Flood Recovery: Linn County Recorder’s Office

As Project Conservator at the UI Libraries, I am tasked with several workflows that are slightly outside of the regular Libraries Lab flow. One being conservation of the Keith Albee Vaudeville Theater Scrapbooks (see more here and here), another being treatment of Linn County Recorder’s Office record books.

Nearly 430 Linn County record books have been surveyed for treatment, and after just over a year, we have worked through approximately 115 of them, getting the books back into use at the County Recorder’s Office. As you will see in the photos below, their office faced a catastrophic disaster in the floods of 2008. Eight years later, recovery work is ongoing.

In the UI Libraries’ conservation lab, we remove books from damaged covers, dry clean textblocks, separate adhered pages, humidify and flatten warped pages, and even wash pages of the record books in preparation for rebinding at a commercial bindery. Each book in this large collection is unique and requires different types of treatment. We evaluate each book prior to starting treatment to determine the needs of each item.


June 11, 2008: Vault Room at the Linn County Recorder’s Office 1 hr before closing time (photo: Joan McCalmant)


June 14, 2008 taken from same perspective as above, after flooding, prior to clean-up (photo: Joan McCalmant)


Instilling some order… (photo: Joan McCalmant)


Moldy books, already dry, were hosed down and wiped off (photo: Joan McCalmant)


FAST FORWARD 8 Years: Joan McCalmant, Linn County Recorder, stands with record books, many of which have undergone conservation treatment at the University of Iowa Libraries, currently in use at the Linn County Recorder’s Office, on the 2nd Floor.


Graduate student, Lindsey Blair, dry cleans, and works on page separation.


Before treatment image of a sewn volume. Notice the warped spine and pages and caked mud on pages.


A mud-caked page during stages of washing (Do not try this at home!)


Loose pages in a humidification chamber where paper fibers soften and relax. Pages are dried flat, under weight, before being rebound. (Do not try this at home!)


The warped, mud-caked textblock from above, split into two volumes, rebound at the commercial bindery after cleaning and flattening in the UI Libraries’ conservation lab.

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It’s Pi Day!!


March 14th is Pi Day!!!


Beginning geometry students might remember finding the area of a circle – pi x radius squared…. But, what is Pi (π) and why does it rate its very own day?

Pi is one of the most famous and mysterious of numbers. Defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it’s diameter, Pi seems simple. However, it is an irrational number. An irrational number cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction and the decimal representation therefore never ends, nor does it ever settle into a permanent repeating pattern. Scientists have calculated billions of digits of Pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…. with no end in sight. It could be calculated to infinity and there would be absolutely no way to know which number would come next.

Pi is not only irrational, it is also transcendental! A transcendental number is a number that is not a root of any algebraic equation having integral coefficients, as π  or e. All transcendental numbers are irrational, but not all irrational numbers are transcendental.

Pi is used all around us every day – Christian Constanda, the University of Tulsa’s C.S. Oliphant professor of mathematical sciences, says, “Look at a football: when you compute the volume, then Pi gets involved in the formula.” Constanda also said, “If you drive through a puddle, creating a wave with the car, that involves Pi. If you see a tornado, that definitely involves Pi.”

Martin Krzywinski, a bioinformatics scientist, began publishing his pi art in 2013.  He also explains, “…Any word that you can think of, when encoded in numbers, would show up in pi, says Kryzwinski. So would the entire works of Shakespeare, all possible misprints and permutations of Shakespeare, and even, if you were patient enough, pi itself…”


Photos from Maths has never looked so appealing! dailymail.com


Want to see what 100,00 digits of Pi look like? Go here.

Some Pi Day Fun Facts:

  • In the Star Trek© television episode, Wolf in the Fold, Spock defeats an evil enemy in the Enterprise’s computer system. How? He ordered it to “compute to the last digit the value of pi.” Which we know, can not be computed!
  • The number 360 occupies the 360th position in the digits of Pi.
  • Divide the length of a river – with all the bends and curves – by the length of the river would be “as the crow flies,” the average ration will be approximately Pi. Watch this youtube video for an explanation!
  • In 2008 a crop circle with Pi embedded in it appeared near Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, England.

Want to impress your friends with how many digits of Pi you can recite? Here is a song that should help you remember….

The Pi Song. Originally sung by Hard ‘N Phirm. Sept. 17, 2006

Take a look around today – how many instances of Pi can you find? Or sit and contemplate a piece of your favorite pie…

Just remember – you’d be irrational to not celebrate Pi Day!


Adrian, Y. E. O.. The pleasures of pi,e and other interesting numbers. 2006. Singapore : World Scientific. Engineering Library QA95 .A2 2006

Posamentier, Alfred S. 2004. [Pi] : a biography of the world’s most mysterious number. Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books. Engineering Library QA484 .P67 2004

Maths has never looked so appealing! Oct. 3, 2013. dailymail.com

The Pi Song. Originally sung by Hard ‘N Phirm. Sept. 17, 2006. youtube.com

Mead, Wendy. March 13, 2015. Fascinating Facts About Pi Day & Birthday Boy Albert Einstein. A&E Television Network, LLC. Bio.

Rouse, Margaret. Definition : Transcendental Number. TechTarget. WhatIs.com

West, Marc. July 1, 2008. Pi appears in a crop circle. +plus magazine .

Interesting Facts about Pi. 2016. Buzzle.com

Walton, Rod. March 14, 2014. Pi common in everyday life, not just dessert. Tulsa World .

Swanson, Ana. March 14, 2015. 10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi. The Washington Post .

Other Resources:

Stewart, Ian. 2013. Visions of infinity : the great mathematical problems. New York, NY : Basic Books.Engineering Library QA93 .S75 2013

Stewart, Ian. 2015. Professor Stewart’s incredible numbers. New York : NY : Basic Books. Engineering Library QA241 .S8123 2015

Happy Pi Day (3.14) Domino Spiral. March 13, 2011. youtube.com

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Spring Break Hours begin Friday, March 10

The library will be open shorter hours during The University of Iowa’s Spring Break.

Our 24-hour study area is open when the library is closed, but you must apply for access in advance.  Apply for access at the reference desk whenever the library is open.

spring break hours

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Medicine, Shakespeare, and Books | Open House John Martin Rare Book Room @Hardin Library | Thursday, March 22, 4pm-7pm

painting of Francis Bacon
picture of book by burton

Robert Burton
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1624

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society and the University Libraries invite you to the annual open house in the John Martin Rare Book Room.

Early Modern England: Medicine, Shakespeare & Books

Thursday, March 23, 2017, 4pm-7pm

John Martin Rare Book Room, 4th Floor, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

37 books from 1531 to 1697 will be on display highlighting general medical beliefs, herbals, monsters, poisons and cures.  The books will also feature Shakespeare’s contemporaries and doctors in Shakespeare’s plays.


picture of wolfsbane

Henry IV, Part II

Donate to the Hardin Library.

Directions to Hardin Library.
Limited metered parking available behind library.  Newton Road Parking Ramp 1 block away.

Cambus: take Pentacrest route to VA Loop or Newton Road Ramp stops.


Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program please call Janna Lawrence at 319-335-9871.


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Mecca Exhibit

By James Cox,
Exhibit Curator & Guest Blogger
University of Iowa MECCA Week:
A Week of Parties, Pranks, and Memories to Honor St. Patrick

From 1910 until the late 1980s, MECCA Week was an annual celebration of the College of Engineering to honor St. Patrick. The celebration was marked by official events, awards, parties, scavenger hunt for the Blarney Stone, competitions, and pranks against the law students.

The newest exhibit in the Engineering Library display contains artifacts and photos from the MECCA Week Celebration.

The tale of St. Patrick as an engineer began at the University of Missouri in 1903. Engineering students were lamenting the fact it was such a long period between holidays and professors were giving them a heavy workload. They decided that St. Patrick was an engineer because he removed the snakes from Ireland, therefore, St. Patrick’s Day should be an engineering holiday. Their celebration included a march of the engineering students to the chapel where they found (a person costumed as) St. Patrick, a knighting ceremony, a Blarney Stone, a parade, and St. Pat’s Ball.[1]

The first celebration of St. Patrick at the University of Iowa was on March 17, 1910 and was called the “Engineer’s Celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day”.[2] In 1967, Frederic Goodson Higbee wrote that this event “gave students an opportunity to ‘blow off steam,’ to exploit the work of the College, and to mix a worthwhile demonstration of student effort with an appropriate amount of fun and relaxation from the demands of engineering study.”[3] Another explanation comes from the Daily Iowan in 1965, which claims that “most class cuts occurred on St. Patrick’s Day. The main reason was that St. Patrick is the patron saint of the engineering profession. Class cutting proved highly unpopular with the faculty. It was thus decided that an officially approved celebration would replace class-cutting.”[4]

The 1910-1912 “Engineer’s Celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day” at the University of Iowa had a parade, Blarney Stone, Knights of Saint Patrick, and a show. The Daily Iowan describes the events planned for the first celebration as a parade that demonstrates “engineering ability and artistic taste”, the Blarney Stone scavenger hunt, and “a three-act minstrel show will be staged by the enterprising builders of bridges.”[5]

Members of the Iowa City St. Patrick’s Parish argued the association with their Patron Saint with the “antics and buffoonery of the Engineers” was inappropriate. [6] Thus, in 1913, it was announced that the name and of the celebration must be changed. Students decided on the MECCA Celebration. MECCA stands for the engineering departments of Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Chemical, and Architectural. It was also at this point that an open house and a MECCA Dance were added.[7] The Knights of Saint Patrick would change their name to the Knights of Meccasacius. Its letters are from the 5 departments which spelled MECCA, then the State University of Iowa, (SUI), and the College of Applied Science, (CAS).[8] Then the last 6 letters, SUICAS, were written in reverse order, SACIUS, and combined with MECCA to make MECCASACIUS.

The Daily Iowa, March 17, 1944. The Daily Iowan | dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu

The MECCA Ball replaced the parade and the MECCA Dance and a night of short skits replaced the formal play in 1926.[9] The MECCA Ball was a formal dinner, dance, and a beauty pageant was later added. The series of short skits would evolve into the MECCA Smoker.[10] Following World War II, returning veterans wanted to “grow beards and dye them green for the smoker and the MECCA Ball.”[11]


The Daily Iowan, March 19, 1932

University of Iowa Hawkeye Yearbook 1968. University of Iowa | digital.lib.uiowa.edu/yearbooks

The only event which began in 1910 and continued relatively unchanged was the hunt for the Blarney Stone. The seniors or graduate students hid the stone for the next year’s class to find. The clues were engineering math and word problems with the answer pointing the way to the next clue.



the Daily Iowan, March 15, 1963. The Daily Iowa | dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu

Both law students and engineering students claimed St. Patrick as one of their own which started a rivalry of pranks. Some prank highlights include letting green mice loose in the Law Library, the placement of a manure spreader in the Law Building’s Practice Courtroom, and leading a horse into 3rd floor the Law Building. [12] In 1963, a one-ton concrete shamrock was placed on the Law Building’s Lawn. [13] During the 70’s and 80’s the rivalry turned from pranks to more competitions – such as a bar marathon.

Declining participation and numerous revivals make it difficult to pin down the end of MECCA Week as a celebration. But, the late 1980’s appears to be the end of the annual MECCA. The greatest changes to MECCA Week were not in the event schedule, but were changes in the Engineering College as the school grew from 218 students in 1910 to 1,283 in 1987. MECCA Week was traditionally held the week before St. Patrick’s Day. However, during the middle 1970’s, Spring Break began to be scheduled either before, or beginning on, St. Patrick’s Day which impacted participation and enthusiasm.[14] In 1970, the law students had grown tired of pranks, and received a court injunction against the engineering students to limit their pranks. [15]

MECCA Week began as the College of Applied Science skipping class to have an engineer’s holiday to honor St. Patrick and evolved into a week of events and pranks. The central focus was having fun and relaxing in the middle of a rigorous school year as an engineer. MECCA Week was a week of parties, pranks, and memories that many Iowa Engineering Alumni will always remember.

Please stop in and see the new exhibit – including the Blarney Stone!



[1] Lindon J. Murphy, “Saint Patrick Patron of Engineers,” in The Iowa Transit (State University of Iowa College of Engineering: March 1965)

[2] “MECCA Madness Has Long History,” The Daily Iowan, March 3, 1965.

[3] F.G. Higbee, “A Reminiscence of MECCA,” (University of Iowa, 1967).

[4]MECCA Madness

[5] “St. Patrick to Be Honored,” The Daily Iowan, March 17, 1910.

[6] Richard Rummelhart, “MECCA History” in Hawkeye Engineer (University of Iowa College of Engineering: March 1984).

[7] Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.

[8] “MECCASACIUS!,” The Daily Iowan, March 20, 1920.

[9] Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.

[10] Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.

[11] C.W. Lazenby (BSME 1950), e-mail message, MECCA Memories and Comments, March 19, 2001.

[12] Howard G. Judd, “Letters: Horseplay on the Third Floor,” Iowa Alumni Quarterly 48, no. 2 (May 1995), 4.

[13] “Sham Shamrock Rock,” The Daily Iowan, March 15, 1963.

[14] Office of the Registrar, “Catalog of The University of Iowa, 1972-1974 ,” Iowa Research Online, 4.

[15] “Injunction Sought To Curb MECCA Week Pranks at UI,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 18, 1970.

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Manage your papers and citations with EndNote | Workshop Thursday March 9 at 10-11am

EndNote is a reference management tool that helps you to easily gather together your references in one place, organize them, and then insert them into papers and format them in a style of your choosing. This session will walk you through the basics of using EndNote to collect and format your citations. The class will be hands-on and there will be time for questions at the end.

Our next session:

Thursday, March 9th, 10:00-11:00am (East Information Commons, 2nd Floor)

Register online or by calling 319-335-9151.

EndNote Desktop is available FREE from the UI Libraries to all graduate students, faculty and staff. Download your own copy.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program please call Janna Lawrence at 319-335-9871.

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Hardin News 2017-03-03 18:28:36

picture of von Bauer

KARL ERNST VON BAER (1792-1876). De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi. Leipzig: Sumptibus L. Vossii, 1827.

picture of von Bauer

Karl Ernst von Baer

Baer was an early pioneer of modern embryology who, through painstaking and patient effort, investigated germ cell line-age of a variety of species, firmly establishing embryology as a comparative science. While a professor in Königsberg,  Baer wrote his most significant work, describing for the first time the mammalian ovum.

In this epoch-making book Baer also made reference to the germ layer theory, suggested the similarity of the early stages of embryonic development in related species, and observed the first rudiment of the dorsal spine, later called the notochord. Baer is also considered to be one of the founders of modern morphology as a result of his work in comparative embryology.

The year after this book was published, he proposed von Baer’s laws of embryology.

Image from De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi

You may view this book in the John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. Make a gift to the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences by donating online or setting up a recurring gift with The University of Iowa Foundation.

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