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Roadside plants in Iowa

by Beth Fisher on June 9th, 2014

iowa roadways3If you’ve ever taken a roadtrip, you know there are all sorts of things to see when cruising down the roads of Iowa. Big cities and small towns; railroads, bridges and barns; modern buildings or historic architecture; fields of corn, soybeans or hay; and trees, grasses and wildflowers.

It might surprise you to know that many of the trees, grasses and wildflowers you see in and along the roadsides of Iowa were planted by the Iowa D.O.T.   Iowa’s Living Roadways, a small spiral bound book produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation is a guide to the various landscape designs and planting styles used to maintain the roadways of Iowa.

The guide includes photographs and plant profiles of  41 species of wildflowers and grasses- from Canadian Anemone, Blackeyed Susan, Spiderwort and Vervain;  33 species of trees -  including, 10 species of Crabapples,  five species of Maples and 4 species of Oak; and 16 types of shrubs – from Chokeberries, to Dogwood and Fragrant Sumac.    Each plant profile includes a color photograph, a description, bloom times, trivia, and possible habitats or locations.

The end of the book has a glossary, references and bibliography, and  a fun 8-page section called Amazing Plant Facts.  (Did you know that Oak tress do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old?)     You can find a copy of this book in either the Circulating or Iowa Reference Collections at 582.13/Iowa’s


Lesson Learned

by Todd Brown on June 2nd, 2014

Did you know that you can take college level classes from universities around the world for free?! Lifehacker University

This past Spring I read an article on Lifehacker which listed many free online classes. I was like a kid in a candy store. I signed up for multiple classes since the dates they were being offered were staggered. I signed up for  project management, Plato, programming adroid mobile devices, music production and maybe a few more.  Unfortunately, I attempted to take too many and as a result ended up not completing any of them. I learned my lesson and am now retaking the music production class and nothing else.

All of the classes I tried were free (unless you wanted a certificate of completion). They involved videos, readings, quizzes and some form of assignments. They generally ran for 4-8 weeks. There was also some form of community which allowed students to discuss the coursework and collaborate on some projects.

There are a lot of places to sign up for classes. I have used FutureLearn, Coursera, Udacity, Open2Study and Play With Your Music. At Class Central you can search for a topic at multiple online schools. It is really amazing how many classes are available out there and the range of topics that they cover. Go take a look at some of these sites and I bet you will find something that you are curious to learn more about.

While writing this post and looking at the sites again I have found several more classes that I want to take. Maybe I didn’t really learn my lesson.

Preferred Searches

by Morgan Reeves on May 23rd, 2014

You are able to save a search term (and accompanying limits) to bring up again later. This will not save the individual results, but the search criteria. It is a good way to see what is new from your favorite author or in a interesting subject. You can save multiple searches, so it can be a small time saver to just click down through your favorite searches instead of keying in each individually.

Two Catalogs

You might not know that there are two different catalog options, Catalog Pro and Catalog Classic. You can access both from the library’s catalog search page. The Catalog Pro tab is circled in blue. The Catalog Classic tabs are circled in orange.


Saving Your Preferred Searches

You can only save searches while logged in on Catalog  Classic. The option to save only appears while logged in. Once logged in, the “Save as preferred search” button will appear next to the “Search” button on your results page


Use the “Limit” button to limit your search by different material formats or different collections. Clicking the “Save as preferred search” button will save the search term and any limits you have added to the search.

Managing Your Preferred Searches

You can view and manage your lists in both Catalog Classic and Catalog Pro. When you are logged in, click on your name in the top right hand corner in Catalog Pro. In Catalog Classic, use the “View Your Account” located on the top of the page.

Catalog Pro


Catalog Classic



On your account page in both Catalog Classic and Catalog Pro, you will then select the “Preferred Searches” option. Here you can remove individual searches by checking the appropriate boxes under “Mark to remove” and clicking “Update List” You can also check the “Mark for email” box to receive an email when new items matching your search are added to the library’s collection.

Catalog Classic


Catalog Pro


Clicking on the “Search” link next to each saved search will perform the search in Catalog Classic, even if you are connecting via Catalog Pro..

That’s all for Preferred Searches.

How old is your house?

by Anne Mangano on May 19th, 2014

Have you ever thought your house was older than the date listed on your property report? Find it odd that many property reports list 1900 as the year built? Perhaps everyone in Iowa City had house-building fever at the beginning of the 20th century, but the more likely reason is that this date was the generic date used for anything built around 1900 when the files were moved to an electronic version. (There are other theories on these dates and if you have one, please let us know.) If you need a better estimate than “old,” there are a few resources you can turn to at the Iowa City Public Library and online.

City Directories

Melody discussed one of them, city directories, in a recent blog post. You can look up by address and trace your house that way. They offer interesting information about who lived there as well as employment.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Following the Civil War, the Sanborn Company started drawing detailed maps of buildings in urban areas to indicate Sanbornfire hazards. The bonus, unintended consequence is that we have a great resource in observing cities develop, as well as changes to a specific property. They are available for over 12,000 locations throughout the United States, including Iowa City. On microfilm, ICPL has Iowa City maps for the years 1883, 1888, 1892, 1899, 1906, 1912, 1920, 1926, and 1933. Iowa City is about halfway through each reel. The image to the right is from the 1892 map of the corner of Market and Gilbert (the current block of John’s Grocery). The old high school is in the bottom right corner, where a parking garage for Mercy is currently located. (Our new microfilm reader allows you to crop and edit images, as well as print, email, or save your information.)

Johnson County GIS Property Information Viewer

If your house was built between 1930 and the present, you can view aerial maps of your property on the Johnson County GIS Property Information Viewer website. Some images are clearer than others (the image below is from the 1960′s and is clear enough), but it is interesting to see how your house, as well as the property around it has changed. It also allows you to layer attributes to the map, including elevations, flood hazards, and zoning.


Happy searching!

For all you horse folks out there

by Mary Estle-Smith on May 17th, 2014

If you are reading any current news in the horse event industry, you are probably aware of several events around the Midwest being cancelled due to cases of EHV-1 diagnosed in Minnesota as well as one in Iowa.

Information about this virus from Iowa State University is as follows:  Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) by Dr. Peggy Auwerda and Dr. Rozann Stay (Iowa Equine Veterinary Care)

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) has confirmed a single case of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) causing neurological signs in the state of Iowa. The horse was shipped to a farm in Minnesota, where it spent a day prior to returning home. The horse is under a self imposed quarantine by the facility’s owners in Marion. The remaining positive cases have been in horses located in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. At least 3 of the horses have been euthanized.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) is a contagious equine virus that is most commonly known to cause abortion and can also cause respiratory disease, as well neurologic disease. The neurological form also known as Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) involves the brain stem and results in nervous system dysfunction such as incoordination, stumbling, appearing “drunk,” urine dribbling, inability to stand, etc. The virus is spread through contact with facial secretions that contain the virus such as snot and saliva. This includes being near a horse that is coughing or sneezing, direct horse-to-horse contact, contact with contaminated feed, equipment, tack, and people’s hands and clothing.

Once a horse is infected it can become a carrier of the virus. During times of stress, the virus can emerge and the horse may begin shedding. The incubation period is variable ranging from 24 hours to 2 weeks. Typically disease begins with a fever with other signs ensuing in the following days including abortion, respiratory disease, or neurological signs. Shedding by the respiratory route typically lasts for 7-10 days and veterinarians recommend quarantine for a period of 14 to 28 days after resolution of clinical signs to be sure.

If a horse contracts the neurologic form, treatment is directed at supportive care. Horses will be managed according to their individual signs. The current strain circulating in the mid-west region is NOT the neuropathic strain that has been reported in previous years. The strain in this region is a wild-type herpes and while there is not a specific vaccine against this specific strain,
there is some antigenic similarity to the vaccine strain. It is recommended that horses who will be coming in contact with other horses during the year receive at least one dose of EHV4-1 vaccine two weeks prior to travel. An additional safeguard may be an intranasal flu vaccine. Recent information has suggested that while the vaccine is for flu specifically, it induces general mucosal immunity as well.

Best Practices for Exhibitors:

  • Vaccinate with one dose of EHV4-1 two weeks prior to travel
  • Recommend an intranasal flu vaccine in addition
  • Practice good biosecurity
  • Don’t share tack
  • Clean/Disinfect horse trailer if transporting other horses than your own (1:10 bleach:water solution)
  • Provide appropriate feed, water and shelter to minimize stress
  • Quarantine and monitor temperature of new horses for at least 14 days before introducing them to other horses in your herd
  • Contact your veterinarian if you see any neurologic signs

The virus is spread through contact with facial secretions that contain the virus (i.e. snot, saliva), which would include a horse that is coughing or sneezing, direct horse-to-horse contact, contact with contaminated feed, equipment, tack, and people’s hands and clothing.

We came up with the following list of additional measures which may help minimize risk for those who haul to shows, rides, clinics, etc.

1.  Avoid nose-to-nose contact with any other horses.

2.  Take your own buckets, grooming supplies, etc.  Do NOT allow your horse to drink from a communal tank or another horse’s water bucket.

3. Do not tie to anyone else’s trailer.

4. If you touch another horse, especially around the face/nose area clean your hands with sanitizer or soap & water before you touch your horse or any of your tack.

If cautionary measures are observed we should all be able to have a fun and safe summer enjoying events with our horses and our friends.

Additional Online Resources:

A good site to calculate the biosecurity on your farm:

Center for Food Security and Public Health

Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) Myeloencephalopathy-A Guide To Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection (link to the online brochure)

Who was Klondike Bill?

by Maeve Clark on May 17th, 2014

The Iowa City Puklondike bill3blic Library just added a fantastic new collection to the Digital History Project. Post Cards from Early Iowa City is a collection of 94 postcards from Bob Hibbs, one of Iowa City’s citizen historians.  One of my favorite postcards from the collection is from 1910 and is of Klondike Bill and his team of eight dogs and a cart in front of the Pentacrest.  Why was Klondike Bill in Iowa City with a team of dogs and where were they going?

I immediately googled Klondike Bill and found several of the Iowa City cards for sale on eBay, one for $99.  The next hit was to a book by Iowa City author, Lyell Henry,  Was This Heaven: A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcard. Henry writes that “When Klondike Bill, a colorful transcontinental itinerant, and his dog team reached Iowa City, a photographer snapped them standing next to the University of Iowa campus.”  Well that was a start.  I continued my search and found other postcards of Klondike Bill in other cities.  One in Ortonville, Minnesota and another at the McKinley Monument in Colorado and another in Sioux Falls, South Dakota all with his team of dogs and a cart.

The next step of my search tklondike bill 2ook me to newspapers of that time period.  There were many stories of Klondike Bill passing through towns on his way east, but few with specifics.  One article in the Escanaba Daily Press from January 12, 1912 in what must have been a wire story, tells of Klondike Bill arriving in Chicago on January 11, 1912 “with a combination of wagon and sleigh and seven dogs traveling from Nome, Alaska to Washington, D.C., on a wager… “Klondike Bill” refused to tell much of his trip, but said he would win considerable money if he reached the capital by a certain date, and added that he was several days ahead of his schedule.  Another article from the El Paso Herald  from January 26, 1912 sheds more light on Klondike Bill.  We  see Klondike Bill with what looks to be a very unhappy dog and learn that his name was William Buchanan and that the wager was for $100,000.00, a mighty sum for 1912. Also included is a photograph of his possible fiance, Miss Rose Maegerin.

But there the trail grew cold, at least for now.

Who is Curtis Bridge?

by Candice Smith on May 10th, 2014

curtis About a year ago, a patron came to the Reference Desk and asked me to help him find a      picture of Curtis Bridge. “Who’s Curtis Bridge?” I asked. As it turns out, it’s not a who, but a what. A bridge! A bridge that gave its name to the road on either side of it, which was the road that this man’s family home was located on. His mother had just sold the home, and he was back in town to move her to another state to live near him and his wife, and he wanted to find a picture of the bridge to take with him as a reminder of where he’d grown up, of where his parents had both grown up.

Where is it located?” I asked him. Nowhere. It doesn’t exist anymore. He didn’t even know what it looked like, but his mother remembered it, and he remembered his parents talking about it when he was growing up. About driving across it. About walking on it. About cars crashing on it and off of it. About people fishing from it. Now it’s gone. He’d always wondered about it, growing up on a road named after a bridge, when there is no bridge. He wanted a picture of the thing that represented that wonder, and of what created those memories for his parents.

We did find a picture that night, and he left a happy patron and was sure his mother would love it. Question answered, right? For him, yes. For me, no. I was hooked on finding out whatever I could about Curtis Bridge. An old highway (in the early 1900s, really just a dirt track), a river, towns on either side of the river, and a bridge that links them…that’s the story of growing community in early 20th century Iowa. Now the bridge and highway (and a town!) are gone–although there are remnants!–and that’s the start of an odd fascination.

One of the tools I discovered while researching Curtis Bridge is a magnificent thing called the Johnson County Property Information Viewer. Look up an address or area, and you can see aerial photographs of it from different years. A very cool resource that you can use to visualize lots of things….what your neighborhood looked like in years past, the growth of roads into different areas, the changing structure of downtown, or how a bridge was there and then not there.

If anyone has their own pictures of Curtis Bridge, or the area around there, we’d love to have you bring them in to our next Scanning Day at the Library; we’re focusing specifically on photos of Iowa City and Johnson County, and we want to add them to our Digital History Project website. Got old photos of the area? Bring ‘em in! May 28, 5-8 pm, Meeting Room A.

Searching for the right language

by Tom Jordan on May 1st, 2014

A patron wanted help finding books and articles to use for writing her paper.  The topic, she told me, was to be about young adults living with their parents and how this was a good thing.  What terms were we to use for the search?  “Parents of adult children,” I thought, and I used it as a subject search.  No, that wasn’t the right language.  As a keyword search, it brought up quite a bit.  We scanned through the titles and subtitles of the results list, and I realized we’d have to dig a little to find support for her point of view.  Phrases like “When will my grown-up kid grow up?” and “a revealing look at why so many of our children are failing on their own” were notable.

Some of the titles in the list, like Boomerang kids and The accordion family, looked promising.  So we took a closer look at the records for these two.  Both had “Parent and adult child” as a subject heading.  A subject search with this term brought up a decent looking list and two related subjects.  One of the two subjects was “Sandwich generation.”  The other one, “Adult children living with parents” looked like a winner.  However, ICPL had only one book with this subject heading.

We turned to Ebscohost, one of the Library’s online resources which provides access to magazine and journal articles.  There, “Adult children living with parents” as a subject search yielded a nice looking list of full text articles for her to use.

Stump the Librarians Day: Sabin Elementary School

by Beth Fisher on April 24th, 2014

sabin2Today we received a call at the Reference Desk from a patron that has us stumped.   The patron asked for information about a time capsule they believe had been placed in the former Henry Sabin Elementary School building at 500 South Dubuque Street here in Iowa City.  The building was built 1917, but the patron didn’t know when the time capsule would have been placed.

Unfortunately, after searching a variety of online and print resources like the Newspaper Archives and the Irving Weber’s Iowa City volumes, and even calling the ICCSD, we’re at a loss.  We couldn’t find even a hint of information about a time capsule.  So now we’re looking for help.   Does this sound familiar to you?  Did you attend Sabin Elementary?  Have you heard stories about a time capsule being buried there?   Any information you can provide would be a great help.

In general, Librarians are a curious bunch, and we really hate being stumped.   And now we all want to know the answer too!

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” and 44 other phrases from Shakespeare

by Maeve Clark on April 23rd, 2014

Happy 450bill, William Shakespeare! BBC America posted 45 everyday phrases either coined or popularized by  William Shakespeare and then challenged readers to work five of the phrases into conversation today. I think I can easily use 10 if not more, how about you?  In the not too distant past – researchers, students and readers of Shakespeare as well as reference librarians relied upon a concordance of Shakespeare’s dramatic works or poems to find which play or sonnet contained a word or phrase.  While in our “brave new world” (The Tempest) Google makes finding quotes a snap, the library still retains a number of books on phrases, idioms and figures of speech in the Reference Collection. Titles such as A Hog on Ice and other Curious Expressions and Loanwords dictionary : a lexicon of more than 6,500 words and phrases encountered in English contexts show evidence of much use back when finding that special turn of phrase required using print resources.

Every summer I so look forward to Riverside Theatre in the Park’s  presentation of at least one of Shakespeare’s plays.  The venue is marvelous, (especially when it hasn’t been flooded out), the costuming and the sets are splendid, but for me what is best of all is the beauty of the language.  I could, as Shakespeare so aptly put, listen “forever and a day” (As You Like It).  If you would like to whet your appetite for Shakespeare this summer you will not want to miss, Theatre in the Park: Othello with Miriam Gilbert, on Thursday night, May 8 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A.