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Author Archive for Susan Craig



All Iowa Reads Lila

by Susan Craig on January 29th, 2016
All Iowa Reads Lila Cover Image

Lila by Marilynne Robinson is the 2016 All Iowa Reads book and I want to encourage everyone to read it. Robinson is a brilliant author,  her last four novels have been: a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, awarded the 2005 Pulitzer, awarded the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction, and awarded the 2014 National Book Critics Fiction Prize.  Lila, the fourth in this list and the third book revolving around the small Iowa town of Gilead is a remarkable story of how a child grows into a woman dealing with abandonment and deprivation, struggling to understand her past and envision a more hopeful future.  Sounds grim, doesn’t it?  And, yet, somehow it is an inspiring tale of a fierce, obstinate woman I wish I could talk to.

This is the first time the All Iowa Reads committee has selected a second book by the same author (Gilead was an earlier selection), but this story and how it is told deserves a broad audience.  I find Lila a much easier read than Gilead.  I like Lila more than I did Reverend Ames.  I find her story compelling and the narrative– although it jumps from present to past and is not sequential– easier to follow.  Several people I know tried to read Gilead and put it down before they were finished, I urged them to give Lila a try, and one who did said it was an excellent book they enjoyed very much.

The Library has many copies of the book — in regular print, large print, e-book, audio on compact disc and downloadable, plus a book club kit.  I highly recommend the book to all readers and it is a great discussion book for reading groups as well.

Resolve to Use the Library More in 2016

by Susan Craig on January 6th, 2016

Many of us are busy making (or breaking already?) our New Year’s resolutions.  And, I have a suggestion for you — resolve to use the Library more in 2016.  Here are a few specific suggestions.

1.  Participate in our first ever Winter Reading Program.  It’s intended to challenge people to keep reading in the winter and try out some new things.  Pick up a game card today.

2. Attend Music-is-the-Word programs.  We are entering Season 2 of our special music programming, intended to welcome the University of Iowa School of Music to downtown Iowa City.  Programs are aimed at all ages and a variety of interests.

3.  Get free digital magazines through the library’s Zinio subscription (restricted to Iowa City, rural county, University Heights, Hills and Lone Tree residents).  If you’re uncertain how to set this up bring your device and come to a Drop in Tech-Help session where staff will provide assistance.

4.  Read to a child.  In February we will be launching a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.  Sign up a child you know and bring them to the Library often.

5.  Make a gift to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation.  Through gifts we are able to support and strengthen our collections and programming.

I resolve to do all of these things!  I think these are resolutions I can stick with.  Happy 2016.

A Book is a Gift You Can Open Again and Again

by Susan Craig on December 14th, 2015

‘Tis the gift giving season and a gift from you makes it possible for the Library to bring more books to more people.  The Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation supports numerous programs and projects at the Library, but the collection is always a major beneficiary.  Last year over $64,000 in Foundation support purchased new items for the collection — items that will be shared again and again.  Please consider a year-end tax deductible gift to the Friends Foundation today.

A Piano for Hancher

by Susan Craig on November 30th, 2015

I read an interesting story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette this morning  about six Hancher representatives visiting Steinway to pick out a new piano for the new building.  The piano will be on display at West Music until it moves next fall.  I can’t play a piano, but I like to listen to piano music and I have always been intrigued by the construction of such a large, complex instrument.  As part of our Music is the Word series we showed a couple of documentaries in November about piano construction, both of the DVDs are available in our collection.

Pianomania,  tells the story of a  Steinway & Sons’ chief technician and master tuner in Vienna.  He pairs his world-class instruments with world-class pianists, juggling the demands of both the pianist and piano.  Note by Note follows the manufacture of one Steinway piano — one year, 12,000 parts and 50 employees.

The Library is a great place to find documentaries that are not available online.  Enjoy learning about pianos … or anything else you are interested in.  Documentaries are located on the second floor.

Great Time to Visit the Library and Downtown Iowa City

by Susan Craig on November 25th, 2015

After you’ve sated yourself on food and football this weekend and you’re looking for a nice place to walk around,  get a little exercise, show your guests some interesting things, and get the kids out from in front of a screen come on downtown.  The Library is closed Thursday, but open from 10-6 both Friday and Saturday, and 12-5 on Sunday.  We have a story time at 10:30 on Saturday, and celebrate C.S. Lewis’ birthday with a variety of crafts on Sunday from 2-4.  Pick up some books to read, DVDs to watch (I haven’t yet indulged in the trend of binge watching TV shows, but we have a wide selection!), or toys for the kids.  Guests to Iowa City often enjoy a visit to the Library. Best of all, many people are out of town, so parking is easy — something we can’t say every day.  The Iowa City Downtown District has a full calendar of events to participate in while you start your holiday shopping including hunting elves, visiting Santa and riding in a horse drawn carriage. Check out their calendar at: http://downtowniowacity.com/pages/events.php l

Enjoy!

Be Creative — We can Help!

by Susan Craig on September 25th, 2015
Be Creative — We can Help! Cover Image

It’s that time of the year again… time to be creative and make some items to donate to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation’s Arts & Crafts Bazaar which will be held this year on Saturday, December 5.

The Library has many books to help spark your imagination or give you tips on how to improve your crafting skills.  I currently have three checked out that I found on the NEW nonfiction book shelves on the second floor.

Learn to Sew with Lauren by Lauren Guthrie has lots of cute projects that start out “easy peasy” and work up to “more tricky”.  The language is understandable, the illustrations really show each step in a clear way.  I think using patterns can be intimidating to beginning sewers and the chapter on using patterns is very good and also explains how to copy patterns using dressmakers’ pattern paper — a must when using the full size patterns in the book!

present perfectPresent Perfect:  25 gifts to sew & bestow by Betz White is full of fun projects that would appeal to many shoppers at the bazaar.  Tagalong Teddy, Kinetic Felt Baby Mobile, and Hexie the Turtle Floor Pillow all look like things I could handle.

all things quiltingFor beginning quilters All Things Quilting by Alex Anderson covers all the bases — from selecting fabric to the actual quilting.  As a person trying to learn more about quilting techniques I appreciate the clear illustrations showing how to align different shaped pieces (having struggled with this on a couple of projects!).

Maybe sewing isn’t your thing — if you prefer working with yarn, or wood, or paper, or beads, or metal, or any other medium, the Library has books for you.  Check out a few and be creative.

P.S. One of my favorite things about our bazaar is that for every $10 you spend you get chance to win one of 8-10 door prizes, which are — you guessed it! — books, that represent the many ways people can be creative.

 

14 Days, 88 Meetings, 12 Authors –What’s It Worth?

by Susan Craig on September 22nd, 2015

I attended a talk in the Library yesterday titled, “Creative Matters,” by Sunil Iyengar, Research and Analysis Director for the National Endowment for the Arts.  He was sharing information about world-wide efforts to begin to quantify and measure the contribution to a country’s GNP from arts and culture activities.

Measuring beyond counting is a hard thing for single public library.  We can count the number of things checked out, the number of people at a program, the number of questions answered, or the use of our computers.  However, the most meaningful measures indicate how lives were changed in positive ways, and for that we have mostly anecdotal evidence.

I am confident that we contribute substantially to the vitality and economy of downtown Iowa City.  We are a destination point with over 800,000 visitors a year — not a number to sneeze at!  Many of those people come to the library to attend a class, a program, or a meeting.

From Sunday, September 20, through Saturday, October 3, we have 88 meetings, programs and classes offered at the Library.  Seventeen children’s programs include Book Babies (choose English one week, Spanish the next!), traditional story times, Minecraft and video games, a family concert and a Mary-Poppins sing-along.  Teens have special tech times as well as group activities.

It’s a busy time for Library or Library co-sponsored programs with many choices that are part of the Intellectual Freedom Festival or of the City of Literature’s Iowa City Book Festival, including 12 authors, one book discussion and a poetry reading.  Music is the Word programs account for live music programs for all ages, films and a book discussion. Adults can also learn to organize and share digital photographs, improve their financial literacy, attend a showing of the documentary of the Postville Raid or the Gallery Walk:  Rummage ReDux.

If that’s not enough you may be coming to the Library to go to one of 57 non-library meetings or programs scheduled during this two week period.  A few of the groups associated with these meetings are The Society For Creative Anachronism, League of Women Voters, Catholics in America, Old Capital Toastmasters, Open Meditation Group, Korean Cultural Festival, Friends of Hickory Hill Park, and Hawkeyes for O’Malley– truly a cross section of the Iowa City Community.

Iowa City has an active creative economy – one that is fully supported in many (hard to measure :)) ways by the Library.   So many things to do….so little time.

Food and the Midwestern landscape

by Susan Craig on July 28th, 2015

Years ago, as I got too busy with work and children to maintain a large vegetable garden and be able to pick that perfect tomato exactly when it was perfect, I put my gardening efforts into flowers (they do have that perfect moment too, but you don’t have to pick them and, hopefully, others will enjoy them if you can’t!) and started buying vegetables at Farmers’ Market. Over time I came not only to appreciate the fresh local produce, but the people who grow it. Many with a ready smile, some more taciturn, all with a connection to the Iowa soil.kitchen

I recently checked out a book at the Library that made me think of these local farmers. New Prairie Kitchen by Summer (Honest!) Miller, photographs by Dana Damewood. The subtitle of the book is, “Stories and seasonal recipes from chefs, farmers, and artisans of the Great Plains.”

The recipes are great, but the book is far more than a collection of recipes. The author has visited the people and places where the food is grown and where it is prepared, and she tells their stories. She is from Nebraska and there are more Nebraska stories than elsewhere, but Iowa is represented. The photographs — of the people, the food, and the landscape, are simply marvelous.

This is a book to savor in many ways. I can see some of my regular Farmers’ Market vendors in the next edition.

What’s Hot, What’s Not

by Susan Craig on July 22nd, 2015

Librarians do love their statistics, and one thing we watch is what areas of the collection are seeing more use, and which are seeing less.  Our fiscal year ended June 30, so the numbers are coming in.  Some things are up, some things are down.  Are you checking out the trending things, or are you hanging in there with collections whose use is going down?

Downloadable books and audio books are definitely hot, with audio growing at a faster rate then ebooks.  I speculate that this is happening as people are replacing older cars that just had CD players with newer cars that allow you to easily connect your device to the car audio system.  Over 40% of all adult spoken word books checked out are now electronic.  Adult audio downloads are up 38%, ebooks up 16%.  Also in the electronic collection category, our Zinio magazine service saw a 9% increase in use.  Overall downloads still account for less than 10% of our “checkouts.”

Print fiction use is down about 5%, with mysteries down the most (Hey, I’m doing my part, what’s happening here!?).  These collections are probably most affected by the ebook downloads and if you added them together, overall use would be up.  In nonfiction the hot area is biography (up 17%), but declines are seen in the social sciences (300s) and the applied technology (600s).

I was surprised to see that DVD use is up — movies, TV, nonfiction.  I expected a drop because streaming services are getting easier to use and cheaper.  Use of music on CD, however, continues a declining trend.

If you combine Children’s print and electronic book use, circulation is up with the largest increases seen in books for beginning readers.  Using media and electronics in the library is very popular, but less media was checked out from the Children’s Room last year, including DVD and CD formats.

With almost 1.4 million items borrowed last year reading. listening, watching, and playing are all hot!

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History in the Making

by Susan Craig on June 5th, 2015

Our month long celebration of local history is over for another year.  In May, National Historical Preservation month, we highlight local history during a series of programs we call WOW—Weber on Wednesday.  The programs honor Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber.lemme

This year we heard about historical gardens, beer caves, food history (oyster bars galore, who knew!), corner grocery stores, downtown Iowa City, and early Coralville.  We also hope to encourage interest in local history and get people involved in preserving and researching.  We offered special scanning days to allow people to use professional grade scanners to digitize documents and solicit items for our Digital History Project.

Of all the programs this year the one that most imbodies the spirit of Irving Weber was a presentation by the 6th grade girls of Helen Lemme school who visited the University of Iowa Women’s Archives, the State Historical Society Library and the Iowa City Public Library to research their school’s namesake, Helen Lemme.  They presented their finding at a WOW program and also shared it with the governor this week.  Their research and work reflects that our history is for everyone – not just scholars.

Many people are concerned about access to the records that make this and future research possible.  The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs which oversees all the state’s arts and cultural programs, including state historical libraries in Des Moines and Iowa City, has reduced hours at both facilities to just three days a week.  The Iowa City State Historical Society of Iowa had a staff of 20 in 2000, as of July 1, they will have two.

University of Iowa associate professor of history and geography, Tyler Priest, has focused well deserved attention on concerns regarding access to the historical documents housed in the Iowa City Centennial Building.  His perspective is as teacher and a scholar.   The issues he raises affect all Iowans.  We are all “citizen historians,” just like Irving Weber.  All of us who care about the history of our state need to educate ourselves about the situation and follow up on the consultants’ report due out in about a month that the DCA has commissioned.

Currently, the DCA is gathering feedback on how historical collections in Des Moines and Iowa City are used.  If you are interested please complete the survey:

<http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001YdNu7DMwVzH4raGEeYA-8Z1fTPY4vdfIwNOxhkrQkRkTnKZQtM7HP4WdOpXAWYi4MCdl_zCjI_MXkpeh_oKMPZo6pe4-_N2I9mkRPp2q-22a1dNUETjMOt6QqaTmoULR3ywLPt4k76SbyFs5xX9kcQ==>  now through Tuesday, June 30.  It will take approximately 10 minutes or less to complete.

Irving B Weber would thank you for your interest!




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