Library Catalog Ask a Librarian Book a Meeting Room
Catalog Your Account Menu

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: l


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

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!


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:

<>  now through Tuesday, June 30.  It will take approximately 10 minutes or less to complete.

Irving B Weber would thank you for your interest!

Thank you! Thank you!

by Susan Craig on April 30th, 2015

Nine thousand one hundred and forty hours contributed by Library volunteers in one year.  The average American working full time works 1,700 hours in one year.  The more than 9,000 hours contributed to the Library in 2014 by our 292 volunteers is the equivalent of more than five full time people.  WOW

Tonight we will be thanking the many dedicated people who volunteer to help the Library.  Hour by hour they provide support in a variety of ways and also inspire others to give back as well.  In 2014 volunteers performed a variety of tasks, including checking in books; sorting gifts, staffing The Book End and maintaining the free shelf; helping with book discussions and reading programs at local care centers; and providing children’s programming.

This year is a special because we are celebrating the program’s 35th anniversary.  Although people had been contributing time before then, the official beginning of the volunteer program occurred in 1979 when the first volunteer policy was adopted by the Library Board, just in time for the hundreds of volunteers who formed the human assembly line that moved library materials from the Carnegie building across the street to 123 S Linn in 1981.

Our wonderful volunteers reflect a great community of involved people who support many local efforts.  Our Children’s Services Coordinator who came to Iowa City three years ago has told me more than once that she is amazed at the support that children’s programming receives on a volunteer basis.  A library director who has invested in an automated materials handling system to check in library materials marvels that we are able to accomplish that task with volunteers – ICPL has successfully recruited check in volunteers for more than thirty years.

I can’t list everyone’s name here, but want to call out the people who will be recognized tonight for contributing 1,000 and 1,500 hours to the Library.  We are thanking Kerry Evans, Mary Lou Matheson, Margaret Nelson, and William Pontarelli for 1,000 hours of support, and Jeanette Carter and Richard Dobson for 1,500 hours.

Couldn’t do it without you!

Setting records

by Susan Craig on March 31st, 2015

It’s March madness and since my Hawkeye Women’s Basketball team is out of the tournament that takes the pressure off and I can enjoy the final four with no personal involvement.  Athletic events are a big draw in Iowa City.  As reported by the Corridor Business Journal recently, average annual attendance at Kinnick Stadium for Iowa Hawkeye Football is 472,000 and Carver-Hawkeye Arena averages 330,000.  Those two venues together have an attendance of 802,000.

The Iowa City Public Library is the most visited public library building in the State of Iowa, and this year we are on track to match attendance at Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye arena!  Busiest time of the year?  Summer.  Busiest day of the week?  Sunday  & Saturday average just over 300 people an hour; for weekdays Mondays and Fridays are the busiest.

With some people choosing to download collections from home and so much information readily available online why are people still coming to the library?  Years ago when the community was debating the need for an expanded library building some people asked the question, “Why will we need a larger library, no one will come?”  People are still coming, and in growing numbers.

Physical books are a preference for many area readers.  A survey has shown that Iowa City residents read as many ebooks as their counterparts nationally, but they read twice as many print books!  Programming also brings many people to the Library — whether it’s children at storytimes,  a teen or adult program, or attending one of the thousands of meetings held each year in our meeting rooms, people come to the library to meet face to face with others, to learn and to engage.  In the first six months this year we have had 564 library programs in the building attended by 17,678 people. People without internet access come to use our public access computers (over 50,000 in six months), make a copy, scan or print, or get technology assistance.

Our “March Madness” season is in June when school is out and all our summer programming at full swing — we will have more than 20,000 a week in the building during our peak season.  We’re already preparing!

Thanks a Million, Friends Foundation Supporters!

by Susan Craig on February 10th, 2015

As part of Love your Library Month, I want to send a little love out to everyone who has made a contribution to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation.

In the last five years the Foundation has contributed over $1 million to support library services. Funding has been provided for:

  • Building improvements (recent remodeling including the Koza Family Teen Center & Children’s Room improvements)
  • New technology (scanner for the Digital History Project, AWE computers for children, upgraded self-checks)
  • Collections (by my estimate the equivalent of 17,000 books!)
  • Adult, teen and children’s programming (chess tournament, puppet festival, local history programs)
  • Summer reading programs for all ages (book prizes, printed materials, program presenters)

We are currently highlighting what private contributions to the Foundation have made possible with “Thanks a Million” posters and balloons. Next time you’re in, pause and read the banner over the book return slots just inside the front door.

Thank you if you’re already a donor. If you’re not, take the opportunity to be one by dropping your contribution in the box or make a gift online at

Thanks a Million!


Ripple Effects

by Susan Craig on January 29th, 2015

I was listening to a radio story this morning about the consequences of the steep drop in gasoline prices.  One hundred dollars a month, on the average, opened up many opportunities for people.  It got me thinking of the ripple effects spread out from this library.  Often when we seek outside funding in the form of grants the granting bodies ask what our outcomes are expected to be.  This is understandable, but we sometimes struggle with the “measurement” of our services.

We value confidentiality.  We serve all county residents as well as many people outside the immediate area.  We cannot measure what you knew or how you felt when you came in, and then measure those same things again when you leave to see if we had a positive impact.  It would be intrusive and very time consuming.  From time to time we conduct surveys, but they tend to be more general and do not measure specific outcomes.

There have been national studies that confirm that children who participate in summer reading programs are more likely to maintain their reading proficiency over the summer.  The importance of early childhood education has been proven time and time again.  Children’s services public librarians have known this decades longer than the researchers.

I accept that the ripple effects of great library service are largely unknowable.  Anecdotally, I know people who have gotten jobs, started businesses, improved their health (mental and physical), enriched their lives, begun friendships, decided to accept a job offer in Iowa City, learned to use a computer, and found their ancestors at the Iowa City Public Library.  All these things changed their lives.

I was reminded of the ripple effect earlier this week when I received an email from a former board member.  A move took her to Missouri where she also served on the library board.  She recently moved to another state and wrote to say she couldn’t believe that they didn’t read and talk about books the way we did in Iowa and Missouri!  Maybe she’ll start a one community one book program in her new location.

Where have your library ripples taken you?  I’d love to hear.