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Author Archive for Susan Craig



Support Your LIbrary

by Susan Craig on November 24th, 2014

It’s that time of year. Every day your mailboxes (physical and virtual) have new appeals for worthy causes, and the Library is asking for your support as well. If you haven’t seen the annual report of the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, please look it over. The Library receives good tax funding, but the Foundation gifts allow us to move from great to fantastic which is what we want you to think your library is.

Last year Foundation gifts to the Library paid more than half the cost of our building renovations, purchased library materials for all ages, supported huge growth in our Summer Reading Program (allowing us to continue to provide books to participants — see p. 8 of the annual report for a heartwarming story), supported programs, and improved technology.

You can give online or by mail (make checks payable to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation). You also support the Library through your purchases at the Arts & Crafts Bazaar (Saturday, December 6, 10-3) at special book sales (same day) or at The Book End.

At this time of year I am thankful for a great public library.  What would our community be without it?  Please consider a gift today.

Protecting Your Freedom to Read

by Susan Craig on September 24th, 2014

Protecting Your Freedom to Read

During Banned Book Week we have many interesting programs and displays to offer (http://blog.icpl.org/2014/09/22/iowa-city-public-library-celebrates-banned-books-week/), but it’s also a good time to think about the role public libraries play in supporting the full range of first amendment rights.

It’s easy for us to take for granted that materials expressing many viewpoints and opinions are available in our public library, and that we can use those materials without fear that we will be monitored, chastised or punished. Many people have fought bitter and sometimes dangerous battles to protect the right to say and read what you want. Librarians have lost jobs for purchasing and circulating information that someone didn’t approve.

The very form of “government” of most municipal libraries in Iowa, a semi-autonomous library board, was designed to create a barrier between the politicians (city councils) who are more likely to be swayed by public opinion or current political trends and the information providers (library staff) who work to represent all points of view through collections and hold confidential who uses what (a confidentiality that is also protected by state law in Iowa). The Library Board sets policies, has budget authority to spend money as they approve, and hires a library director. Typically other city departments’ budgets, policies and hiring/firing of executives are under the authority of the City Council and/or City Manager. The primary reason for an independent library board is to ensure that an enraged phone call from a constituent to a City Council member, or a demand from law enforcement does not result in a book being removed from the collection, or records being turned over without a subpoena.

Over the years we have had a variety of complaints about materials people did not think were appropriate – and that they should be kept from some group of people, usually children. Staff who select library materials continue to work to ensure all points of view are represented.

So, look at the books you take home and consider that there is someone who probably thinks some of them shouldn’t even be in the library. It’s not hypothetical.

Preservation

by Susan Craig on August 5th, 2014

 

The word preserve has several meanings:  “To keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction…to keep alive, intact, or free from decay… to keep or save from decomposition..to can, pickle or similarly prepare for future use …

The Library has all of these meanings covered! We are offering a program on Wednesday, August 6, that will teach you the latest about canning and food preservation techniques. http://calendar.icpl.org/view.php?did=30856  If you can’t make the program we have many books that share a wide variety of recipes and instructions for preserving food.  You fill find these materials on the second floor, ask if you need help.

As to non-food preservation we are protecting and sharing photographs and documents about Johnson County history through our Digital History Project.  One of the newest additions to the Project is a small cookbook collection, one of which is The Iowa City Cook Book, 1898: A collection of well tested recipes contributed by the Ladies of Iowa City and Vicinity.   http://history.icpl.org/items/browse?collection=9

The cook book is a fascinating look at culture and food in 1898 Iowa City.  Among the chapters you will find Pickles and Fruits & Jellies.  It might be fun to preserve something from your garden or the farmers’ market that people in Iowa City were standing over steaming kettles on wood burning (gas?) stoves preserving over 100 years ago.  Chow-Chow anyone?

I enjoyed reading the recipes in the cook book, but I also enjoyed reading the advertisements (there is an alphabetical list of advertisers in the back).  One reads:  MESSNER BROS: Dealers in Fresh and Salt Meat, Fish, Game, and Poultry. Cor Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street. Phone 124, another J.J. CERNY:  Dealer in Harness, Saddles, Collars, Robes, Whips, Nets, etc. Repairing on short notice and on reasonable terms, 27 Washington Street.  You can also check out The Wide Awake Department Store or the Iowa City Roller Mills adds.

Preserving food or preserving history –the Iowa City Public Library has it covered!

Stop ! Wait a Moment !

D. L. Houser wishes to show you

through his extensive coal yards and

sheds. These are filled with Anthracite,

Virginia Splint, Hocking, Illinois,

and Iowa coals . A new wood yard just

started there should also receive your

attention.The purchase of corn will be

continued as in the past, at the coal

,

office of D. L. HOUSER,

Corner Washington and Van Buren Streets,

IOWA CITY, IOWA.

 

 

Changing Collections

by Susan Craig on July 30th, 2014
The Jennie Brubaker Music Room      at the Iowa City Public Library.

The Jennie Brubaker Music Room at the Iowa City Public Library.

Every year I look at the end of the year (fiscal year ends June 30) circulation reports with a lot of interest. I am always intrigued by what’s “hot” and what’s not. Tastes change, availability changes and how people use collections reflects those changes.

An interesting case is that of music. Funded by a $14,000 bequest, the Library opened a state of the art music room in 1950. People could select an LP record and take it to the staff who would put it on the Magnavox Windsor Imperial record player – no individual listening stations, everyone in the room heard your selection.

The music room closed in 1961 “due to an increase in the number of home phonographs and the drop in the price of hi-fi sets and LP phonograph records,” so the library was loaning records instead of providing in-house listening. In the early 1990s, LP records were replaced as the preferred format by compact discs. In recent years, the compact disc is losing out to electronic formats and the Library is restricted from sharing many of the most popular recordings with library users.

We have noticed a large increase of music CD donations as people building their online collections donate their physical ones. Our Local Music Project is one way we can share music in new formats and we are investigating others, but the era when recorded music exists as a physical thing may be ending. Still, the music compact disc collection remains a steady source of entertainment to many.

Magazines are another area where formats have changed significantly in recent years. We circulated just over 22,000 magazines last year, almost evenly divided between print and downloads. Five years ago we checked out 16,000 magazines, all print. Overall, our magazine collection is geared more to popular interests than research oriented. The research material is now available on the internet.

One area of increase, as expected, was downloads of electronic books which grew by 22 percent in the last year. At 46,964 our circulation of electronic books is still dwarfed by our physical book circulation of 763,328.

A community survey completed in FY14 shows that people still rely heavily on the Library for materials in all formats – 76.7 percent of all those surveyed said they checked out materials during their last visit. The same survey revealed that, on average, Iowa Citians read twice as many books (24) per person in a year than the average for the country as a whole. That kind of readership keeps our collection fresh as we do our best to keep up with the changing interests.

“Fiction Reveals Truths that Reality Obscures,” Jessamyn West

by Susan Craig on June 16th, 2014

Attending the recent program featuring Thomas Maltman, author of this year’s All Iowa Reads book Little Wolves, I was reminded once again of the power of story. Mr. Maltman spoke very eloquently about how fiction writing brings people closer together through a shared experience. He believes that books and stories build empathy, something the world needs more of.all iowa reads

I am on the committee that selects the All Iowa Reads book every year, and our number one criteria is that we have a good story that Iowans can talk about. Maltman’s talk reinforced to me that our instinct to choose good stories above all else is the right one. These stories give us an opportunity to talk about emotional truths that are universal to the human experience.

Many of the titles we have chosen for AIR over the years are what some people describe as “dark.” I can’t disagree, but they also seemed like the most discussable. Maltman helped me understand why that is true. He said that we need good monster stories to know who we are, to ask the question, “Where does the darkness come from and how do we fight it?” He shared a story about his two oldest daughters writing a story one summer and they would work on the plot and then go act it out in the back yard. Of course, he explained, he and his wife were killed off in the first chapter. Once they were “orphaned,” they could be the heroes of their own story.

It was great program. If you missed it, watch for the replay on the Library Channel (Mediacom Channel 10). Other books recommended by Maltman include:

Hope you can read a lot of stories this summer!

Best Library!

by Susan Craig on May 19th, 2014

I was recently visiting my son and his family in Brooklyn, New York, and I’d like to share an encounter I had with a young father at a park. My grandson was in school and I was taking my three-year-old granddaughter out for the morning. First we visited the nearby branch library and then we went to a park.

Approaching the park, I saw a young father carrying his maybe two-year-old daughter out of the gate. The young girl was wearing an Iowa sweatshirt. I smiled and inquired what their connection to Iowa was, explaining I was visiting from Iowa (luckily I had my Iowa shirt on that day, too!). We quickly determined that Iowa City was a common connection and the man asked me what I did. When I told him I worked at the Iowa City Public Library, his face lit up and he said, “That is the BEST library. We miss it SO much! We’ll never have another library as good at the one in Iowa City.”

Similar stories have been shared with me by many people, both personally and secondhand. We hear from people scattered across the country, and even the globe, who miss ICPL. People share with friends and family who still live here, through our Facebook page, or even with an occasional phone call. (“I just knew you would know,” they’ll tell us.)

When the cartoonist Berke Breathed left town in 1985 he did a cartoon for the local paper that highlighted the things he would miss most about Iowa City and one of them was, “the swellest library in the known universe.”

The known universe is a pretty big place, but I have found the Iowa connection is strong wherever you go. Once you’ve found the Iowa connection, you can probably find an Iowa City connection. It’s wonderful that one of the most memorable things about Iowa City is a great public library. Just what the only City of Literature in the western hemisphere should be known for!

While in New York I took my son, who works in the film industry, the Raygun Iowa City Downtown District t-shirt that says, “DOWNTOWN IOWA CITY: from tree sweaters to unsupervised pianos – anything goes.” He says he’s had some interesting conversations every time he wears it and sometimes even the library is mentioned.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berke Breathed's homage to Iowa City, and the Iowa City Public Library, can be found on the Library's first floor.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berke Breathed’s homage to Iowa City, and the Iowa City Public Library, can be found on the Library’s first floor.

Celebrate Libraries This Week

by Susan Craig on April 15th, 2014

National Library Week is this week. It is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association and was first celebrated in 1958. Libraries have seen many changes in the past 46 years, but the core values of literacy, free access to information, intellectual freedom, and strengthening community remain the same.

How we meet the needs of our community now includes outreach to daycares, public access computers, electronic collections, and technology classes. For the last 20 years, I’ve heard predictions that the library wasn’t needed and would be going away “soon.” That has not happened, and I don’t think it will happen in the foreseeable future. The Iowa City Public Library is a trusted and well used community resource.

We are in process of compiling all the data from the surveys that people completed in March. This information shows that the Library is considered very important to the quality of life in the community by 94.2% of respondents. More than 80% have visited in the last six months and 31% visit three or more times per month. The Library is a place to “get” stuff and meet people. People filling out the survey were asked what they did on a visit and they replied:

  • Checked out library materials (79.2%)
  • Searched the library catalog (44%)
  • Picked up a hold (32.5%)
  • Asked staff for help (31.6%)
  • Viewed a display, exhibit or art (17%)
  • Attended children in the Childrens Room (13.5%)
  • Used wireless network (11.1%)
  • Attended a meeting (9.7%)
  • Met a friend of colleague (9.7%)

Whatever your reason, I hope you visit soon. And, take the time during National Library Week to share a fond memory you have of an experience in a library.

We Want YOU!

by Susan Craig on March 24th, 2014

The Library has worked under a strategic plan for more than thirty years, adopting a new one every four or five years. It is often noted by new Library Board members, with varying degrees of astonishment, that we actually follow our plan! The first step of a new planning process, which we have just begun, is an environmental scan.

We can learn a lot about our environment by looking at facts and figures about our community and how it has changed since our last planning process. Is our community increasing or decreasing in population? If growing, where are the growth areas? What changes in other demographics are measurable– income, race, education level?

The most important part of our environment is what residents in our service area think about our current services, how they use the library, and what needs we aren’t meeting.

That is where you can help us.

Two thousand households in our service area (Iowa City, rural Johnson County, University Heights, Hills and Lone Tree) received printed surveys. If you received one, please complete and return it by April 1.

A large sample of people who have used their library cards recently and for whom we have email address will get an email this week asking them to complete an online survey. This survey is available to anyone and can be found at: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1568479/Iowa-City-IA-Web-Survey

Personally, I find it more than a little annoying, to be asked to evaluate everything I buy or experiences I have. I choose to do it for a selected few organizations and companies that I expect to have an ongoing relationship with and who I believe will do something constructive with my feedback.  I hope you feel that way about the Library and will take the time to complete a survey. We won’t ask often and we will consider all of your responses. Thank you.

Is the LIbrary Open?

by Susan Craig on February 25th, 2014

I don’t know about you, but I am more ready for spring than I have been the last few years. I have been asked a couple of times this winter if the Library was closing.  Typically, we are open in most weather, including snow. If the snow is very heavy and expected to continue; if ice makes travel treacherous for hours, or if we have a large number of staff that cannot make it to work then I will consider closing for the day.open library image

That has not happened this year. We have had many snow “events” but nothing of blizzard proportions. Yes, snow often results in less business at the library, but, like a grocery store we are often busy before (a rush to pick up that reserved item to read under a cozy quilt after an hour of shoveling, or some family movies to occupy the frigid evenings that often follow a snow) and after as soon as the streets are clear enough to get around. No matter the weather, there are always people at the Library.

I believe the public library is a very important resource, and one that should be available as much as possible. It is also an optional visit (unlike school) so no one suffers if they can’t make it due to weather …. Unless you consider being deprived of library time as suffering!

It’s pretty common sense that the hours the library is open correlate directly to how many people physically visit the building. The Library Board sets the building hours and calendar in February every year for the upcoming fiscal year. When the library is open is so important they have an entire policy devoted to library hours.

What do you think our busiest day is, hour for hour? If you guessed Sunday (we’re only open 12-5 on Sunday) you are correct. In the second quarter (Oct-Dec) we averaged 279 people per hour in the library, followed by Saturday at 242 people per hour. Our busiest weekday is Friday (212 people per hour) and our least busy is Tuesday at only 164.

It’s still cold, but it’s warm inside, so come on downtown and make a visit to the public library.

I Love Libraries

by Susan Craig on February 12th, 2014

Who doesn’t love their library?book_forweb

Public libraries are held in high regard by most people. A new Pew study shows that over 90 percent of Americans older than 16 think that public libraries improve the quality of life in a community, are important because they promote literacy and love of reading, and play in important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed by providing materials and resources. Closer to home, a similar number of residents (94 percent) rated the Iowa City Public Library as excellent or good in a recent community survey.

My love affair with libraries goes back to the east side Carnegie library building in Waterloo, Iowa. The Children’s Room was in the basement with its own separate entrance. It was like walking downstairs into a treasure room with a little basement smell, the smell of books and Miss Kelley (she didn’t smell), who kept me in reading material for many years.

Modern Children’s Rooms are much more lively and colorful with programs (book babies, reading to dogs in the library –who would have thought!), collections (downloadable books for kids, movies, toys!), and technology quite a bit more advanced than a stereopticon (iPads, AWE computers) not even dreamed of back then.

The more things change the more they stay the same – the public library still supports education and entertainment while providing a safe place and free access for people of all ages and from all socio-economic ranges. However, providing library services is not free and, in addition to our tax support, we rely on private gifts to help us provide the services you know and love.

This month we have a special challenge – for every library lover who makes a first time donation to the Friends Foundation a generous donor will match gifts up to the first $1,000. Please help us meet that match. Go to Love Your Library  and make a donation today.

Enjoy all of our Love Your Library special activities




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