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I want to see fireworks, can you help? Why, yes I can!

by Maeve Clark on July 3rd, 2015

fireworks21Independence Day is two short days away and one of the best parts of the holiday is fireworks.  Fireworks at home or the neighbor’s house or in a park or campground are not legal, with the exception of sparklers and snakes.  A bill in the Iowa House this past session would have expanded the sale and use of fireworks in the state to include cone fountains, bottle rockets and Roman candles, among others. It passed the House, but did not advance in the Senate.   So you will have to wait until next year if you want to legally explode a cherry bomb or bottle rocket.

For a safe, fun and communal way to view fireworks, your can watch fireworks in Iowa City or a nearby town. On Friday, July 3 you can view them in Kalona: dusk at Shiloh Amphitheater or in  Oxford: dusk at Creekside Park, but the majority of the fireworks take place on July 4.  Here are the locations and times: Coralville: dark at S.T. Morrison Park, Hills: 9:05 p.m. at the Ballpark, Iowa City: 9:30-9:45 p.m. Hubbard Park (next to the University of Iowa Memorial Union), North Liberty: No display planned, but will have a hot air balloon glow at 8:30 p.m. July 11 as part of North Liberty Blues & BBQ and Solon: dusk over Lake McBride.

Have a great Fourth of July and if you do decide to shot off a bottle rocket or two, be safe out there.

The view from above

by Tom Jordan on June 17th, 2015

You might be familiar with the Park@201 building downtown. It’s the new building on the ped mall with the glass exterior. Take a look at the top of building, the southwest and northwest corners in particular, and you will notice two protrusions. No, they are not gargoyles. They are video cameras that provide a giant’s-eye view of Iowa City courtesy of MetaCommunications. Here’s the website:

One camera is pointing north and the other is pointing south. The neat thing is that you can control the cameras. On the lower right part of the camera view, you will see this:  CameraControl



Clicking on the icon to which the green arrow is pointing will give you a fullscreen view. The icon to the right of that will let you control the camera. From there you can choose the camera’s orientation and you can zoom in or out.

Here are views from both cameras:











My favorite view is Ped Mall South. What’s yours?

New Archival Scanner Available

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 16th, 2015
New Archival Scanner Available Cover Image

Sometimes a simple question gets a not-so-simple answer.  The question was “Does the Library have a slide projector?  I found some old slides and I want to see what they are.”  The quick answer was No, the Library no longer has a slide projector.  But we do have a powerful new archival scanner that is equipped to view and scan slides.  It is available to patrons whenever the Library is open, first-come, first-served.

The Epson Expression is a large-format flatbed scanner funded by a generous gift from the Iowa City Noon Host Lions Club.  It can be used to scan photographs or documents up to 12 x 17 inches, and with a simple attachment can be converted to view or scan negatives and slides.  Some basic instructions are available at the Reference Desk, where the slide tray also is stored.

Slide Tray & slide orientationThe scanner software allows you to preview the slides first.  You can then choose to scan some or all of the images.  If you wish to save the scanned images, please bring a flash drive, or you can email the scans to yourself using a web-based email program such as gmail.  Please note:  scanning slides and negatives requires a higher resolution setting than you would use for a photograph, and so takes longer to scan and uses more space on your storage device.

If you want to go beyond simply viewing and begin to preserve and organize your old photos, you will find a book on our new nonfiction shelves most helpful.  How to Archive Family Photos:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally, by Denise May Levenick assumes you are a beginner and starts at the first step, instructing you on what equipment you will need and how to set up a filing system for your digital images.  It also contains advice on what scanning settings to use for different media, tips such as scanning the reverse side of a photo to save what was written about it,  and has workflows for various projects.  It’s an excellent resource if you have been intending to take on that shoebox full of old family pictures.  Or slides.

Tales of a Budding Bicyclist

by Brian Visser on June 11th, 2015

Wanna go for a rideI’ve been commuting to work on my bike for the last three years.  I started because my doctor said that I wasn’t exercising enough.  My grandma has Type 2 diabetes and my dad is pre-diabetic, and my doctor said I was traveling down that same path.  It shook me up enough to do something about it.  Riding my bike to work seemed like a good solution.  I got some exercise, and I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my precious free time.  At first, I was a little anxious to ride on the road.  The Iowa DOT has great resources for bicyclists including safety information for both motorists and bicyclists

Bike Safety

I’ve internalized the safety tips for bicyclists, especially this one–Make eye contact with motorists.
Never assume a motorist sees you or that you have the right-of-way. Expect the unexpected such as: parked vehicles pulling into traffic; vehicle doors opening into your path; and debris on the road

I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, “They see me, right?  Nope, they totally don’t see me.”  Also, motorists, I feel your pain, because you read that “Obey traffic signs and signals” in the bicyclists column and thought, “Yeah, they totally don’t do that.”  I do!  I wish more of my fellow bicyclists did too.

I didn’t expect to like riding my bike so much.  Now I go on longer rides.  I even bought some bike shorts.  Not the super tight spandex kind, but the baggy kind (this Amazon review that said they were like “wearing a fully loaded diaper” is what won me over).   I recently took a ride to North Liberty and back.  Again, the DOT website is great for planning rides like that, because they have an interactive bike map.  I know what you’re thinking, “Brian, I use Google Maps!”  Google Maps is the best, but have you ever used it to plan a bike ride?  It’s awful for that!  If you plug in the ride I just went on, this is the route it tells you to take:

You don't need to know where I live

For some reason it doesn’t want you to use the awesome Clear Creek Trail, which makes for a prettier and safer ride.  That trail is easily found on the DOT map.  Also, Google Maps considers Mormon Trek a “bicycle-friendly road” which is completely bonkers.

I’m going to make an effort to take part in more local bike events and rides. has a good page listing the cycling events in Johnson County, and Bike Iowa has a comprehensive and searchable list of events across the state.  The big one, of course, is RAGBRAI.  I’ve never gone on it before, but this year I’m riding the last day from Coralville to Davenport.  I’m really excited!

Bird names

by Jason Paulios on June 4th, 2015

As an avid birdwatcher my favorite reference questions obviously involve bird identification quandaries.  The other night a patron showed me a photo she’d taken on her smart phone of a group of large dark-colored birds in a field.  I don’t think she was prepared for me to scream “Turkey Vultures!” into her face…but when you show me bird photos that is what sometimes happens.  She had questions about where the name originated and it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually sure but was excited to look for references.  Her enthusiasm was not on the same level, more of a passing interest, so she thanked me and took off before I could overload her with vulture trivia.  My research found the following:

As to the name origins of Turkey Vulture, I found a book called Latin for Bird Lovers by Roger Lederer and Carol Burr which is a casual dictionary of genus and species names for birds.  Inside I found the genus Cathartes (pronounced ka-THAR-teez) defined as : “Greek, katharos, clean, pure, as in purifier or purger, as in Cathartes aura, the Turkey Vulture, which scavenges, thereby clearing away dead animals.”  The species name was also included, Aura (AW-ra), as in “Breeze, air” which would probably describe their habit of drifting along on thermal winds though this is not mentioned specifically in the book.

Another bird name book ICPL offers is 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells.  Here the author has the following to say about Turkey Vulture naming, “North American settlers, who gave them their common name, thought they looked a bit like turkeys [bald heads and dark bodies - my note] and soared like European buzzards.”

So there you have it mystery patron, Turkey Vultures just happen to look like turkeys.

Making Cents of Your Investments (with Databases!)

by Jennifer Eilers on May 20th, 2015

Investing on your own can seem like a daunting task. Creating a portfolio or picking stocks may not be for everyone, but for those that do take an active role in their asset management the library has tools to help you. With the library’s subscription to Value Line and Morningstar*, two of the leading investment tools on the market, you can make informed choices on your investments.

With Value Line you have access to analysis and ratings for over 1,700 widely-followed companies and 1,800 small and mid-cap companies. It provides specialized ratings that help investors know how to evaluate a stock’s performance in relationship to industry indicators. For newer investors, the subscription also offers sample portfolios that can help point you in the right direction presenting a variety of investment strategies.

Morningstar provides access to over 21,000 stocks, 29,000 funds, and 1,758 ETFs, and like Value Line, provides its own set of criteria for analyzing investments. One of the best tools available in Morningstar is the “Xray a Portfolio” tool. Here you can input an actual or hypothetical portfolio and find out how risky it is, in what areas of the market your profolio is exposed, and much more!

Both Value Line and Morningstar offer screener tools. A screener is a stock comparison tool which allows you to choose from a long list of customizable criteria to compare stocks. While each database has its own system for rating investments,  you can check up on your current investments  and get a printable report with current information on the company’s sales, earnings, and other industry indicators.

To learn how to use the Morningstar or Value Line database, click here.

If you would like more information about Morningstar, Value Line or the other databases the library subscribes to, please go to call the library at 356-5200 or speak with a librarian.

* Access to Morningstar is limited. Only  one person can access the database at a time.

**** Please note that only residents of Iowa City or rural Johnson County and the cities of Hills, Lone Tree, and University Heights can access databases from home.


Help, I found a fawn or bunny or robin! What do I do?

by Maeve Clark on May 12th, 2015

Baby-Robins_110422_0563Not only do wild flowers emerge in the spring, but  wild animal young do, too.  We’ve had questions about what to do when someone has found a nest of baby bunnies or a young robin on the ground or even a fawn without a doe nearby.  Our natural inclination to think the young animal has been abandoned, but that may not be the case at all.  Books on animal rescue and rehabilitation as well as websites devoted to wildlife suggest that the first step you take is determining whether the young animal is orphaned, injured or just fine.rescuing wildlife

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted the article Leave Wildlife Babies in the Wild . “If you find an animal baby that appears to be on its own, don’t worry. Generally, one of its parents is nearby, watching. They’re teaching their offspring to be independent, and in the case of danger, some animal parents will take off in order to create a distraction away from their young,” suggests the DNR.

The Humane Society of the United States cautions that “unless the animal appears injured or in distress, there may be no need to rescue them.” They do suggest you follow up if -a cat or dog presents the wild animal to you; there is evidence of bleeding; there is an apparent or obvious broken limb; there is a featherless or nearly featherless bird on the ground or the baby animal is shivering or there is a dead parent nearby.

The next step, according to the DNR is to contact a certified wildlife rehabilitator.  The DNR maintains a list on its website. If you cannot reach a rehabilitator, you should contact your conservation officer or animal control officer.  If you would like to learn more about what an wildlife rehabilitator does, Talk of Iowa, an Iowa Public Radio program, recently hosted several rehabilitators and they shared their stories of helping return the young back into the wild.



Signs of spring: the IC Farmers Market

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on May 5th, 2015

Were you among the hundreds of people to converge downtown Saturday morning for the first Downtown Iowa City Farmers Market of the season? I lost track of the number of people I said hello to, including the Library’s AV Specialist who attended the market with her four-week-old daughter, as I browsed the stalls with a smile on my face.

My breakfast on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Yum!

My breakfast on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Yum!

It’s farmers market season once more.

Growing up in on the other side of the state (shout out to anyone from Webster County!), I had no experience with farmers markets until I moved to Iowa City in mid-1990s. My college roommates and I would visit the market after classes every Wednesday, during which each one of us would purchase something to contribute to our weekly roommate dinner. This is how I learned to cook using ingredients that weren’t prepackaged.

The Library wants to help you make your farmers market experience even better, which is why we created recipe cards promoting two things: ICPL’s cooking resources and the Digital History Project.

Did you know the number of cookbooks in our collection numbers somewhere in the thousands? With that many choices — not to mention our collection of food-related magazines and children’s cookbooks — you are bound to find a recipe to help you utilize the foods you purchase at the farmers market.

For those of you who love local history, we have access to some treasured family recipes thanks to the Digital History Project. Take time to explore what’s available and look through your own collection of photos. You may have something to add!

FarmersMarketLogoYou can find the recipe cards on the Iowa City Farmers Market table. In addition, Library staff will be blogging about their farmers market experiences all summer long. Feel free to share your stories with us!

We’ll see you at the market!



Dig out your photos! Bring your IC-related pics to ScanIt@ICPL–May 9, 2-5 p.m.

by Candice Smith on May 1st, 2015

tbt42315I was digging through some boxes of photos the other day, and found this one that made me especially happy for two reasons. The first is because of the carousel–the Drollinger carousel in City Park. This is one of the rides that is still in the park, but when this picture was taken (I think in 1997 or 1998?) there were other rides that are no longer there. I like to think of all the times I was in the park, all the kids and families enjoying Iowa City’s very own amusement park that used to be just a little bit bigger.

I’m sure there are many of you who have similar items tucked away at home–maybe some photos of picnics or ballgames in the parks around town, or of your kids messing about in the old fountain in the ped mall (that old, wonderful, vaguely dangerous, somewhat evocative fountain), of family outings to the Devonian Fossil Gorge right after it was created. Pictures of the floods, of the tornado’s aftermath, of buildings that used to be downtown, old pictures from school, scenes of neighborhoods and homes from a while back. We want to see them! We’re looking for photos and documents related to the history of Iowa City to scan and add to our Digital History Project, and we’re hoping our patrons and community members can help!

The second reason I was happy to find this photo? Because the two tiny little children in it are turning 22 today–happy birthday, Peter and Rachel!

New Digital Magazine App: Zinio for Libraries

by Melody Dworak on April 27th, 2015


tl;dr If you’ve never tried out our digital magazines, sign up at Zinio Magazine Collection web page and download the Zinio for Libraries app for Android and Apple!

ZinioforLibraries_0The Long Version

In the fall of 2012, the Iowa City Public Library began offering digital magazines through a service called Zinio. Two and a half years later, we have grown to offering more than 150 digital magazine titles. We also now offer a more streamlined experience for signing up as a new user.

The Zinio for Libraries app is a new app that allows you to fill out one simple form after clicking “Create New Account” on our Zinio Magazine Collection web page. Once you fill out this form, you are ready to start browsing and reading on your computer.

For those who are new to Zinio, you can download the Zinio for Libraries app for Apple and Android devices. This new app has fewer distractions than the previous app we were required to use. The Zinio for Libraries app will open straightaway to the magazines you have checked out. It will not show you any content that you have to buy in order to read.

ZinioforLibraries_1New users, please note: When you go to download the app, be sure to choose the Zinio for Libraries app with the white background and dark colored Z. If you see the regular Zinio app with the dark square and Zinio name in white, that is the app that has all that extra commercial content. Your login information will *not* work on the commercial app.

Already Use Zinio? Read the rest of this entry »