Hello from the new director!

by Elsworth Carman on January 2nd, 2019

Hello!  I am Elsworth Carman, and I am so pleased to be the incoming director of ICPL.

ICPL’s past and present successes set a high bar for the future of the agency.  I am excited to build on Susan Craig’s legacy of leadership as ICPL evolves, and am grateful to be joining a community that will provide feedback and proactive communication around quality and type of services offered.

Iowa City is a unique place and ICPL is a special library.  Serving the diverse, engaged, and dynamic community and working closely with the committed, skilled, and passionate library staff is a privilege I take very seriously.  I look forward to building relationships in the library, in the community, and beyond as I learn more about the people who work with, use, partner with, or are otherwise connected to ICPL.

I bring over ten years of experience in public libraries, including roles in New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Oak Park, IL.  I am currently with the City of Marion, Iowa, where I was the director of the library for two years, and have been the director of administrative services for about six months.

Throughout my career, I have maintained a focus on hospitality and access; I love the puzzle of figuring out how to welcome everyone into a shared space and curating services in a way that speaks to a diverse audience.

I know that transitioning to a new director can be a challenge for a library and a community.  In addition to managing the transfer of institutional knowledge and other technical tasks, there is a very real emotional component to this kind of leadership change.  I believe that one way we can honor Susan Craig’s many significant contributions and recognize her tenure at ICPL is by giving space and attention to all the feelings people will have during this transition.  I welcome conversations about how people are feeling, what their concerns might be, and how we can work together effectively.

While I wholeheartedly believe in recognizing the challenges around new leadership, I also see exciting opportunities with a change like this.  I hope library staff and supporters will join me in exploring new ideas and trying different things as we welcome the next chapter in the Iowa City Public Library’s story.

Share Your Information the Old Fashioned Way

by Susan Craig on April 23rd, 2018

Although much of the information people receive today comes to them in an electronic format the Library has several ways of getting your message out the good old-fashioned way–in print.  Twelve  to 20,000 people a week walk through our lobby and look at the Event Board and the items in the giveaway rack below.  Perhaps not equivalent to a viral social media post, but likely more that your personal e-message will reach.  Because of limited space the Event Board is reserved for “information about events sponsored by or benefiting non-profit organizations…a .. campaign or political committee.. or a government…subdivision.”  Bring your item to the Help Desk for approval and staff will post it.  Items can also be left at the Help Desk for the free materials rack.  We accept materials that focus on information about local organizations, events, performances, or cultural offerings, tourism, and current issues.  Interestingly, we see examples of censorship in the giveaway rack as people will remove all the information about an organization or activity that they do not approve of, as well as leave things that do not meet our guidelines — unfortunate proof that bad behavior exists in both the virtual and real world.

Pay your fines — You’ll feel better

by Susan Craig on January 9th, 2018

If you still need a feel good New Year’s resolution make one to pay off your library fines.  I recently spoke to a young woman who works at a restaurant I go to frequently who said she hadn’t used the library in a while because she owed money.  I shared with her that our fine income is part of our budget, and while it is not huge, it helps.  I also shared that I thought people who owe us $20 and then stop using the library are punishing themselves.  I stopped by the restaurant recently and she told me she paid her fines and she’s back as a regular library visitor and very happy.  So, if fines have kept you away, come back.  If paying your fines is a financial burden ask someone at the Help Desk or call 356-5200 to be put in touch with a person who can make arrangements for you to pay them off over time.  People who make these arrangements are allowed to check materials out.

Your Gift Matters

by Susan Craig on December 21st, 2017

If you missed out on the Library’s Winter edition of the The Window you may not know how important gifts are to support the Library.  Gifts allow us to have more items to checkout and share, more free programs to attend, keep the bookmobile on the road, encourage  children to read all summer, and support building projects such as the Computer Lab remodeling that is currently underway.  Your gift is welcome and much appreciated any time of the year, but many people like to make their charitable donations before the year end for tax purposes.  Donate online,  stop by the Business Office (2nd floor) to drop off your donation or send it to:  Development Office, Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn St, Iowa City, IA  52240.  Make your gift in honor of someone and they will receive a letter letting them know of your contribution if you tell us where to send it.  Thank you!

Long Live the Book!

by Susan Craig on October 31st, 2017

Libraries usually mirror national trends in how people are getting their information and entertainment and this year (FY17, ended June 30, 2017) was no different.  Overall circulation was down a little, a national trend as the economy improves and people spend more time on their devices.  The mix of what people checkout (that’s a generic checkout that includes downloads as well as borrowing physical items) continues to change.

Even with all the talk about alternative options, print is still our most popular format.  Over 50% of our 1.3 million circulations last year was print — of all items checked out 24% were fiction books, 16% nonfiction books, 13% picture books and readers.

The next most popular format other than print was discs — both DVD (video) and CD (audio which includes music and spoken word).  This format accounts for 35% of all checkouts.

Use of downloadable books and magazines (both to be read on a device and audio) is continuing to grow, but is only 9% of all circulation.  Use of e-books has leveled off, only up 2% last year, but downloadable audio books use is seeing more growth (24% increase last year), probably as people replace older cars that played CDs.  E-magazine use is up 12%.

We look at these trends to know where to spend more or less money from our collection dollars.  Trends certainly come and go — I remember when the Library had slides and 8mm film–, but the print book has always been the most desired and used.  Never fear, the book is not dead.

Recycle your eclipse glasses

by Susan Craig on September 22nd, 2017

Donate eclipse glassesBring those eclipse glasses to the library and we will pass them on to a place that needs them.  We are collecting eclipse glasses as part of an effort of the Astronomers Without Borders and its corporate sponsor, Explore Scientific.  All the glasses will eventually be distributed to schools, libraries and other institutions in South American and Asia for use during several eclipses that will occur in those areas in the next few years.

Please drop off your glasses in the collection box, located near the indoor book returns near the entrance.  Glasses will be collection until November 1.

Kinnick Stadium, Iowa Children’s Museum, Englert Theatre, Hancher Auditorium

by Susan Craig on August 23rd, 2017

Kinnick Stadium, the Iowa Children’s Museum, the Englert Theatre and Hancher Auditorium.  All great destination points.  If you’re lucky you get to visit each of them a couple of times of year.  The number of people who visited the Iowa City Public Library downtown building last year (797,017) is more than the  annual attendance at all of these facilities combined!  Our fiscal year ended June 30th and it was another busy year.  Last year we could boast the busiest public library building in the state, and I think we will keep that honor this year.  We are very happy to serve a community that loves the Library and to be part of a vibrant downtown area with something for everyone.  If you are new to town and haven’t been in yet, be sure to stop by and get a library card.  Make us one of your destination points.

We have the best people!

by Susan Craig on April 24th, 2017

This week I get to enjoy two of my favorite events of the year, both involve our active supporters.  Without them our level of library service would not be sustainable.  The first is donors.  On Sunday I had a great time at our third annual, “Looking Forward” event.  Held in the Library on a Sunday evening after closing, the ticketed event begins with a presentation, then we move to the main library space for food, drink and conversation.  We were very fortunate this year to have Maureen Corrigan as our presenter.  She gave a great talk on how she got into the business of book reviewing and ended with a list of books we should all read.  Most importantly we raised money for the projects that we fund through gift support each year.  Among other things, gifts purchased 8% of the items added to our collection last year, they make the Summer Reading Program possible, they will be supporting the operations of the new bookmobile, and they contributed over $150,000 to the purchase of the bookmobile.

The second event I’m looking forward to is our annual Volunteer Recognition Event.  The theme this year, in keeping with our bookmobile influence, is “Volunteers Keep Us Rolling Along.”  And, boy, do they.  Last year 315 volunteers contributed 9,609 hours of work.  At a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour and calculating for mandatory Social Security and IPERS this is the equivalent of over $110,000.  At the event we will recognize all our volunteers who have reached milestones in their service.  This year we have two people who cumulatively have donated over 1,000 hours each, one who has reached the 2,000 hour milestone and one who has spent 3,000 hours giving back to the Library!  Of the ten largest public libraries in Iowa only Ames has more volunteers who contribute more hours.

Thank you to all donors and volunteers.  You are family.  We could not do it without you.

Seeking Library Board Members

by Susan Craig on April 4th, 2017

The City and the County are currently seeking applications for the Board Of Trustees of the Iowa City Public Library for three six-year terms (one for a rural county resident, two for Iowa City residents) that begin July 1, 2017.  The Board has nine members, eight from Iowa City and one from rural Johnson County, and every three years three members are appointed.  Applicants must be 18 years or older.

Board members set library policy, plan for the future of the library, and advocate for library needs.  The Library Director reports directly to the Board.

Information about the rural County position can be found here:

http://www.johnson-county.com/dept_blank.aspx?id=2075  (click on the button on the top of the page and then choose Iowa City Public Library Board of Trustees).

Applications for Iowa City residents can be found here:

https://www.icgov.org/city-government/boards-commissions-and-committees  Applications may also be picked up at the Iowa City City Clerk’s Office, 410 E Washington St, or the Help Desk at the Library, 123 S. Linn St.



Happy Birthday, ICPL — 120 and going strong!

by Susan Craig on January 20th, 2017

cod-steam-laundryHappy 120th Birthday, Dear ICPL. The Iowa City Public Library  first opened it’s doors on January 21, 1897. The effort to establish a public library in Iowa City started in 1896 so we get confused about whether the institution’s “real” birthday started with the egg (the organizational efforts) or the chicken (opening the door).   I think opening the doors is a good thing to celebrate. The first library location was two rooms measuring 100 X 30 feet over the newly constructed brick building at 211-213 Iowa Ave. The ground floor was occupied by the C.O.D. Steam Laundry.

The directors hired a librarian (a bookkeeper who received a annual salary of $600), and three committees were appointed to select books and periodicals. They also purchased bookcases, newspaper racks, tables, chairs, a desk for the librarian, five hundred sheets of letterhead, blank library cards, thirteen 16-candle power lamps with porcelain shades, board games (crokinale, archrena, checkers, chess and Parcheesi) as well as some basics like a wastebasket, ink stand, stamp pad, broom and dustpan.

The first library was open ten hours a day six days a week and four hours on Sunday to anyone age ten or older. People could borrow one book at a time with a five cents a day fine on books past due. One hundred and twenty years later we serve people of all ages and are open eleven hours four days a week (M-Th), ten hours one day (Fri), eight hours on Saturday and five hours on Sunday (3 total hours more than in 1897) and our fines are 25 cents a day for most things — well under the inflation rate.

At the opening ceremony the words of speech written by president of the Iowa City Public Library Association still remind us 120 years later of the core mission of the public library. “…this library is and will be public in the fullest sense of the word.  It belongs to no person nor class of persons. It is to be under the control of no particular race nor creed. … Parents may feel that their children in coming here for books, whether they be rich or poor are placing themselves under obligation to no one. They are simply exercising a right… Every person in the city shall feel perfectly free to seek the advantages of this library.”

If you want to learn more about the history of ICPL look for Lolly Eggers’ book, A Century of Stories:  the History of the Iowa City Public Library, 1896-1997. where I found this historical information.

Public libraries have transformed my life and I hear stories every day of the impact this library has had on others’ lives. Happy Birthday, ICPL! May you prosper for another 120 years.