Brushing up on my French

by Alyssa Hanson on April 13th, 2018

I sing in a local choir which is doing several French pieces for our next concert and it made me realize I’ve lost much of the French I learned in high school and college. I love the French language and while I could pick out the general sense of the songs we’re working on in choir, I came across many words I was unfamiliar with and I had to do some look ups to see what they meant.

For this I used Google Translate which is great for translating words between languages. It has its own site but you can use the same tool from a Google search if you pair it with the word ‘translate’. One of the songs we’re singing is called “Valse avec choeur” by George Bizet and while I knew the second part of the title was ‘with choir’ I didn’t recognize the first word. I used ‘translate valse’ and in recognizing it as French it translated as ‘waltz’. “Waltz with choir” definitely fits the style of the piece.

After I had finished looking up words I didn’t know from our songs, I started thinking about other ways that I could refresh my French. Since I haven’t heard it spoken in awhile I started looking up movies in French so that I could start listening to how words were pronounced. I found that my memory has Americanized the French I still remembered so that was helpful in getting French sounds back in my brain. Since French dialog in movies is still pretty fast for my level of understanding (and I had to use the English subtitles to understand what was going on), I wanted to get something that was more my speed.

So I signed up for Mango Languages and Transparent Languages which are both language learning tools the library offers. Both have lessons based around specific categories like shopping or eating out. This makes it easier to learn new vocabulary since word clustering is helpful in memorizing foreign languages. Past this basic similarity, their methods are a fairly different. While initially I was going to try them out and choose my favorite to stick with, I ended up liking them both, but for different reasons.

Transparent Languages focuses on vocabulary by always showing a count of the words you’ve learned and even though I’ve known many of the basic French words I was reviewing since high school, it’s still exciting to see it go up. In addition, it has a built in system for reviewing words that you haven’t revisited in the past few days. Since reviewing words overtime is super important in remembering vocab, this is a very helpful feature. When first introducing new vocab, each word has an image with it so you can picture it as more than just the written word. Sometimes there are even notes giving context for the word, like for ‘Bonjour’ which it’s noted that it can be used for saying ‘Good day’ and ‘Good afternoon’.

I also like that each of the vocab lessons has multiple ways of testing if you remember the vocab because you’re likely to come across it in various ways, and while  testing right away helps point out which words you need to spend more time memorizing, it’s good practice as well. Then, if you find you have a preferred way to review (or a way you want to work on reviewing) vocab between listening, reading, speaking, or writing, you can choose that method in the future for reviewing words.

Mango Languages is like a teaching set of flash cards. You learn a vocab word and then it immediately asks you to remember it and after a few times of remembering it between learning other words, it asks you to think about it in a different context. Like learning the words for good morning (Bonjour) and how are you (Ça va?) separately but then putting them together in a sentence like Bonjour, ça va?. While a simple compound, this changes it from just a word to a word with context.

Another great part about Mango is it gives cultural notes on words as you go along. For example, ça va literally translates as ‘it is going’ so you’re really asking ‘It’s going?’ when you ask someone how they are in French. In addition it does color coding for words so you can always see what English words match up to the French ones. So you’re learning words and phrases at the same time.

Since starting to review my French it’s becoming easier to translate again and occasionally I’ll have French words pop into my head for things I’m doing or saying. I’m already thinking about starting another language but there’s so many to choose from it might take me a little while to decide. Though, my choir sings a lot of German, so that might be next on my list.

Who is ready for a good old walk? And a little local history?

by Candice Smith on April 10th, 2018

And I do mean a good old walk!

On November 5, 1881, Anton Stein woke up, had coffee in the guest house he was at on Dubuque St., then went and murdered his wife. In between those disparate acts, he made a couple stops. On his walk, he would have gone past some buildings that are no longer there, while others we still see today; he visited businesses that are long gone, but their owners and functions left their mark on our downtown. He would have passed by the many people who were making their way in an Iowa City that was barely forty years old, hard-scrabble and burgeoning at the same time.

Using various local history resources that the Library has and provides access to, we’ve been able to recreate the short walk that Anton Stein took. We’ve also filled in the story of what happened to the people involved, and gained an idea of what our city looked like at that time. Want to learn more? Join us for an ICPL History Walk: The Lizzie Hess Murder, on Saturday, May 5. There are walks scheduled at 2:30 and 7:00 p.m., and registration is required. The walk should last about 1-1.5 hours, and is about one mile total. The 2:30 walk will meet inside the Library lobby, and the 7:00 right outside the lobby in the pedmall.

Register for the 2:30 walk.
Register for the 7:00 walk.

This program is part of ICPL’s Weber Days, a series of Local History programs and events honoring the memory and work of Iowa City Historian Irving B. Weber. If you have any questions, please contact Candice Smith at or 319-887-6031

Tax Deadlines are Approaching

by Mary Estle-Smith on April 2nd, 2018
Tax Deadlines are Approaching Cover Image

The VITA program though the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa offers free tax assistance every year to citizens who meet a certain income criteria.  (Less than $55,000) for the calendar year of 2017.  They have several dates left between now and April 11.

This above link will also tell you what you will need to bring with you in addition to places/times other than the library where you can also go.   Deadline for filing your federal taxes this year is Tuesday, April 17.    The state filing deadline is  Monday April 30.

If you do your own taxes the library does have a few federal forms.  You can also go to the IRS site  for most other federal forms and instructions.

Iowa forms and instructions can be found at  the Iowa Dept. of Revenue site.

There are also resources at the library that in the area of the pictured book that may possibly be helpful for  DIY tax preparers.



Magazines with Staying Power

by Heidi Lauritzen on March 30th, 2018

When the Iowa City Public Library opened in 1897, its reading room contained twenty magazine titles for visitors to read.  More than a century later, we still offer seven of those first twenty titles!  They are:
The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, Harper’s Magazine, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Publishers Weekly.  The seventh title, Library Journal, is circulated among just library staff since it is primarily library news and reviews of new materials that help with acquisition decisions.

We receive only print issues of Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. For the other titles, we provide both the print issues in our magazine area in the first floor atrium, and a downloadable version via RBdigital Magazines. Find out more about downloading these and 100+ other magazines on this Digital Johnson County page on our website.

The Library typically keeps one year’s worth of issues for monthly magazines, and three months’ worth of issues for a weekly magazine. Back issues may be checked out, but the latest issue is always for in-house use only. You may place holds on magazine issues, just as you do for books or movies.

Each of these original seven titles is indexed in the Gale online resource called “PowerSearch”. Dates vary among the titles, but many of these magazines are indexed back forty to fifty years, and have full-text articles from the past twenty years or more.  PowerSearch contains more than 300 million articles, from thousands of sources. Find PowerSearch on our website here.

Are magazines that have been around for 120 years too stuffy for you? Try one of our newer titles at the Library: MaryJanesFarm (“simple solutions for organic living”), Plein Air Magazine (for landscape and plein air painting), Milk Street (cooking magazine from Christopher Kimball, formerly of America’s Test Kitchen), or Atomic Ranch which “celebrates mid-century houses from 1940s ranch tracts to 1960s modernist homes”.

Facebook – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by Maeve Clark on March 21st, 2018

Facebook is fun and a great way to share information and stay connected with friends and family. Right? Right. However, after the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal you might be ready to just say goodbye to Facebook.  Before you close your account, consider your options.  David Nield , writing for Gizmodo, walks you through steps on how to stay on Facebook but not share any more information than necessary.  Start by making your profile sparse, keep your activity to a minimum, disconnect from third-part apps, (those puzzles, games and quizzes), and continue to pay attention to your privacy settings.  Nield has links to even more ways to secure your Facebook account.

Gennie Gebhart , a research and advocacy writer on consumer privacy, surveillance, and security issues for  the Electronic Frontier Foundation, informs Facebook members how to control your privacy settings.  She also details how Cambridge Analytica was able to access more than 50 million Facebook users’ data in 2014.  The Guardian gives an even more sobering look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal in a piece by Paul Lewis on Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012. Parkilas had repeatedly warned Facebook that its lax approach to data protection would leave users vulnerable.  And if you still want to go, Facebook details the steps to either deactivate or delete your account.



Free access to the New York Times!

by Melody Dworak on March 16th, 2018

New York Times Digital AccessNever hit a paywall again with your Iowa City Public Library card! We are pleased to announce that residents now have free access to the New York Times website anywhere, anytime. From quick news updates to deep dives into a topic, The New York Times keeps you up-to-date on what you need to know.

You will need an access code to use this resource. You must also live in Iowa City, Hills, Lone Tree, University Heights, or rural Johnson County. Further details can be found on the New York Times resource page on the ICPL website. Happy reading!

Edit: This access is available through the Digital Johnson County collections we share with the Coralville Public Library and the North Liberty Community Library. That means that Coralville residents can get free access through the CPL website, using their CPL card, and North Liberty residents use the NLCL website with their NLCL card.

A Murder of Crows

by Beth Fisher on February 11th, 2018
A Murder of Crows Cover Image

One thing I like most about Facebook is how one comment can lead to a great discussion.  A few days ago a friend commented that she loved seeing “wheeling flocks of birds in the sky.”  Someone then mentioned seeing a murmuration of Starlings on a recent drive from Muscatine to Iowa City. Another friend then asked if a murmuration refers only to Starlings (it does) and what a group of Pigeons would be called?  (Pigeons can be a flight, a flock or a kit.)

British artist, illustrator and author Matt Sewell’s newest book A Charm of Goldfinches And Other Wild Gatherings is a wonderfully illustrated guide to many of the group names humans give to members of the animal kingdom.

In the introduction, Sewell states that many of the phrases he has included in his book are hundreds of years old or older,  many found in The Book of Saint Albans (The Boke of Seynt Albans.) Printed originally in 1486, versions of The Book of Saint Albans were reprinted many times, under many names, over the next 400 years.  The original was reproduced as The Boke of St Albans, with an introduction by William Blades, in 1881.

A Charm of Goldfinches contains more than 50 animal groups, each with Sewell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and a half-page discussion of how the names came to be.  Sewell lives in Great Britain, so a few of the species listed, such as Lapwings, are not found in North America.

There are some groups that most people are familiar with – a pod of dolphins, a pride of lions, or a murder of crows.  Here are few to test your knowledge:


A shiver of ________.

A _______ of crocodiles.

A parliament of ______.

A ________ of foxes.

A cloud of ________.


To find the answers you’ll have to check out the book!


Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart…

by Candice Smith on February 6th, 2018
Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart… Cover Image

and you’re to blame. Yes, you.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, when we remember and give thanks for two early Christians in Rome, both named Valentine, both martyred for their beliefs. You don’t do that? Maybe you write saccharine poetry to the object of your unrequited love? No? Perhaps you buy a card and some candy, make reservations somewhere fancy or make a nice meal, and use the day to test the waters or reaffirm your love. And all of it–the cards, the candy, the poems, the napkins and candles, the ill-advised matching tattoos–is covered in little red hearts. Why?

It seems obvious, right? The heart is the physical seat of our emotions. It’s the tell-tale organ that gives lie to our calm composure, regardless of whether our heart is bursting with the excitement of love, or breaking under corrected expectations. The heart soars, it plummets, it races along, and it aches, all in time with our lives of love. The heart, as symbol of that love, is the OG emoji. How OG? Read the rest of this entry »

Small Details Make a Difference for eBooks/Audiobooks

by Anne Mangano on February 5th, 2018

Sometimes some small details can make a big difference in how you experience something, especially if it saves time. Here are some small things you can do in Libby, our app for OverDrive eBooks and audiobooks that make reading (or listening) even easier.

Get right to what you want by changing your search preferences

By clicking the plus sign, you can change how your search results are filtered and sorted. See only what is Read the rest of this entry »

The Lunar Trifecta – A Super Blood Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse – where and when to watch

by Maeve Clark on January 30th, 2018

If you are an early morning skywatcher, you are in for a treat tomorrow.   Monday’s Trilobites column by  Nicolas St. Fleur in the New York Times details what will happen during this celestial event – “Lunar eclipses are not uncommon, but the coincidence of Wednesday’s blood moon with other astronomical events is what makes this event special. First, because it is a “blue moon” — that means it is the second full moon to occur in a month. Also, it is a supermoon, meaning it will be closer to the Earth than usual, ” According to Mr. Johnston.  a program executive at NASA””Midwesterners are a tad luckier as they will be able to see more of the event. For them, the moon enters the penumbra at 4:51 a.m. Central Time and starts to turn reddish around 6:15 a.m. Central Time. Between 6:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. local time will be the best chance for anyone living in the Midwest to see the spectacle before the sun rises.”   Johnston has been blogging about the moon for NASA since 2004

The best tip for anyone trying to see the eclipse is to get a clear view of the horizon and look in the west-northwest direction. “The farther west you are, the higher in the west-northwest the moon will appear, the darker the sky will be,” said Mr. Johnston, “and the longer you will be able to view the eclipse before sunrise and moonset.”  NASA will be streaming the lunar event at and has a lot of great information at it including a graphic that shows the cycle of the eclipse. If this post and the upcoming lunar trifecta has piqued your interest in the skywatching, the library has a wealth of books for all ages of readers.  We also have spectacular dvds to aid you in your understanding of the universe.