild”. Schmidt, the “the King of the Sting” and”the Connoisseur of Pain”,  is an entomologist at  Southwestern Biological Institute and is affiliated with the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona and he has written a bitingly good book about insects that inflict pain.  I am attractive to flying insects; mosquitoes, gnats, and black flies – all those annoying little creatures of the air, so I was very interested in why me and not others.  Mosquitoes are attracted to certain blood types more than others, those with Type O being bitten the most frequently.  If you want to know what other factors make a mosquito pick you or ignore you, you’ll have to read the book.

His research area of expertise is insect venom and he is the creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.   The Schmidt sting pain index is a 5yellowjacket1-point pain scale, numbered from 0 to 4. An insect that can’t penetrate human skin ranks 0. The most painful stings rank 4 on the index.  I guess five must be death, which is possible with a sting.  Schmidt includes his pain scale as an appendix and it’s fascinating and funny, truly funny.  He gives the name, the range, the description and the pain level of each stinging insect.  There is only one level 4 in North America – the tarantula hawk, but there are many lower pain level insects.  But don’t think it is a tiny tingle if the level is lower, it’s not.  His descriptions read like entries in the “Wine Enthusiast” – Western yellow jacket – Pain Level 2 – Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.  Honey wasp – Pain Level 2 – Spice, blistering. A cotton swab dipped in habanero sauce has been pushed up your nose.

And get this, he based his pain index on experimentation with himself as the subject.    I have been stung by a paper wasp before and it is excrutiatingly painful.  I cannot imagine inflicting all of that agony on myself, but I am glad he was curious and strong enough to do it.  He was interviewed recently on Science Friday and he is in funny in person as he is in writing.

Dave Hicks and Old Time Music

by Maeve Clark on June 30th, 2016

A good friend of the Iowa City Public Library passed away earlier this week.  Dave Hicks played music and told storiesdave hicks for many events at the library, often with with Guy Drollinger and Mike Haverkamp.   Dave, Mike and Guy played Civil War era music for a program on transcribing Civil War diaries at the University of Iowa Special Collections and they performed more recently at the 175th anniversary celebration of the founding of Iowa City.  Or come in a borrow a copy of Stones in the Field’s Come Singing, Come Dancing and listen Dave play the fiddle, flute, whistle, guitar, and bodhran.

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy and I want to see fireworks

by Maeve Clark on June 27th, 2016

FireworksMonday is July 4th and there are fireworks all over Iowa.  In fact, if you want to want to get a head start on your holiday fireworks, the City of Iowa will be hosting a fireworks display on Sunday, July 3rd.  It’s Jazz Fest weekend, a not-to-be-missed, multi-day event in the Summer of the Arts calendar.  The three-day event culminates with fireworks. Spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and take in the fireworks  from the University of Iowa Pentacrest lawn. The west lawn provides the best view, although the display will also be visible from the east side of the Old Capitol building and Downtown.Fireworks will be launched from Hubbard Park, at the intersection of Madison Street and Iowa Avenue, and will get underway sometime between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. Inclement weather may call for flexibility in the start time. Rain date for fireworks is Monday, July 4, same time, same place.

On July 4th there are several opportunities for viewing fireworks in Johnson County.  Coralville’s fireworks start at dusk and are the final event in Coral4thFest!  Their fireworks take place at S.T. Morrison Park, between 7th and 8th Streets.   Coralville also has a parade on July 4.  The 4thFest parade begins at 10:00 am on Monday, July 4. The 4thFest parade is the area’s largest Independence Day parade.  It’s a really big parade and lots of fun.

Hills has activities planned for both Sunday and Monday with a parade starting at 5:30 on Monday and  fireworks at dusk.  Oxford has a whole weekend of activities beginning with a street dance on Saturday night and a parade at 3 pm on July 4th. Oxford, like Iowa City,  will have its fireworks on Sunday at dusk.

If you know of other fireworks in the area, please share.  And if you use fireworks at home, please be careful.

Beer Caves

by Maeve Clark on June 21st, 2016

beer caveThe Iowa City Press Citizen ran a story today about the beer caves found under Brewery Square! The story by Andy Davis is about the work the Office of the State Archaeologist and the University of Iowa Geographical and Sustainability Sciences Department in making high definition 3-D images of the caves.  Seeing the maps will bring me even closer to my dream of getting to actually down in them.   At Weber Days last year, Marlin Ingalls from the Office the State Archeologist, gave a talk on the not only the beer caves below Brewery Square, but the other caves in Iowa City as well as the caves in Cedar Rapids.  You can watch the program, Prohibition, Breweries and Beer Caves, and learn about the history of the brewers, when Iowa City went dry, (it was more than once), and find out about the beer riots.

If you want to read more about beer in early Iowa City history Irving Weber has also written about bars, brewers and all sorts of carrying on.  You can read Irving Weber’s columns through the University of Iowa’s Iowa Digital Library.  And if you are interested in learning about beer and finding the best ones to try,  the library can help you with that too.


by Maeve Clark on June 14th, 2016
Memoirs Cover Image

I love histories and stories and I enjoy learning about the famous. Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs have been long been written by and about the noteworthy. These books make up a large portion of the library’s nonfiction collection, but recently there has been an increase in memoirs of the not so famous, and that growth is mirrored in the library holdings. It’s their stories, stories of the people who we might know in our everyday lives, which have become a part of the literary world.

“When Breath Become Air” by Paul Kalanithi is the story of a brilliant neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36. Kalanithi’s life was on a trajectory for great success. His cancer caused him, with his wife, to evaluate his life and the path he had chosen and refocus on what they could accomplish with the short time he had left. “When Breath Becomes Air” is a deeply moving work. Read the rest of this entry »