Little (or big) green houses for you & me!

Green building and remodeling offer opportunities to save energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resourses, improve air and water quality, and reduce waste. If all buildings in the U.S. met leading green building standards, national energy use and global warming emissions would drop by 10%. Here are a couple of books that can help you make your home green.

building-green.jpgIf you are considering building a small new home, take a look at Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods: Earth Plaster, Straw Bale, Cordwood, Cob, Living Roofs. The book starts with building fundamentals, has a short course on design, and then moves to hands-on building. It has lots of great color photographs that made me yearn for that straw bale house I’ve been dreaming of for years. It should be noted that the plans in this book are for a guest house, but the techniques could undoubtedly be used for larger construction.

Thinking about doing some remodeling and want to make your green-remodeling.jpghome a little more eco-friendly? Green Remodeling is a good place to start. This book covers a wide range of topics such as reducing home energy use, selecting nontoxic products, saving water, and supporting the environment through the use of products that support responsible manufacturing and the sustainable harvesting of natural resources. Projects have step-by-step guides as well as detailed pictures and drawings. Even if you aren’t planning a do it yourself remodel, this book can serve as starting point for going green in your home.

Green Garden Tips

Black-eyed susansGoing green in the garden (so to speak) isn’t hard, and you’ll save money as well. Try one or more of the following:

1. Reduce your lawn. Keeping that putting-green-worthy swath of grass pristine takes more water and fertilizer than any other area of your yard.

2. Mow what lawn you do have less often. Because they are unregulated, gas-powered lawn mowers emit more pollution than driving your car to work. Plus, it’s better for the grass if it’s kept a little long.

3. Plant natives. They are better adapted to our unique climate, more resistant to diseases and pests and they help support native wildlife. For information on what to plant, take a look at Native Plants in the Home Landscape: Upper Midwest by Keith Nowakowski or Easy Care Native Plants by Patricia Taylor.

4. Don’t use herbicides or pesticides in your garden. Most plants need little or no fertilizer. And unless you are visited by a plague of locusts, most insect damage is relatively minor. Plus, pesticides will also kill the “good” bugs and are hazardous to the birds which, if left alone, will often take care of the “bad” bugs. If you must use chemicals, use the absolute minimum amount. Runoff from overuse of herbicides and pesticides used in home gardens is a serious threat to local water sources.

5. Mulch your flower and vegetable beds to conserve water and improve the soil. Use chopped leaves from your yard or take advantage of Davenport’s compost program; they sell finished compost by the bag or by the truckload.

6. Go organic. It’s easy, fun and it’ll save you money. Not to mention the planet.

Green Tips for Earth Day and Beyond

EarthHere are some small changes that will not only reduce your ecological footprint, but may even save you money and help you live a happier, healthier life!

1. Bring your own bags when shopping. An average American family acquires 60 plastic bags per week and rarely reuses them.

2. Buy local. Produce at a local farmer’s market may be more expensive, but you are almost always guaranteed a high quality product. Buying goods produced locally reduces the fossil fuels needed to transport items across the country and around the globe. Do you really need to eat that banana from Central America?

3. Green your coffee habit. Each year Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers, 110 billion cups, and 58 billion plastic utensils. Many coffee shops give a discount if you bring your own receptacle, so buy a couple of mugs and keep one in your car.

4. Yes you can drive 55! Slowing down really does save gas. For every mile per hour faster than 55 mph, fuel economy drops by 1%. The drop-off increases at a greater rate after 65 mph. Also to remember to keep your tires inflated to the correct air pressure.

5. Stop buying bottled water. Consider buying a reusable container and drinking tap water. Bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single serving bottles made of fossil fuels. It then travels miles to its destination using more energy. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the bottled water industry consumes the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil annually, the same as having 3 million additional cars on the road.

For more ways to go green at home, check out Easy Green Living: the Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renee Loux for lots of tips and ideas and which urges you to start with small steps that anyone can accomplish. Earth Day is for everyone, every day.

What’s Your Favorite “Green”Book ?

Broken Kettle Grassland, IowaVote for the novel with an environmental or nature theme that affected you the most – by adding a comment below. Some ideas to get you started:

Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen (or any Hiaasen book)

The Appeal by John Grisham (ditto)

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

The Postman by David Brin

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Day After Tomorrow by Whitley Strieber

The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George

Vote through Sunday, April 27th. We’ll let you know the winner next week.

Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream by Jennifer Ackerman

Sex Sleep Eat Drink DreamSex Sleep Eat Drink Dream takes an insightful tour through a day in the life of our bodies. Divided into morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and night, Ackerman explores how we are very much driven by internal clocks that guide our daily rhythms. She does a great job of intertwining biology with plenty of interesting anecdotes. This is not a medical book but rather an informative commentary on the wonderment of the human body. Being one who loves factoids, I found some great ones in this book including:

  • Air released from your lungs when sneezing travels at 500 mph.
  • Coffee’s flavor is 75% smell. In fact all flavors are mostly smell.
  • Thinking about exercise can actually boost strength in the muscles involved. This is the best excuse to avoiding exercise that I’ve heard!
  • Yawning is contagious in only about half the population, and it’s probably the half with the most self-awareness and empathy.
  • The amount of calories we consume in foods may not be a fixed value but rather influenced by the nature of our gut microbes. That doughnut may have 30% more calories for you than your neighbor.

One Million Dollars, hoo hoo hoo hah hah hah!


Say it with fiendish glee like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers trilogy for maximum comedic effect…

For a cool million bucks, you can have Minneapolis’s automated book-sorting system. Adapted from the travel and postal industries, an employee beeps in the item at the beginning of the belt and the system allows it to travel a prescribed distance before a pneumatic arm pops out and flicks it into one of 40 specific bins. Course, with 25 branches and a cathedral like the downtown building, a nifty doohickey like this comes in handy.

Can you fathom there are library systems larger than Davenport, Iowa’s? I Know! They must have a real savvy HR person at the San Francisco Public library system to keep tabs on their 800 employees. One of the cool things from attending the Public Library Association’s conference last week was the opportunity to see how these mega-systems keep things running smoothly.

Enjoy the additional shots of reflecting downtown skyscrapers, the five-floor Jetsons-esque view from the Minneapolis Public Library entrance, and the world’s most gigantic cherry from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Downtown Minneapolis



When Librarians Attack

PLA Bowker PeoplePut just under 10,000 librarians in a convention center and you’ve got yourself some highly classified and neatly-arranged pandemonium. That was the case last week in Minneapolis at the Public Library Association convention.

It’s an opportunity to learn techniques from professionals who fight the good fight in larger operations and different states. We attended meetings such as “Working with Difficult Patrons” and (for our upcoming Eastern Avenue branch) “Libraries as Greenbuildings”.


There are hundreds of vendors (like the party people from Bowker above) vying for the library’s attention, specializing in the items we check out to you folks, as well as the technology we use behind the scenes. One of these vendors brought in renowned mystery novelist C.J. Box to talk in their booth (in the picture on the right).

In addition to learning about the awesome reverse discrimination in men’s restroom lines at a library convention, I learned these folks aren’t too shy with the free snacks and tschotkes.

Next time, some cool Minneapolis Public Library hardware and views of the Twin Cities.



Working at the Ballpark by Tom Jones

Working at the BallparkAt last! Baseball season is here (does that mean spring is almost here too?) Baseball, the most American of games, has become entwined with our history, our memories, even our language. Most of us grew up playing it, either in organized leagues or with the kids in the neighborhood and even non-fans probably understand the basic rules (“three strikes and you’re out”) creating common ground for all of us.

Lots of kids fall in love with the sport and dream of growing up to be a baseball player. Of course, not many of us make it to the big leagues, but we remain fans. Even without a curve ball or a .300 hitting average, people have found a way to stay with the game. Working at the Ballpark by Tom Jones is the story of people who work in major league baseball, from the peanut vendor to the announcers to the ballplayers. 50 people are interviewed, each giving a unique view of national pastime, of what they do and why they love their job.

Sometimes dreams do come true.

A Librarian in the Land of Totem Poles

tlingit-totem-pole.jpgAs a librarian I always enjoy it when a patron asks a question about something that relates to my own personal interests. Recently I helped a patron with a question about totem poles. In 2004 I accepted a an interim library job at a small college in Sitka, located on the coast of Alaska, a decision that turned out to be a tremendous adventure. One unique Alaskan adventure I was able to experience was the placement of a new totem pole. Carved in Sitka National Park, the entire town was invited to the totem pole raising ceremony, where, after several ceremonial rites including a formal naming ceremony, adults manned the ropes on the sidelines which helped to guide the pole as children from the town tugged on the two long ropes which pulled it up and into place.

It is said that the most important person or object on a totem pole is the one that is at the base. This is an important distinction between Western and Native culture (since we usually think that “low man on the totem pole” designates a low status). There is a pole in a main square in downtown Sitka which illustrates this cultural difference. At the time this pole was constructed, the govenor insisted that he be placed at the top. Since the object of ridicule is always at the top the carvers were happy to grant the governor his wish!

The University of Alaska at Anchorage has an excellent website including an authoritative article on totem poles as well as a wealth of information about Alaskan history and culture. A trip to Alaska is always unforgettable; check the library for travel guides (917.98) and information on it’s colorful history (979.8) as well as the dvd aisle for a taste of the state’s spectacular beauty. And for more pictures of totem poles, look for The Most Striking of Objects: Totem Poles of Sitka National Park in our Government documents collection.

Auto Repair Reference Center

Auto Repair Reference DatabaseGot car troubles? Need to figure out the difference between fuel injection and the fuel pump? Need a wiring diagram for your 1992 Honda Civic? The library has a fabulous resource that can help you and you can access it from your home computer! It’s the Auto Repair Reference Center, a full-text database of all kinds of information on auto repair, covering cars from 1945 to present. The best part – it’s really easy to use!

Start at our homepage, then click on “Do Research Online”. This will bring you a page that lists all the online databases we offer (which, by the way, are worth taking a look at – there’s an amazing amount of information offered here). Scroll to the very bottom of the page; the next to last database listed is the Auto Repair Reference Center. Simply click on the link. You’ll be asked to enter your library card number (sorry, this database is available only to Davenport Library cardholders) Click on Login and the to gateway automobile reference is opened to you.

A word of caution: the earlier years listed have very limited car models and information available; you have to go to about 1962 before many models appear. The more recent entries have lots of information including wiring diagrams, service bulletins and recalls, repair procedures and specifications. The information is well illustrated and give detailed, step-by-step instructions.

Some cool extra features of the database include “Auto IQ” which gives detailed descriptions of various car parts, where they’re located in most cars and what their purpose is and is illustrated with diagrams, pictures and video clips. There is also a section of “Care and Repair Tips” so that you can avoid future car repairs and “Troubleshooting” to help you diagnose problems.