by Maeve Clark on May 28th, 2014
I really like to watch documentaries. Independent Lens, American Masters, POV are some of my favorite programs on PBS and the documentary track at film festivals is what I find myself not wanting to miss. I don’t know that I can even explain why I like them so much, but I do and when I watch ones that are really good, I like to talk about them. And I just watched two that were exceptional.
The first, “Twenty Feet From Stardom”, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014. Director Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of backup singers and gives voice to those who sing behind the stars. Neville interviews backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer about what it was like to sing with artists such as Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. The singers tell their stories through interviews and clips from five decades of recording history.
The second, “Muscle Shoals“, explores the creative genius of Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios, one of two competing recording studios, (Muscle Shoals Sound is the other), in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. Songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound include “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Patches,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Brown Sugar,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” “Mainstreet.” Hall brought black and white musicians together in the segregated south beginning in 1961. Through interviews with Hall and recording greats, first-time director Greg Camalier chronicles the sound that formed the backdrop of much of the last half-century. Camalier weaves the beauty of the region with the magic of music made in this remote southern locale.
The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.
by Maeve Clark on May 17th, 2014
The Iowa City Public Library just added a fantastic new collection to the Digital History Project. Post Cards from Early Iowa City is a collection of 94 postcards from Bob Hibbs, one of Iowa City’s citizen historians. One of my favorite postcards from the collection is from 1910 and is of Klondike Bill and his team of eight dogs and a cart in front of the Pentacrest. Why was Klondike Bill in Iowa City with a team of dogs and where were they going?
I immediately googled Klondike Bill and found several of the Iowa City cards for sale on eBay, one for $99. The next hit was to a book by Iowa City author, Lyell Henry, Was This Heaven: A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcard. Henry writes that “When Klondike Bill, a colorful transcontinental itinerant, and his dog team reached Iowa City, a photographer snapped them standing next to the University of Iowa campus.” Well that was a start. I continued my search and found other postcards of Klondike Bill in other cities. One in Ortonville, Minnesota and another at the McKinley Monument in Colorado and another in Sioux Falls, South Dakota all with his team of dogs and a cart.
The next step of my search took me to newspapers of that time period. There were many stories of Klondike Bill passing through towns on his way east, but few with specifics. One article in the Escanaba Daily Press from January 12, 1912 in what must have been a wire story, tells of Klondike Bill arriving in Chicago on January 11, 1912 “with a combination of wagon and sleigh and seven dogs traveling from Nome, Alaska to Washington, D.C., on a wager… “Klondike Bill” refused to tell much of his trip, but said he would win considerable money if he reached the capital by a certain date, and added that he was several days ahead of his schedule. Another article from the El Paso Herald from January 26, 1912 sheds more light on Klondike Bill. We see Klondike Bill with what looks to be a very unhappy dog and learn that his name was William Buchanan and that the wager was for $100,000.00, a mighty sum for 1912. Also included is a photograph of his possible fiance, Miss Rose Maegerin.
But there the trail grew cold, at least for now.
by Maeve Clark on May 13th, 2014
East Iowa City? Really, there is an East Iowa City? Learn about the growth of the eastern part Iowa City and its early history as a manufacturing center during Irving B. Weber Days. Weber Days are held every May in honor of Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber. Every Wednesday in May, the Library will host an event that delves into Iowa City’s history. This Wednesday, May 14 Dr. Thomas Schulein, another citizen historian, will share the story of East Iowa City at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A. How East Iowa City Came to Be is one of the library’s WOW – Weber on Wednesday programs.
What would you like to learn about Iowa City history? Share your ideas with the library and help us plan Irving B. Weber Days for 2015.
by Maeve Clark on April 23rd, 2014
Happy 450, William Shakespeare! BBC America posted 45 everyday phrases either coined or popularized by William Shakespeare and then challenged readers to work five of the phrases into conversation today. I think I can easily use 10 if not more, how about you? In the not too distant past – researchers, students and readers of Shakespeare as well as reference librarians relied upon a concordance of Shakespeare’s dramatic works or poems to find which play or sonnet contained a word or phrase. While in our “brave new world” (The Tempest) Google makes finding quotes a snap, the library still retains a number of books on phrases, idioms and figures of speech in the Reference Collection. Titles such as A Hog on Ice and other Curious Expressions and Loanwords dictionary : a lexicon of more than 6,500 words and phrases encountered in English contexts show evidence of much use back when finding that special turn of phrase required using print resources.
Every summer I so look forward to Riverside Theatre in the Park’s presentation of at least one of Shakespeare’s plays. The venue is marvelous, (especially when it hasn’t been flooded out), the costuming and the sets are splendid, but for me what is best of all is the beauty of the language. I could, as Shakespeare so aptly put, listen “forever and a day” (As You Like It). If you would like to whet your appetite for Shakespeare this summer you will not want to miss, Theatre in the Park: Othello with Miriam Gilbert, on Thursday night, May 8 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A.
by Maeve Clark on April 11th, 2014
Have you heard about the security flaw named Heartbleed and have concerns whether your passwords are secure? The tech guys at Marketplace Morning Report had a very informative piece cautioning folks not to jump the gun on changing their passwords too soon.
Quick update on Heartbleed – you may have already received messages from social media sites you use or from companies where you shop online or your financial institution letting you know whether their sites are secure or if you need to change your password. If you have not and you would like some guidance on which sites were the most vulnerable and merit a password change Mashable.com contacted the most popular social, email, banking and commerce sites on the web and shared their responses.
by Maeve Clark on April 5th, 2014
One of the fun facts I learned from the Money Smart Week exhibit at the library is that dimes have 118 ridges or grooves and quarters have 119. But what the exhibit didn’t tell me was the reason for the ridges. So what’s a reference librarian to do? Find the answer, of course. I started at the United States Mint which lead me to the American Numismatic Association. The first thing I learned was the technical term for the ridges or grooves on coins is reeding. Before the introduction of reeding, small amounts of gold or silver from coins could be chiseled or shaved away and the precious metal sold again or remelted and made into another coin. (The slang usage of the world chisel may even derive from this ancient practice.) While quarters and dimes are no longer minted from silver, (with the exception of special collectable quarters), the ridges remain.
Come in a take a look at the exhibit – you will find it in the first floor gallery. You can explore the life cycle of currency, learn about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank and get your photo taken in $100 bill. What else can you learn during Money Smart Week? Preschoolers will have a visit from Ben Franklin for the 10:30 preschool story time Thursday morning, April 10. And if you want to know more about estate planning, the library has a program tailor made for you. Thursday evening, April 10, Thomas Gelman, attorney Phelan Tucker Muller Walker Tucker Gelman and John Chadima, Vice President and Trust Officer MidWestOne Bank offer Estate Planning 101: Basic Considerations.
by Maeve Clark on March 10th, 2014
The Iowa City Public Library has a remarkable collection of original art. Each fall the library holds the Art Purchase Prize contest and adds from six to ten original works to its circulating collection. The winning pieces are displayed during the months of January and February on the second floor of the library. I walk by that wall many times during the day and one piece in particular caught my attention this year – Perro Ovejero by Oscar Urizar. This black and white photograph captures a working dog and a flock of sheep. There is also a shepherd, though I didn’t notice him at first. It was the dog that grabbed my attention, then the sheep and the sky and finally the man.
Items in the Art Purchase Prize collection as well as the Art-to-Go collection of framed posters check out for two months at a time and each borrower can have two items. A number of libraries circulate framed art but very few loan original art. We are fortunate to live in Iowa City where so many talented artists reside. If you have not borrowed a piece or two from this marvelous special collection take some time to see what we have. Take a gallery walk through the collection on the walls near the fiction collection on the first floor I guarantee that you will find more than two works you will want to hang at home or at work.
by Maeve Clark on February 11th, 2014
Just what happens at the Reference Desk? We get every kind of question you can imagine on just about every topic. Sometimes a question can be quick and easy to answer or it can be more challenging. Recently we had a patron looking for a book she thought she read last year. You know, the patron said, the book with a dog on the cover. How hard can that be? Let’s find out.
The Reference Desk staff uses its detective skills by conducting a reference interview to help narrow down the search for the book with the dog on the cover. First we ask the patron if she has Reading History turned on in her library account. If she does, bingo, we can search through the titles checked out and locate the book. (If you haven’t turned on your Reading History it’s very easy – just Login to Your Account and click on Opt In and you can keep track of everything you have borrowed from the library.)
Alas, no Reading History, so we carry on with the interview. Do you remember the topic of the book? Yes, it was poetry about dogs. Great, that helps a lot. We go to the online catalog and search under the keywords and we find the subject heading: dogs—poetry. The library has four titles in the Nonfiction collection of dog poetry, (there are more in the Children’s Room). All of the titles have cover images in our catalog and, voila, there it is: “Book of Dog: Poems” by Cleopatra Mathis. It didn’t actually have a dog on its cover, it was not a book from 2013, but she recognized the cover and the title. And, best of all, it is on the shelf!
On our way back to the stacks to find “Book of Dog” the patron tells me that she wants to check it out again to share it with a friend whose dog had just died. She recalls a poem that Mathis wrote that might just help her friend find solace at this difficult time.
Everything fell into place with that reference interview; the patron’s memory was fairly accurate, she was able to narrow the subject down immediately and we found the title on the shelf. All questions aren’t this easy. Stay tuned for more tales from the Reference Desk.
by Maeve Clark on January 28th, 2014
Where can a challenge take you? For Mark Hirsch, a photojournalist, it can take you to a familiar location or in his case, to a very familiar tree, and change the way you look at everything. For 19 years Mark drove by a the same farm field near Plattville, Wisconsin and looked at the same bur oak tree. A friend texted him to try out the camera in his new iPhone, he did and he posted it on Facebook.
“At the time I never even considered using the iPhone camera for anything more than a passing snapshot,” recalls Hirsch. “As a result of her text though, I stopped and trudged through a crazy snowstorm to make a picture of the tree… A friend posted a note to me on my Facebook page saying ‘Dude, what’s with you and that tree, you should do a photo a day with it.’ On his challenge, I officially started the project on March 24, 2012.”
Hirsch spent the next year photographing That Tree every day, documenting the changing of seasons and sharing the tree’s hidden world with a growing Facebook following.” Hirsch, now has nearly 36,000 followers and published a magnificent book, “That Tree”. For everyone who enjoys fine photography and the beauty of the nature, Mark Hirsch’s book is one to be savored and returned to again and again. Perhaps the best way to describe the That Tree project is from Hirsch’s introduction to his book, “My relationship with That Tree has awakened a newfound vision, and appreciation for the fragility of our world and the interdependence of even the smallest of its creatures. In turn, this fresh insight has inspired my commitment to share my photos and encourage others to embrace land stewardship as a means toward a more sustainable use of our resources.”
“That Tree” might serve as an inspiration to you, maybe not to take a photograph of a tree everyday for a year, but to open your eyes to the natural world around you.
by Maeve Clark on November 5th, 2013
The 2014 All Iowa Reads title is “Little Wolves” by Thomas Maltman and I read it already! Every year the luncheon speaker on the Friday of the Iowa Library Association is the author of the All Iowa Reads book for the year. I am usually scrambling to read the book because I am not known for planning ahead. When the book as announced at this year’s annual conference Friday luncheon the description caught my attention - the intertwining story of a murder, a small town set on the Minnesota prairie and a Lutheran minister and his wife who studied early Anglo-Saxon literature. Because the Iowa City Public Library now lets users put a hold on an item not checked out and I had my cellphone handy, I placed a hold and the book was waiting by the time I returned to work the next day. It also helped that I was going on vacation in two days and could read Little Wolves in a couple of delightfully free days.
Thomas Maltman is a poet as well as a fiction writer and you can tell from his lyrical prose. He places the reader in the late 1980s in Lone Mountain, a town in the Minnesota prairie “about 200 miles west of the Twin Cities” where the “wind has claws”. A drought has gripped the land and a monstrous murder has occurred. The trajectory of the two families who settled the land and the different paths the families have taken is compelling and underpins the murder. The novel is layered with words and stories from Norse myths and allusions to Anglo-Saxon narratives, in particular the epic poem Beowulf and the myth of Ragnorak.
“Little Wolves” is a wonderful selection for All Iowa Reads, an excellent book club title. The library will have two book club kits with 10 books, perfect for a book club looking for book sure to generate a lot of conversation. The library also includes discussion questions with the kits. ICPL will also hold a book discussion in October of 2014. It is the perfect book, at least I think so, to curl up with near the fire on a dark winter’s night and read, if the wind is blowing hard, all the better.