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What’s it called when you see rain in the distance?

by Melody Dworak on June 25th, 2014

The other day a patron asked what the meteorological term for when you see rain falling in the distance. He said had a bet with a friend, and as I am more than happy to use information-seeking skills to stack the odds, I started searching. It turns out, as I learned, the term he was looking for was “virga.”

According to the National Weather Service, virga is actually “Precipitation falling from the base of a cloud and evaporating before it reaches the ground.” It’s common enough of a phenomenon that I could picture it when he asked, but if you don’t know what that looks like, check out this image from Wikipedia. 


Thanks to Simon Eugster for the wiki pic!


Scanning help

by Jason Paulios on June 21st, 2014

scanToday a patron needed to quickly scan his paper-based homework in order to turn it into his teacher electronically as a PDF.  We have a number of flat tabletop scanners for use with the public Internet PCs but his homework included drawings that were done in pencil.  Often you can change the DPI to their highest settings and it will pick up the lines but this time it just wasn’t working.

The patron came up with the idea of taking a photo of the homework but preferred a PDF format. I used my cell phone to download a free PDF scanner app called “PDF Document Scanner” (there are many others but this one was free and didn’t watermark the image).  I took scans of each of his pages, cropped out the background tabletop and compiled them into a multi-page PDF.  I emailed the files to him and he was able to open them on his iPhone to verify that they would work as submissions.



10 FREE Travel Apps for Summer Adventurers

by Jennifer Eilers on June 19th, 2014
photo by Fiddlerjan downloaded from

by Fiddlerjan downloaded from

Whether you are staying close to home or traveling to far off places, apps for your Smartphone or tablet can make traveling a little more relaxing. Downloading one or a few of these apps before disembarking is as essential as packing sunscreen. There are many travel apps to choose from some help you find the best restaurant while another finds the exchange rate to calculate a purchase.  Below is a list of ten apps that will help you with your future travels, each of the apps listed below are free and work on Android and Apple devices.


City Maps 2 Go

City Maps 2 Go offers street maps of over 7,500 cities internationally to download and use offline. Travelers can find where they are located on the map while being offline and without racking up roaming charges. They can also get detailed travel content, insider tips, popular attractions and user reviews all offline.


GasBuddy helps you locate gas stations near you and see the station’s current prices. Prices and station locations are plotted and updated by other app users though the app’s interface. Users that plot stations or update prices receive points for a prize giveaway. The app currently plots stations and prices in the United States and Canada.


GateGuru sends you updates to your flight itinerary on your day-of-travel listing security wait times, flights delays, gate changes or layover time adjustments. It also provides you with information about the airports listed in your itinerary such as amenity information, maps, weather forecasts, and many other airport tips. View user ratings for all of the services offered at a particular airport or limit ratings using terminals listed on your itinerary.


Postagram creates postcards from photos you’ve taken or shared through Instagram, Facebook or your mobile device. You can write a 140 character message to send along with your photo. After composing your postcard, you can opt to send it for 99 cents to anywhere in the U.S. or $1.99 to send it internationally.


TravelSmart provides emergency numbers for the police, fire department, and ambulance by destination throughout the world. It contains a drug dictionary with international translations in multiple languages if you forgot your medication or need to purchase some. It has translated first aid terms into multiple languages and has a comprehensive list of reputable hospitals by country in the Allianz healthcare network.


TripIt organizes your travel plans into one itinerary that has all of your trip details in one place. TripIt captures your itinerary data from online confirmation emails or you can build it by hand. Everything from your air, car, and hotel reservations to dining and activity plans can be accessed whenever you are online. Your master itinerary can also be shared with friends, family, and coworkers to help them connect with you while you are away.


UrbanSpoon gives you ratings and pricing for over a million restaurants. Reviews for restaurants are a mixture of consumers and food critics. You can find restaurants based on your locality and filter your results by cuisine type and price. Phone numbers, addresses, menus and reservations information are easily accessible through the app.


Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app. Other drivers in the area you are traveling provide real-time traffic and road information alerting you to police, accidents, road hazards and traffic jams. Updates to road closures and construction are provided with new routes suggestions.

Wifi Finder

Wifi Finder finds the nearest free or pay-for Wi-Fi connection when you travel. Locations can be downloaded to use offline when you do not have an internet connection. Filter locations by hot-spot provider (Comcast/Mediacom) or by location type (restaurant, café, hotel). The phone number and directions to the WiFi connection are also provided.

XE Currency

XE Currency accesses live exchange rates to help you calculate prices on your mobile device. The app also stores the last updated rate so you can still get a relatively reliable calculation for how far your money can go. You can view historical exchange charts and track up to ten currencies at once.

And what vacation is complete without a little reading? Download the Zinio and Overdrive apps to your device to access the library’s collection of e-books, e-audiobooks, and e-magazines for free! They are another travel staple you should not leave home without.

Aviatrixes and the Iowa City Airport

by Maeve Clark on June 17th, 2014

Today and tameliaomorrow, the Iowa City Municipal Airport will be a stop on the Air Race Classic race from Concord, California, to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.  More than 100 pilots on 52 teams of compete in the all-female air race.  The Air Race Classic began in 1977 and is the longest-running air race for women pilots. It follows in the tradition of the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, which began in 1947, and the Women’s Air Derby, which began in 1929 because women pilots were barred from entering air races at that time. Iowa City was to be a stop in 2011 but bad weather forced the race to be rerouted. Amelia Earhart competed in that 1929 race along with 19 other women.  I wonder how many of the pilots racing today had idolized Amelia Earhart as little girls. I know she was part of my fantasy life as a child.

The Iowa City Public Library has photographs of the Iowa City Municipal Airport dating back to 1922 in its Digital History Project .  I looked through them hoping to find of a photograph of Amelia Earhart as I had read that she had flown into Iowa City. I couldn’t find her ever landing at the airport, but I did find that she had lectured at the University of Iowa on March 31, 1936.  On April 1, 1936 The Daily Iowan reported on her speech – Her name is Amelia Earhart and not Mrs. Putnam, Amelia Earhart Putnam told newspapermen last night. Addressed as Mrs. Putnam, the woman flier smiling requested, “Call me Miss Earhart please.” “I am still Miss Earhart professionally,” she said, ” an my husband himself has never introduced me as Mr.s Putnam.”

The lecture was at the Iowa Memorial Union and more than 1, 800 attended.   waacHow many women who heard Amelia Earhart that night went on to get a pilot’s license and how many of them flew in the Women’s Army Air Corp (WAAC) in World War II.  Do you have a story of early Iowa City aviation or aviatrix history? The Iowa City Public Library would love to learn about it.

Old State of Iowa Transportation Maps

by Brian Visser on June 12th, 2014


Last week, a patron asked if we had old Iowa road maps.  Specifically, one from 1957.  I wasn’t sure.  So, I did what I usually do, and did a quick search online.  Luckily, the State Library of Iowa has PDFs available online of  Iowa Transportation Maps going back to 1952.  I thought it was cool to go back and look at how much the roads have changed.  You can check them out here:

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)