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Help with Travel Resources

by Heidi Lauritzen on March 25th, 2015
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Although there’s only one week left to browse the Travel Resources display on the second floor, staff at the Reference Desk can always help you find materials to plan your next happy escape.

The display kiosk has a few representative titles, usually specific to a country or city, from the various guidebook series we carry such as Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Eyewitness, and Fodors.  But when you are not sure where you want to go, there are many general works that can provide some inspiration.  At the moment, the display has books on traveling with children, the best beaches, literary landmarks, adventure travel, and the fun of finding back roads to reach your destination.

An intriguing title that I had to take home is 100 Places You Will Never Visit:  The World’s Most Secret Locations by Daniel Smith.  Each place is described in just a few pages, often with drawings, maps or a photo or two.  There are businesses (Google Data Center, Coca-Cola recipe vault), military sites (Guantanamo Bay Detention Center; Korean Demilitarized Zone), and other interesting places such as Air Force One, Vatican Secret Archives, Swiss Fort Knox and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Even though you will probably never go to any of these locations, it is interesting to know a little bit more about them.

Once you have picked out a place to go—one that is not in a top-secret, off-limits location—staff can help you find materials about your destination.   Our collections of architecture, history, cooking, art, and landscape gardening books and DVDs are great supplements to the factual information in the guidebooks.

Erin go Braugh

by Maeve Clark on March 17th, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! In searching out where the Irish and their descendents live in the United States I came across a good number of maps. The first I found was from an article in Forbes listing the cities in the United States with highest density of Irish.  Boston was the highest with 20.4%.  More fun facts about the Irish diaspora is that Irish-Americans are at least 5% of the popirish Nationals2ulation in most counties across the U.S., and 10% or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country. At the other extreme, Miami is just 1% Irish.  What I really wanted was a map that would allow a user to click on a county and see what percentage of the population is of Irish ancestry. I got close with a map posted today by the US Census that showed Irish in the United States using figures from 2009 to 2013.   The Census map is pretty but it didn’t allow me to drill down as far as I wanted.

I found an interactive map, Measuring the U.S. Melting Pot, that offered me a means of comparing the ethnicity of various populations in the United States.  You can compare the number of Swedes to Norwegians in Minnesota, the number of Irish to Italians in New York City, the Irish to the Germans in Iowa.  Another map of interest is, Mapping the Emerald Isle: a geo-genealogy of cartogram irishIrish surnames, where you can search a a surname and find where folk of that name lived in  which Irish counties, both the Republic and the North,  according to the 1890 census.  I also found a cartogram, posted by Jerry Soloman from the University of Georgia,  of the percent ofIrish ancestry by county.  It still wasn’t interactive, but it was a fascinating map.  Cartograms distort the area of geographic features to reflect the values of an underlying variable, in the map to the  right, it shows the percentage of those claiming Irish descent.  The cartogram at the bottom shows shows those claiming Irish ancestry with an emphasis large urban areas. (I particularly like it because it kind of resembles a whale.)  And whether you can claim any Irish blood, most all of us live in a county were someone can. Sláinte!

cartogram irish whale

 

 

 

Need Computer Help?

by Jennifer Eilers on March 16th, 2015

Many  know that the library has Drop-In Tech times and computer classes to help you with your technology needs. But what if you cannot make it to those Tech Help times or want to learn from the comfort of your own home? Learning Express is another resource the library has to offer for free. It is a database that has a wide range of computer tutorials.

Learning Express offers comprehensive lessons on many popular software programs like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Illustrator, and  Adobe Photoshop. For computer novices, it also offers basic computer and internet courses and tutorials on both Windows and Mac operating systems. The Learning Express software records your progress as you work to achieve your learning goals and features friendly experts who help to make learning both comprehensive and fun.

To access Learning Express go to www.icpl.org.

Click on, Reference and Research in the drop-down menu on the left-hand side. Select “Online Resources.”

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Click on, “Learning Tools”  in the “Online Resources: Browse by Category” menu

Learning Express is the first database offered. Click on “Visit Learning Express 3.0 now” to begin!

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If you would like more information about Learning Express or the other databases the library subscribes to, please call the library at 356-5200 or speak with a librarian. If you are interested in Iowa City Public Library’s Tech Help Times or classes visit www.icpl.org/classes.

**** 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.

Halp! I started a business in 2014. Where can I find tax info?

by Melody Dworak on March 13th, 2015
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Photo by Phillip on Flickr.

Those new to filing taxes as a sole-proprietorship business owner or as someone who is self-employed have a few forms and resources they need to become familiar with.

If you are starting from the very beginning, you can visit the Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center, an information resource provided by the IRS. The information in this blog post comes from there.

This web page links to the primary forms and publications needed. Pay attention to the following:  Read the rest of this entry »

Iowa House and Senate Bill Tracking

by Brian Visser on March 5th, 2015

billThere have been some big issues discussed recently by the Iowa House and Senate including when schools must start or the recent gas tax increase.  The Iowa Legislature page is a great tool to help follow a bill’s progress.  If you know the bill’s number, such as HF13 for the school start date bill, just enter it into the “Bills Quick Search” on the right side.  You’ll be shown the bill in its entirety.  You can click on “Current Bill History” on the left, and it will tell you when the bill was introduced or if it has passed.  There’s also a link on the left to track versions of the bill.

It’s very possible that you won’t know the bill’s number.  If that’s the case, you can use the “Bill Keyword Quick Search.”  I did a search for “school” and HF13 was the sixth result.  But searching that way can be frustrating.  To take the guess work out of it, consider searching the Des Moines Register (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to DMR).  They do excellent statehouse reporting and often mention the bill number in their articles.

Want to contact your state representative or senator about a bill?  We have a handy page with that information right here.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

by Beth Fisher on February 27th, 2015

Even though you wouldn’t know it by looking outside Spring really is on the way.  Which means many of us have started thinking and dreaming about our gardens.

As most people know, there are two baisc types of garen plants:  annuals and perennials.  Annuals live fast and die pretty.  They last for only one growing season, and you have to replant them again next year.  Perennials are the mainstays in the garden. They come back year after year.  Many don’t hit their prime for two or three years, making year-round care of the plant important.   One of the most important things to consider before purchasing a perennial for your garden is what its hardiness zone rating is, to know if it will survive the winter in your garden.

The US Dept. of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map is now the standard device used to label plants in the US. zone map

It represents the average annual minimum temperatures in 11 zones which vary in ten-degree differences.  Each main zone is further divided into two sections, A and B, based on 5-degree differences.   The map is now interactive.   You can enter your zip code or state and it will tell you which zone you are in.  You can also click on a state on the map and a popup map will appear showing the zones as well as county lines, major cities and rivers.    Click here to try it out.

A bit of history:

The earliest versions of national hardiness maps were developed in the 1920′s and 1930′s by a variety of groups, most notably the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.  The first USDA Hardiness Zone map was published in 1960 and updated in 1965.  Because it used a different temperature scale for its divisions than the Arnold Arboretum map, it often led to confusion for gardeners rather than clarity.  The USDA map would not be updated again until 1990 when it underwent a huge overhaul, using data collected between 1974 and 1986.  Additional zones were added to include Canada and Northern Mexico as well as Alaska and Hawaii.  Th 1990 map standardized its division s into the well-known 10 and 5 degree division, and became the default hardiness zone map in the US.

There is one big drawback to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map however, it deals with only the average minimum temperatures.  It does not take into account summer weather at all.  Heat, humidity and rainfall are also just as important to the survival of a garden plant, and all that information is found on plant tags as well.   But where can you find maps that give you this  information?

One of the best sources of this type of information is the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University.   In fact, the USDA used much of their winter data in the most recent overhaul of the Hardiness Zone Map.     From their web site:  “The PRISM Climate Group gathers climate observations from a wide range of monitoring networks, applies sophisticated quality control measures, and develops spatial climate datasets to reveal short- and long-term climate patterns.”

“PRISMs homepage can be found here.    From this page you can find lots of neat informational maps.PRISM_ppt_30yr_normal_4kmM2_annual

  • The link to 30 Year Normals takes you to a map that compiles the data from 1981-2010, and you can adjust it to see precipitation or temperature and you adjust by month.
  • The link to Gallery of State Maps takes you to a US map that you can then click on state by state to see the average annual precipitation (1981-2010) by state.

Combining information from The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and the PRISM maps, can give you a lot of information about where you live and the types of plants the will probably work best in your area.    Unless you are dealing with a microclimate.  But that’s another topic for another blog post.   Happy Gardening!

State Data Center of Iowa

by Anne Mangano on February 26th, 2015

Interested in finding historical population statistics for Iowa? Although the US Census Bureau’s website has a lot of great information, it isn’t the easiest to navigate and its historical data is few and far between, particularly in specifics. If you need a quick fact, you might wish to contact the State Data Center, which is part of the State Library of Iowa. The State Data Center collects information from the US Census, other federal agencies, and Iowa’s state agencies to provide population, housing, business, and government statistics. They have a number of reports on their website, including data profiles for the current year. Can’t find what you are looking for? Contacting them is significantly faster than looking through the Census’s website.

You can contact the State Data Center Monday through Friday 8-4:30:

By phone: 800-24iowa population8-4483

Email: census@lib.state.ia.us

Or chat through their website here.

 

 

Now with twice the searching power!

by Todd Brown on February 5th, 2015

Did you know that you can search for articles directly from the catalog, without retyping your search into a separate database?

From the catalog’s homepage, http://alec.icpl.org, make sure you are using the default “Catalog Pro” tab. Type in your search and press Enter.

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The search results screen will display the first three results for materials in our collection which you can check out. Directly below them is a section labeled “Top results for articles:”. This will display the top 3 articles matching your search terms. Depending on which formats the articles are available, there will be buttons labeled “PDF” and “Full Text”.

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If you are here in the Library you will be taken directly to the article. If you are not in the Library you will be asked to log in with your Library card number and the password that you created for your card, then you will be taken to the article. If you do not have a password or cannot remember what yours is, you can fix that on this page, http://www.icpl.org/cards/password.

 

If those three articles are not enough, you can view more results in a couple of different ways. One way is by clicking on the link under the third article.

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Another way is to click on the “Articles” tab beneath the search box and next to the “Catalog” tab.

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Once you are viewing the Articles tab, there are a variety of ways that you can narrow your search. On the left side of the screen you can narrow your results to magazines, newspapers or books by choosing the appropriate database. This is also where you can also narrow your search by subject, title and place.

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By using this tool you will be able to locate articles much faster and without having to leave the catalog.

Happy Searching!

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Tax Booklets

by Candice Smith on February 3rd, 2015
The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Tax Booklets Cover Image

It was a dark and stormy night…well, I don’t actually recall the weather, but I do remember my surprise when I found out that the IRS had drastically cut the types of tax forms they would supply the Library with through their form outlet program . We’ve been having access to fewer forms for the last several years now, but this year we were informed that, in addition to receiving only the 1040, 1040 A and 1040 EZ forms, we would not be able to get any instruction booklets. As many patrons have pointed out to me upon hearing this, not having easy access to the instructions makes it awfully hard to fill out those forms the IRS is so eager to get. I know. We are with you on that.

The Library can help in a couple ways.

Federal forms and state forms–and the instructions–are all available on the internet. We can print out forms you need, or we can provide you with the internet access and printer to do so yourself. Prints are 10 cents a page. The booklets are longer than forms, and you might not want to print them; instead, you can bring them up on a computer and read them there if you like.

We also have some general tax guides that might be of use to you: JK Lasser’s Your Income Tax and the Ernst & Young Tax GuideThere are copies that you can check out, and we also keep a copy in the Reference area on the second floor.

If you need assistance getting to the forms and booklets you need, stop at the Info Desk on the second floor, or give us a call at 356-5200. We will try and help you get the info you need, in the least taxing way possible.

 

Folklore, old wives’ tales, sayings and adages – do the facts support them?

by Maeve Clark on January 20th, 2015

Are there truths behind the folklore, proverbs and phrases that many of us hear growing up?  You know what I mean, like the woolly or fuzzy bear caterpillar, and if its black stripes predict it will be a colder winter than most.  As for the woolly bear, it is not the best prognosticator of the severity of the winter.  The woolly bear’s coloring, at least according to a post on the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office’s website, depends upon a number of variables. “The woolly bear caterpillar’s coloring is based on how long caterpillar has been feeding, its age, and species.  The better the growing season is the bigger it will grow.  This results in narrower red-orange bands in its middle.  Thus, the width of the banding is an indicator of the current or past season’s growth rather than an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter.  Also, the coloring indicates the age of the woolly bear caterpillar.”

NYT 1.26.1913Many of the adages have to do with predicting the weather or some type of weather-based observation.  An expression I heard for the first time over the holidays was a green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.  I poked around on the Internet to find out just what it meant and to see if I could trace it back in time.  The most common reading of the phrase is that cold weather brings about fewer deaths.  The reasoning behind this was that cold weather killed off the germs or stalled disease that was more rampant in warm weather.  Or perhaps it was in warmer weather more folk circulated and came into contact with each other, thus spreading disease.  Either way, the cold, they thought, kept germs at bay and people at home.  Well, it turns out that cold weather or warm weather didn’t really have that much to do with the death rate at the holidays.  In fact as far back as 1913 The New York Times ran a piece disputing these nugget of weather lore based on a report from medical officers in London where a warm winter had not made for more deaths but fewer. The farthest back I could trace the adage was as an Irish seanfhocal, Nollag, ghlas, reilig mheith.

The library has a number of books of phrases and sayings and even a title devoted just to weather folklore,  Weather wisdom : being an illustrated practical volume wherein is contained unique compilation and analysis of the facts and folklore of natural weather prediction  by Albert Lee.  Are there old wives’ tales or adages that you use, weather-based or not?  And if there are, do any of them hold true? Please feel free to share them.

 




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