Every Iowan needs to take a trip to West Branch to learn about the humanitarian who was our 31st president. Before and after his presidency, he used his management skills and financial resources to help people around the world.

Before he was president, Hoover was chairman of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium. In 1915, he reported, “All Belgium is now on a ration of 10 ounces of bread per day, rich and poor alike, …” (from the Historical New York Times, available through the PrairieCat catalog under the Find Articles tab). Because Hoover was able to get food shipped to Belgium in time to save millions from starvation, he is regarding as a hero there today. Streets and plazas have been named after him. According to a NPR report, “Hoovermania in Belgium,” he organized feeding “more than nine million people every day for four long years . ” He was an “international symbol of American generosity and practical idealism. ”

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum displays give you insight into the depths of gratitude felt by Belgians during and after World War 1. The Belgians embroidered flour sacks with expressions of thanks to Hoover.

The taped interviews also make you understand a little bit of the horrors of  the widespread starvation felt by Europeans.  One man tells of the wonder of getting a bread roll, dubbed “Hoover rolls.”

So, celebrate Hoover’s birthday with a trip to West Branch and learn a little more about a truly fascinating man.

Any book the President picks up instantly becomes the subject of analysis and fascination. Everyone knows that Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwobama-booksin which describes Lincoln choosing several political rivals for his cabinet and staff, is an Obama favorite.

According to AbeBooks.com, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, and Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan are some other books he has been seen with.

Check out Mr. Obama’s Facebook page for some of his favorite books, such as Moby Dick, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and the Bible.

Libraries love the fact that, not only is he the world’s most famous reader, he is also a talented writer (both attributes can do no harm to our bottom line…the number of materials that are checked out).

According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama’s own Dreams from My Father, “evinces an instinctive storytelling talent…and that odd combination of empathy and detachment gifted novelists possess.” Obama won the 2006 Grammy for “Best Spoken Word Album” for his reading of his memoir and search for identity.

So, check out one of these books, carry it around and see if anyone snaps a photo….

president1

Andrew Jackson, 1829

The big day is finally here – and for those of us living in Iowa where it has been an especially long political cycle, it sometimes seemed it would never come! Today the United States will inaugurate the first African-American President when Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the great hallmarks of democracy, something America has maintained throughout her history, during peace or war, economic prosperity or depression. Plenty of reasons to celebrate.

To find out more about the 2009 Inauguration, visit the official website Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. You’ll find interactive maps, descriptions of the days events, Washington DC weather reports, and a history of past Inaugurations. You’ll even find – get this – the recipes for the food to be served at the Inaugural Luncheon (in case you were wondering what to do with that pheasant you’ve got in the freezer!)

The library, of course, has all kinds of Presidential information including biographies of every President as well as histories of the office. We even have a book about Air Force One, the President’s plane and a history of the White House. Here’s a sampling:

Air Force One: a History of the Presidents and their Planes by Kenneth Walsh

Union of Words: a History of Presidential Eloquence by Wayne Fields

The White House Garden by William Seale

First Dogs: American Presidents and their Best Friends by Roy Rowan

Real Life at the White House: 200 Years of Daily Life at American’s Most Famous Residence by John Whitcomb

The President’s Table by Barry LandauHappy President’s Day! Every third Monday in February has been set aside to observe the birth anniversaries of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22), although it is now generally used to honor all former US presidents.

Ever wonder what goes on at those lavish Presidential State Dinners? The beautifully illustrated The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy by Barry Landau gives us a unique picture of the world and work of the Presidents. Showing us history from a social rather than strictly factual viewpoint, Landau makes history fascinating and personal. Included are photographs of menus and invitations, descriptions of meals served, and details of trends in entertaining which reflect the birth, growth and dominance of the United States.