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Finding a Family, part 2: From Missouri to Iowa

by Candice Smith on September 17th, 2016

In my last post, I’d found my grandfather Carl in the 1925 census. I also found out that his father and his grandfather were born in Missouri, which came as a surprise to me. For as long as I’d known them, my father’s family of aunts, uncles, and cousins were all in Oelwein, Iowa, and I’d never thought to ask if they’d moved there from somewhere else. Oelwein can kind of seem like a place where, the people who live there, they’ve always just been there and nowhere else. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, just that it’s a small town and community, everyone knows everyone and all their family members, all of their stories, and the stories of their parents and grandparents. They know where everyone works, who built what, who lives where, who everyone’s children got married to, etc. Oelwein is familiar and self-contained.

So, just who were these Missourians that came to Oelwein? Read the rest of this entry »

The Northwest Passage

by Tom Jordan on September 8th, 2016

On August 16, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity departed from Anchorage on a voyage through the Northwest Passage.  The ship is along the west coast of Greenland this week, making stops in Sisimiut and Nuuk, and it will end up in New York City next week.  Here’s the route: NW passage cruise map

The first trip by sea through the Northwest Passage was Roald Amundsen’s 1903-1906 expedition.  Though ships are using this route more in recent years (30 did in 2012), the Crystal Serenity is the first large-scale luxury cruise liner to make the transit.  Ticket prices ranged from $22,000 to $120,000, and the ship is accompanied by the icebreaking R.R.S Ernest Shackleton. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School! Home Schooling Resources

by Jennifer Eilers on September 4th, 2016

file791271781089Last week was my kindergartner’s first full week of school. While my kiddo has only reported back to me about the fun she’s had at recess, her backpack is full of the school work she’s been doing but doesn’t bother mentioning. Since I plan and put together the curriculum for the adult computer classes at the library, I know that crafting an interesting lesson for any learner can be a challenge. I have to applaud not only the teachers who plan out my child’s learning on a daily basis but the parents that choose to home school their kiddos as well. While I know many home school parents have started school already, I thought it might be helpful to mention of few of the library’s resources as well as the resources I’ve run into that may make lesson planning a little easier. Read the rest of this entry »

The most powerful card in the world!

by Maeve Clark on September 2nd, 2016

I’ve had a library card since I was a wee one.  I grew up in Tipton, Iowa and spent hours and hours at the library. My mom was on the library board so I think I even got to go to the library when it was closed.  I can still conjure up the large red leatherette piece of furniture in the children’s section of the library where I was often sprawled reading Dr. Seuss books over and over and over again. library card When I was old enough to read nonfiction books I really started to use my library card.  There was the whole world to explore and those nonfiction books and the World Book Encyclopedia made me an expert on everything, or so I thought.  We had books at home and at school and there was the annual Scholastic paperback book order, but the library had more books, and books for everyone and I had a card, a passport to everywhere.

September marks the American Library Association’s Library Card Sign-Up Month when the Iowa City Public Library and other libraries across the nation encourage everyone to get a library card or to renew a card that has expired.  Libraries want people to use their services and at the core of our services are the books and other materials we lend.  This past April, the Atlantic Monthly, published Is the Library Card Dying? a piece by Sara Polsky that helped me understand that while a library card acted as a passport for me, it served an entirely different function for a library.

“Public libraries, funded by municipal rather than member dollars, began appearing in the northeastern U.S. in the early to mid-19th century. Cards were essential at these libraries, too. The card was the “arbiter of all disputes” when it came to missing books, wrote the St. Louis librarian Frederick M. Crunden, “and since we have had this respected referee there have been but few contested cases.”

Borrower requirements varied by library, and so did the types of library cards issued. At the St. Louis public library, adults received white cards and minors blue ones, and cardholders had to identify themselves as residents, taxpayers, students, or local employees. The cards for minors came with a warning that “only books suitable for young people will be issued on this card.” Adults were allowed second cards, but were not allowed to use them to take out novels. Teachers and members of the clergy could have three cards, with the third for professional use.

Late returns and card losses carried penalties. A St. Louis library user who lost a card circa 1900 had to “pay fivepence and wait a week for another,” Crunden explained. The dual penalty was meant to send cardholders searching harder for their lost cards, but the fine and the waiting period targeted different library users: “Most men will not much mind the fivepence,” Crunden theorized, “but if they find they also have to wait a week, they bethink them that perhaps they can find the card, and they go home and do so. Women and children, on the other hand, are generally willing to wait the week; but when it comes to the fivepence, they conclude it will be cheaper to make further search for the card.” (Crunden’s gender essentialism came with a heavy dose of moralizing. “Rules,” he wrote, “should be so framed and so applied as to make careless people pay the cost of their carelessness.”)

vintage_library_cardLibrary cards are different now and patron confidentiality is respected and enforced. However, when I was little and the Tipton Public Library’s collection wasn’t computerized, each book had a pocket and in each pocket was a card with the name of the person who had borrowed the book before.  I was fascinated with who else wanted the book that I was about to borrow.  Why did my neighbor down the street want to read about dog breeds and why did my teacher’s husband  have an interest in the Easter Islands.  Those days are long gone and it would take a court order to find out who had which book checked out (Iowa Code sections 22.2 and 22.7(13)).  Now if you are interested in who has read a book you liked, Goodreads will help, but you will just have to speculate on who in Iowa City might have also opened the pages of a book you just finished.

If you are reading this post, you are probably already a library card holder, library_card_icplbut I bet you have friends or neighbors who might not realize that a card is free and waiting for everyone at the Iowa City Public Library.    And if you’d like to see an enormous collection of library cards of all types, retired librarian Larry Nix keeps a fascinating website.

Dig In to the issue using ICPL databases

by Brent Palmer on September 1st, 2016

The group of Iowans demonstrating against the Bakken oil pipeline are putting up a last-ditch effort (sorry, couldn’t resist) with their non-violent protest.  But I have a feeling the only real chance they have of stopping the construction relies on their challenge of the state’s use of eminent domain to obtain land for it.  I wanted to dig into this issue  (I can’t stop) of eminent domain a bit more.  All I really knew is that property owners are entitled to “just compensation” and that the property should be for public use.   I was curious how the utilities board can use eminent domain for a pipeline that doesn’t seem to have any direct benefit to the people of Iowa other than some temporary jobs and future tax revenue. Read the rest of this entry »

Digging in to Consumer Reports online

by Melody Dworak on August 29th, 2016

Consumer Reports LogoLast year, Candice introduced the library blog-reading public to our new online subscription to the Consumer Reports website. Today I’m going to call out some special features that have helped me recently in my search to replace my workhorse of a vacuum cleaner. We’ve had our little bagless Hoover for eight years before I did something stupid and tried to suck up silver maple helicopters with an indoor vac. Now it’s time for me to find its replacement.

First things first, if you’ve never used our access to the Consumer Reports website, you will want to know how to get there. You need to live in Iowa City or one of our contracting services areas, and have a library card number and password. Check, check, and check? Do this next: Read the rest of this entry »

Calling all artists: Get your Art Purchase Prize entries in!

by Candice Smith on August 26th, 2016

Recovering_AnnaThere is still time to get your art entered into this year’s Art Purchase Prize contest! Maybe you need a little help coming up with something to submit? Let us help!

We’ve picked a theme for this year — New Covers for Old Classics. Pick a book that is in the public domain, and use your creativity and imagination to design a cover for it. The idea for this comes from Recovering the Classics, a national campaign to give classic, important works of literature new and inspiring covers. When a title becomes part of the public domain, anyone can publish it; often times, very little time or thought is spent on what the book’s cover looks like. Recovering the Classics wants to change that. If this sounds like something you can get behind, please think about creating a new cover and submitting for the contest.

Who can enter the contest? Artists over 18 who live, work, or exhibit in the area. For this special, themed contest, we’re also letting previous winners submit entries. Get all of the details here.

If you don’t meet the criteria for the Purchase Prize, but are still interested in creating a cover, you can submit your work for ICPL’s Recovering the Classics exhibit, open to everyone.

All covers will be on display during the Iowa City Book Festival, October 4-9, and for several weeks afterwards.

If you have questions about the Purchase Prize or the exhibit, please contact Candice Smith at candice-smith@icpl.org

You Can’t Touch This!

by Mary Estle-Smith on August 22nd, 2016
wild parsnip

Wild Parsnip

Poison_Ivy_in_Perrot_State_Park

Poison Ivy

poison_oak_220x146

Poison Oak

Even though summer is on its way out, it is still more than possible to contract one or more of the lovely weed rashes that make outdoor activities a little more memorable.

Pictured are three of the most prevalent varieties of poison plant life in our area.  All three have apparently had a very good year.

I am well acquainted with poison oak and ivy but the wild parsnip was a new one for me.

Poison ivy and oak transfer to skin and clothing via an oil called urushiol from their leaves, causing the familiar itchy, weepy, red rash that can last a couple of weeks.

Wild parsnip contains psoralen that when touched and then exposed to sunlight can cause a condition called phytophotodermatitis.  This is hypersensitivity to sunlight and can lead to severe sunburn, a rash, blisters, and burning and scalding pain.  Dark red or brownish skin discoloration appears where the burn or blisters first formed, and can last for several months.

bad plantsIf you want to know more about what to avoid touching (and eating) while you are enjoying the outdoors, check out this book and others in that area of the collection

Know your poisonous plants

Art to Go!

by Heidi Lauritzen on August 19th, 2016

Art on the wallOne of the Library’s more unusual collections is our circulating art.  Most pieces are framed prints, but a substantial number are original artworks by local artists and include photographs, mixed media, screen prints, watercolors, and oil paintings.

It is a great time to pick out a piece of art to take home–the selection is always a little better during the summer when the University population shrinks.  But that won’t last long now, with students coming back and classes set to begin next week.  We have about 400 pieces to choose from.  Browsing what is available is the easiest way to find what you want, but you can also see images of our original art in the catalog and place a hold for something you like.  Just look up “Art Purchase Prize Collection” and click on the link to “View art work in this collection”.

The loan period for art prints is eight weeks, and each borrower is limited to two at a time.  The collection is located on the first floor, between the Fiction books and the children’s room.  We display as many as we can on the walls there, but many are stacked in the bins as well. Art in a bin

The original art collection has been built up over the years thanks to gift funds.  There is an annual competition from which the Library’s Art Advisory Committee selects and purchases several works to add to our collection.  This year’s competition is a little different, with the theme of “New Covers For Old Classics” (see more information here.)  But hurry–deadline for entries is September 2, 2016.

In the meanwhile, enjoy our remarkable art collection.  I always have two checked out, and these are my current favorites:  “Apples #4” by Yvette Jury, and “In Carol’s Garden” by Susan Coleman.

apples4In carol's garden

Dottie Ray – An Iowa City Legend

by Maeve Clark on August 13th, 2016

Dottie Ray, an Iowa City legend, passed away on Tuesday, August 6. I feel so fortunate that I was able to be her guest on the Dottie Ray Show with Jen Jordan, the recycling coordinator for the City of Iowa City, to talk about an ECO Iowa City, an 18-month initiative to create a greener Iowa City.  Dottie so liked the idea of the environmental partnership between the library and recycling center that she let Jen and me be her guests on a monthly basis.  (She told us to keep  quiet that we were booked each month because one of her goals was to keep the Dottie Ray Show fresh and new. Jen and I were so thrilled that we had her wide audience that we never told anyone about our special treatment.)

Dottie’s career in journalism spanned more than seven decades, beginning while she was a high school student in Eagle Grove, Iowa, working on the student newspaper and the yearbook.  At 17 she began her first job in Iowa journalism working Saturdays at the Eagle Grove Eagle.   After completing two years of junior college Dottie, (Dorothy) Klein transferreDottie Ray Pictorial Historyd to the University of Iowa in 1942 as a junior.  She joined the Daily Iowan staff, writing obituaries.  She also worked for Wilbur Schram, head of the journalism school, typing articles he submitted to the Saturday Evening Post. Schram encouraged her to apply to be the editor of the Daily Iowan.  She followed his advice and was in the running against two other finalists for the editor-in-chief position, both men. When she was selected as editor, many were surprised, and when she hired an all-female staff, the reaction was even greater. In fact, her decision to lead an all woman staff, made state-wide news. John Gerber, in his book on the history of the University of Iowa, “A Pictoral History of the University of Iowa”, included a photograph of Dorothy Klein and her all-woman staff, in a chapter on campus changes from 1934-1964.


Dottie Ray’s career in broadcast journalism began at WSUI, (now part of Iowa Public Radio), with a show aimed at women.  In a 2013 interview in Emily Busse’s series on Iowa Women in Journalism Dottie Ray recounts her history with KXIC.  “Gene Clausen convinced her to come on their radio station at KXIC, stationed above what is now Pancheros at the corner of Clinton and Washington streets.  Every Saturday, Ray became “President Alice” for half an hour. Any child who had their birthday the week before or the week after could attend the “birthday party on the radio” with cupcakes from the local bakery and chocolate milk from the dairy. For two years, she “just played and talked and had fun” with kids on air. After a couple years, Clausen had an idea for a new show, The Dottie Ray Show. To accommodate her needs, they put together a studio in Ray’s own living room. Every day for about 40 years, Ray came on the air at 11:45. Women at home sat down for lunch and listened to Ray’s show, followed by news. Ray recalls how a mother once wrote her explaining that the habit of listening to the show had become so routine, that when the music that precedes The Dottie Ray show came on in the afternoon randomly, her four year old ran to get the peanut butter out for lunch.

dottie rayAfter about 40 years, she said, “women went back to work and homes were empty.” People began listening to radio outside the home — in the car or at work — and Ray decided it was time to end her show. But the station, now owned by Clear Channel, didn’t want to lose her show. “They said, ‘No, no no. What about doing it in the morning?’” she said. So the show moved to 8:45 a.m. “I thought, ‘That’s OK. I can get it out of the way and it will be a graceful way to bow out because you’ll lose all your listeners,’” she said. “And just the opposite happened. We moved it and now people are in cars going to work or yoga or whatever.”

The Dottie Ray Show ended in 2014.  From the round table in her apartment she interviewed more than 32,000 guests.  Each guest was greeted by Dottie with the offer of a cup of coffee and a request to pull up a chair.  Dottie’s program was community journalism at its best.  She helped to share the story of Iowa City and Johnson County and promote many many worthy causes. Every Monday through Friday, for more than five decades, Dottie Rays shared with the KXIC  audience what was happening in their community.

Dottie Ray was, of course, more than her radio program.  When I shared with Patty McCarthy, Development Director at the Iowa City Public Library, that I was going to write a blog post on Dottie, she said Dottie was not only a great friend and supporter of the Library, but that in 1982 she and Ann Feddersen were the first co-Presidents of the newly created Friends of the Iowa City Public Library organization.  Dottie contributed to a multitude of community organizations and promoted initiatives for the betterment of the community.  If you would like to learn more about this amazing woman’s life, watch another remarkable Iowa radio broadcaster, Ellen Buchanan, interview Dottie in a 1990 interview that is part of  Tell Me Your Story.  This past June, a documentary of Dottie’s life, Staying Tuned: The Dottie Ray Story, premiered at the Coralville Center for the Preforming Arts.  The Documentary was produced with private funding including grants from the Iowa Arts Council, Humanities Iowa, and the Community Foundation of Johnson County. A copy of the documentary will be available later this year.




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