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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.

There’s Help for Reading Old Documents

by Heidi Lauritzen on April 14th, 2014

Recently I joined several other  ICPL staff members who attended the Public Library Association conference.  We were in the unfortunate position of having to choose just one session from ten or twelve in each time slot, but a lucky choice I made was a session on helping genealogists–both experienced and brand-new ones–use public library resources.  My favorite tidbit from that session was the discovery of the handwriting tutorials in FamilySearch.

Scandinavian Gothic Script

FamilySearch is produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and searches genealogical records worldwide including the International Genealogical Index, and census and other vital statistics sources.  You can find a link to it among the online resources on our website in the Biography, History and Genealogy category.  FamilySearch provides many tutorials on doing genealogy, for all levels of experience.

If you have ever looked at original source documents, such as census forms or ship passenger lists or church records, you know that reading old-fashioned handwriting can be difficult.  When those documents are in other languages, the challenges increase exponentially.  The FamilySearch tutorials on the scripts of many languages–including English–can help.  Pictured above and below are examples of Scandinavian Gothic.  The tutorials are self-guided, and usually incorporate opportunities for practice.

To access the tutorials, you do need to create an account within FamilySearch.  There is no charge to do so.  You can find the handwriting lessons under Get Help/Learning Center Video Courses; it’s easiest to then search by the country you are interested in.

Scandinavian Gothic, Similar Letters

Heartbleed – What Should I Do?

by Maeve Clark on April 11th, 2014

heartbleed Have you heard about the security flaw named Heartbleed and have concerns whether your passwords are secure?  The tech guys at Marketplace Morning Report had a very informative piece  cautioning folks not to jump the gun on changing their passwords too soon.

Quick update on Heartbleed – you may have already received messages from social media sites you use or from companies where you shop online or your financial institution letting you know whether their sites are secure or if you need to change your password. If you have not and you would like some guidance on which sites were the most vulnerable and merit a password change Mashable.com contacted the most popular social, email, banking and commerce sites on the web and shared their responses.

Why does a quarter have 119 ridges?

by Maeve Clark on April 5th, 2014

ask-history-coin-ridges One of the fun facts I learned from the Money Smart Week exhibit at the library is that dimes have 118 ridges or grooves and quarters have 119.  But what the exhibit didn’t tell me was the reason for the ridges.  So what’s a reference librarian to do? Find the answer, of course.  I started at the United States Mint which lead me to the American Numismatic Association. The first thing I learned was the technical term for the ridges or grooves on coins  is reeding.  Before the introduction of reeding, small amounts of gold or silver from coins could be chiseled or shaved away and the precious metal sold again or remelted and made into another coin. (The slang usage of the world chisel may even derive from this ancient practice.)  While quarters and dimes are no longer minted from silver, (with the exception of special collectable quarters), the ridges remain.

Come in a take a look at the exhibit – you will find it in the first floor gallery. You can explore the life cycle of currency, learn about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank and get your photo taken in $100 bill.  What else can you learn during Money Smart Week?money smart week Preschoolers will have a visit from Ben Franklin for the 10:30 preschool story time Thursday morning, April 10.   And if you want to know more about estate planning, the library has a program tailor made for you. Thursday evening, April 10, Thomas Gelman, attorney Phelan Tucker Muller Walker Tucker Gelman and John Chadima, Vice President and Trust Officer MidWestOne Bank offer Estate Planning 101: Basic Considerations.

House History Hunting Part 3: A local index like no other

by Melody Dworak on March 28th, 2014

Alright, so in the past two posts, I shared how to find out a property’s recent owners and specs via the Iowa City Auditor’s website, find a thorough history of ownership (and in some cases, renter-ship) through the Polk Directories, and connect familial relationships through obituaries in ProQuest back to 2002. How to search further back? Read the rest of this entry »

House History Hunting Part 2: Raising the dead

by Melody Dworak on March 27th, 2014

Yesterday I took a first look into the history of a property’s owners through the Iowa City Assessor’s website. Today we dig deeper.

The Assessor’s site only listed one sale in 2006, and that sale was code 14—“Exchange, trade, gift, transfer from Estate,” and it includes the names for both the buyers and the sellers. From there, I go to the 2nd floor Page Station’s City Directories to look for a deeper history of ownership. The listing states the house was built in 1963, so I start with the 1963 Polk Directory and look the house up by its address. Hmm. The Directory lists the property under the same family name as the name on the Estate. Could this mean the house was in the same family for 50 years? I grow hopeful. Read the rest of this entry »

House History Hunting Part 1: Good deeds go unpunished

by Melody Dworak on March 26th, 2014

Recently, my partner and I—both well into our 30s—took a step to officially becoming adults that there is no going back from: We bought a house. *Gulp*

Potter house in Godric's Hollow by Rob Young

“Potter house in Godric’s Hollow”–photo courtesy of Rob Young on Flickr.

Read the rest of this entry »




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