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Author Archive for Susan Craig

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:

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 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

Talking to the Dead

by Susan Craig on October 31st, 2012
Talking to the Dead Cover Image

Lisbeth Salander fans meet Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths who can’t quite walk the straight and narrow and follow the orders her boss gives her.  She works double duty to keep contributing to a disturbing case of a young woman, likely a prostitute, found dead of drug overdose in a squalid house, her six year old daughter dead beside her.  Why is the platnium credit card of a very wealthy tycoon found in the same room?  Especially since he’s been dead for months.  This heroine is not one to follow protocol and her social skills are very deficient, but her intensity and stubborn refusal to back down from seeking the truth, no matter where it leads are appealing.  I hope there will be more stories featuring the compelling Fiona.

The Gods of Gotham

by Susan Craig on July 15th, 2012
The Gods of Gotham Cover Image

It seems like we live in a very political time — but, it might give you some satisfaction to know that it could be worse after you read The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye.  This debut mystery is set in 1845 New York City, where politics is in all aspects of life — what neighborhood you live  in, what church you attend, what job you have.  Even the newly organized police force only exists because a politician said it should, and others see the very existence of police as an infrigement of their civil rights and no different from a standing army.  Timothy Wilde is an officer in the new police force thanks to the political pull of his older brother Valentine and a horrible fire that destroys his life savings and leaves him too scarred to go back to his old job as a bartender.  Tim puts on the “copper star” and gradually comes to see the worth in what he does.  When he encounters a blood soaked little girl who claims to know where the children’s bodies are buried he is in the hunt for a serial killer who is removing children from brothels.  The descriptions of New York City and the way people lived in 1845 are very compelling, throughout the novel the author makes use of flash, an underground language akin to thieves cant which adds additional authenticity.   This is a fascinating and enjoyable read and I am pleased that it’s the first in a series.

The End of the Wasp Season

by Susan Craig on June 4th, 2012
The End of the Wasp Season Cover Image

Scottish author Denise Mina is a favorite of mine — not always easy to follow, but then, people are more her thing than a plot.  Both the plot and the people in this second title featuring DS Alexandra Morrow are grim indeed.  The story skips back and forth between two deaths — bad boy millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from a tree on his palatial estate, Sarah Erroll is kicked and beaten to death by home invaders.  Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe both of these people and their families as Alex, five months pregnant with twins, discovers links between the two.  Alex has her own dynamics to deal with after the death of her father, issues with her delinquent nephew and the appeareance of an old friend linked to one of the victims.  Family is the overall theme — what people will (and won’t) do for flesh and blood.  It’s a long, dense story and at times my attention wavered, but then I would get pulled back in by the complex characters.

The Irresistible Henry House

by Susan Craig on May 28th, 2012
The Irresistible Henry House Cover Image

Henry House was born in 1946 and spent his first year as “practice baby” in a college home economics program designed to teach young women how to be mothers. (Yes, this was really a common practice across the country).  Typically babies were orphans and were put up for adoption after one year.  Henry, however, steals the heart of the program director, Martha Gaines, and stays on, moving upstairs with her and seeing a succession of practice babies come and go.  What he learns is not a good lesson — how to make a variety of women think they’re his favorite.  At the age of 10 Henry learns who his biological mother is and loses his trust in Martha.  Baby boomers will enjoy the side characters in Henry’s story — Benjamin Spock, Walt Disney, the Beatles– as he wanders from college towns to New York,  Los Angeles, and London before returning to Wilton College.  Henry is an engaging character and the mid-twentieth century setting is fun in this coming of age story.

Blue Monday

by Susan Craig on April 27th, 2012
Blue Monday Cover Image

If you like dark psychological mysteries you will like Blue Monday  from husband and wife writing team Nicci French.  You will meet Frieda Klein a complex, solitary London psychotherapist whose belief in the absolute confidentiality of her patients is tested when one of them shares dreams and thoughts that are disturbingly linked to the recent disappearance of a young boy.  Similarities also exist between this child’s abduction and one of a girl twenty-two years ago.  Klein ends up in an uneasy partnership with Detective Chief Inspector Malcolm Karlsson while she tries to cope with a immigrant builder, a mentor losing his edge, and a romantic interest who is moving.  Plot twists abound, perhaps a little too much, but the characters are compelling.  This is the first in a series, I’ll be interested in seeing what color Tuesday is.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

by Susan Craig on March 30th, 2012
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Cover Image

This intriguing novel starts in Minnesota, at a big pharmaceutical research lab, where Marina Singh has worked for several years.  Dr Singh’s colleague, Anders Eckman, went to the Amazon area to get a progress report from veteran researcher, Dr Annick Swenson, who has not been forthcoming on the outcome of her studies and the corporate funders are growing anxious.   A brief report of Anders death arrives in Minnesota and Marina is sent to find out the details by her married lover, and boss, Mr Fox.  The contrast between Minnesota and the Amazon region where the Lakashi tribe lives could not be more stark.  Marina finds herself cut off from the world she knows, even wearing native attire after her clothes are stolen, as she tries to learn more about Anders’ death and the status of Dr Swenson’s research into the fertility of women of the tribe who routinely gnaw the bark of a certain species of trees and continue to have babies well into their 70′s.  As Annika observes, what 70 year old woman wants to have babies?  Good question, and one that this novel explores along with many others including the place of commercialism in medicine, culture and identity, good and evil.  It’s a real tale, well told.

The Sandburg Connection

by Susan Craig on February 19th, 2012
The Sandburg Connection Cover Image

Private investigator Sam Blackman and his partner Nakayla Robertson have been hired by an insurance company to investigate a history professor’s malpractice suit against a spinal surgeon.  They follow her to Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where she takes a fatal fall down a mountain.  Before her death she utters the words, “It’s the Sandburg verses.”  There are many mysteries here — why was she on the mountain, what about the Sandburg verses, did she have grounds to sue for malpractice, what mysterious research was she conducting before her death, and, of course, was she murdered or was it an accident?  Let me just say that more murders follow, so you know the answer to the last question.  Sam and Nakayla and likeable people with both a professional and a personal relationship.  Sam uses a prosthesis leg due to his military service in Iraq which limits him a little physically.  I think people will find the North Carolina and academic settings as well has the historical detail about Carl Sandburg interesting.  I had never read any books by the author, Mark DeCastrique, but I plan to go back and see what I missed.