How do I…. find a book?

Walking into the Engineering Library, you may not see what you’re expecting. In fact you may ask, where are all of the books? It may surprise you to learn that we have over 45,000 books in the library ready for you to check out. Here’s how you find them:

The view when you enter the library

When you enter the library, you will see one bookshelf in the main area. This is where we keep our periodicals (think magazines, journals, etc). If you’re looking for an article that doesn’t have online access, check here – you might just find it. 


Look to your left and you’ll see a set of stairs and an elevator. Take either to get to the basement.

The stairs and elevator take you to the same place – it’s all a matter of preference.

You’ve made it to the basement! Looks like there’s some good study space here, but that’s not what we’re looking for. Let’s take a look to the left. 

I spy some books in the back. Let’s investigate some more.

Ah, here are some books! And some more study space. Let’s find the book we’re looking for. All of our books are shelved using the Library of Congress system. Here’s a quick video on how that works, but you can always ask any employee, we would be happy to help you find a book.

Hoorah! Books!

Now that you’ve found your book, head back upstairs and to the Service Desk (you walked right by it when you entered the library). To check out your book, all you need is your IowaOne card (student ID).

There you go – you have a book! Keep an eye out for some special cases, which include permanent and course reserves. A permanent reserve is a book that would be difficult for us to replace if it got lost, so we just keep an extra eye on it. A course reserve is a book that is being used as a text for a class. Course reserves have a two-hour checkout so that everyone in the class has access. If a book you’re looking for is marked as one of these, just ask at the service desk.

Permanent and course reserves are indicated in a book’s digital record. Boxed in red here.

Patents Everywhere – Levi Strauss and Blue Jeans

When you talk to your engineering librarians, you may think that we talk about Patents and Standards too often, but patents are all around you, including in your jeans! 

Born 1829 in Bavaria, Germany, Levi Strauss immigrated to the United States when he was sixteen when he immigrated to New York to escape religious discrimination by the German government (Strauss and his family were Jewish). When he arrived in America, Levi started working with his brothers at their dry goods store. In 1953 Strauss followed the thousands of hopeful people heading West for the Gold Rush. Strauss was not looking to mine any gold himself but was going to set up an expansion of his brothers’ store in California. Arriving in San Francisco, he established himself as an astute businessman, and over the next 20 years became wealthy and successful, helping to establish the first Jewish temple in San Francisco and supporting several charities. 

Levi Strauss

Despite his name being so famously connected to the brand, Strauss did not actually sew the first pair of blue jeans. This was done by a tailor by the name of Jacob Davis. According to the story, Davis was approached by a farmer’s wife who asked if he could make her husband a pair of pants that wouldn’t wear out as quickly as his other pairs. At this point, the most common material for work clothes was denim. As a fabric, denim is very thick and strong, unlikely to tear and able to put up with the wear and tear from manual labor. Being an experienced Tailor, Davis knew that the weakest point of any garment is the seams. His solution was to add metal rivets to reinforce the seams that got the most wear: the tops of the pockets and the bottom of the zipper. Davis soon had a booming business using his unique design, and recognizing that this innovation could have widespread use, Davis wanted to file a patent. He could not afford the $81 fee to file himself (it would be approximately $2,000 in today’s money), so he reached out to the wealthy businessman from whom he had purchased the denim to make the pants – Levi Strauss. In his letter to Strauss he wrote that “The secret of them Pents is the Rivits [sic] that I put in those Pockets and I found the demand so large that I cannot make them up fast enough.” Strauss agreed to the partnership, and they were awarded their patent, #139,121, “An Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings” on May 20th, 1873. A fun fact about jeans is at this point in history they were called “waist overalls.” the term “jeans” didn’t become popular until the 1960’s.  

Illustration from the original Strauss patent

Due to a fire that destroyed most of the records for the very early days of the company, we don’t have a lot of information on the internal workings. We do know, however, that Strauss worked hard from the beginning to protect his company. When a patent is filed, the filer is the sole person who can use that technology for 17 years. Strauss knew that after those 17 years he would face stiff competition from other companies, so he set to work developing a brand that would ensure that his customers would continue to buy his product even when there were comparable items on the market. He registered trademarks and spent time and energy creating a strong image brand, including their famous “two horses” logo. Understanding that their main consumers, laborers, were often immigrants who did not read English, Strauss developed a strong visual brand. He also went after other companies for patent infringement, winning three different lawsuits between 1874 and 1876 and was awarded over $2,000 in damages (approximately the equivalent of $54,000 in 2022).  

The Levi’s “Two Horses” trademark

The original Straus patent is now expired, and today you can find rivets on a range of clothing. Over the company’s history, Levi’s has created and maintained many patents and trademarks that helped them to protect their intellectual property. Want to learn more about patents? We have resources for that! A great place to start is with our Patents Subject Guide, which you can find through this link or on our homepage.  

Downey, L. (2018, August 22). Levi Strauss. Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 

Unzipped Staff. (2019, July 4). The History of Denim. Levi Strauss & Co. 

Who Made America? | Innovators | Levi Strauss. (n.d.). They Made America – PBS. 

Graduate Profile: Alex Asare

Alex Asare

In the spotlight this week is our other graduate: Alex Asare.

Alex is graduating with a degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics. His future plans include a position as a software engineer, but will settle for world domination if the opportunity presents itself. 

A fun fact about Alex is that he made money off of Dogecoin. His advice to incoming students is “It’s okay to change your mind and your major. Just keep trying!”

Congratulations and good luck in the future, Alex!

Graduate Profile: Kelsey Lyons

Over the next two weeks we’ll be highlighting some of our graduating senior student workers. This week: Kelsey Lyons.

Kelsey is graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering, with a minor in Spanish. An Iowa native, she started here at the library in summer 2020. In the fall, she will enter the M.D. Program at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Kelsey has played the saxophone in the Hawkeye Marching Band, and as a result has not missed a home football game in the last four years. She was also Homecoming Royalty in 2021. Her advice to incoming students is “Get involved as soon as you can! It’s the easiest way to meet new people and will help make Iowa City feel like home to you!”

Congratulations, Kelsey! Good luck in med school and beyond.

Rube Goldberg – man and machine

Rube Goldberg with a contraption

Rube Goldberg was born Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg in 1883 in San Francisco. He started drawing through tracing illustrations at four years old. Encouraged by his father, Goldberg attended U.C. Berkeley, graduating in 1904 with a degree in Engineering. His first job was with the City of San Francisco, creating maps of sewers and water lines. He stayed in this position for six months, when he started at the San Francisco Chronicle where he started his career as a cartoonist. In 1907 he moved to New York City where he joined the New York Evening Mail as a sports cartoonist. One year later, Goldberg published his first commercial success: a comic strip called “Foolish Questions.” A few years later, the newspaper was syndicated, giving his comics a larger readership and making him the most popular cartoonist in the United States. He would go on to create several other comic strips, including “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike),” “Telephonies,” and his most famous comic “The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, A.K.,” which ran from 1929-1931. While Goldberg started creating inventions in his cartoons in 1912, it was in the “Professor” comics where they were most prominent. We encourage you to explore the gallery on the official Rube Goldberg website! Goldberg would continue working until his retirement in 1963. Over his lifetime it is estimated that he drew over 50,000 comics.

But what is a Rube Goldberg machine? According to the official Rube Goldberg website, Goldberg is “the only person ever to be listed in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an adjective.” That definition is “accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply. . . also: characterized by such complex needs.” Goldberg developed his flair for dramatic and outlandish machines after observing his engineering colleagues and noting that a project or task was often made more difficult than necessary. Wallace of the Wallace and Gromit franchise often creates his own complicated Goldberg-esque machines, although in the United Kingdom they are known as “Heath Robinson” machines.

In 1949, two fraternities at Purdue University held the first Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. In 1989, the competition went national, and in 1996, a high school division was added. In the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, each machine must complete the prescribed task in between 20 and 75 steps. Today’s national contests are held by Rube Goldberg Inc., which is currently run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George. 

We are holding our own Rube Goldberg Competition this weekend here at the College of Engineering. If you want to see the machines in action, stop by to see the judging of the machines on Sunday, April 24th from 1-2 pm. 

Check out the Tool Library

Have you checked out anything from our tool library? There are over 275 tools available for you to check out. Last year, there were 394 total loans. Here are the top items that were checked out the most last year. 

4 is a tie between the Multimeter/Voltmeter and the Tape Measure, each with 18 checkouts.

Multimeter/VoltmeterTape Measure

3 is the Canon PowerShot camera, which was borrowed 19 times. This camera has a zoom that allows you to take photos up to 50x.

Camera: Canon PowerShot

2 is our hot glue guns (we have 2!), which have been checked out 24 times. Great for sticking this to that, our hot glue guns come with several glue sticks. 

Hot Glue Gun

And the most checked out Tool Library item of last year is… the calipers! With a range of 0 to 6 inches and a resolution of .01mm/.0005inch and an accuracy of .02mm/.001 inch, this tool helps you get the precise measurements you need! 


In addition to our tools, we also have cables and chargers available for you to check out. From phone and laptop chargers to HDMI cables and adapters, we can help! Last year, our cables were checked out 1,264 times.

Explore the Creative Space!

One of our favorite spots in the Engineering Library is the Creative Space. It’s packed full with almost everything you would need to get an idea off the ground. If you need something else, just ask – we might have a way to get it for you or get you in touch with someone who can! But what is a Creative Space?

Developed several years ago, the Creative Space is our version of a makerspace. A growing trend in academic libraries like ours, makerspaces provide students with tools and machines that they may not have easy access to. Here at the Engineering Library you can check out over 275 tools (more about our Tool Library in tomorrow’s post), as well as use of several machines. Let’s take a moment to take a closer look at them.

First up is our Matter & Form 3D Scanner: This scanner stays put in the Northwest Corner of the Creative Space under the sign that says “3D Scanning Station,” and can measure items up to 9.8″.

Right next to the Matter & Form Scanner is the Cricut. Able to cut, draw, engrave, and perforate over 300 materials, the Cricuit Maker 3 is a great tool for when you need precision. Did you see the tags we made for our Blind Date with a Book event? Those were cut and written with our very own Cricut! If you want to use it, you will need to bring your own materials, but we’re happy to help you learn the software.


The newest addition to the Creative Space is a MakerBot 3D Printer. Gifted to us by our friends at the Engineering Electronics Shop, our 3D printer is part of a pilot program. It can print items up to 4″x4″x5″ and is free to use. Users are limited to 1 print per day, and full policies can be found here. If you want any large or highly precise prints, you’ll still need to contact the Engineering Electronics Shop, but our MakerBot can help you try out a print or create a prototype with less risk.

If you want to create a prototype with something other than 3D printing filament, check out our prototyping station. The materials you find there may change from time to time, but right now they include construction and tissue paper, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners. Stop in and check out what else we have on hand for you.

We also have two Virtual Reality stations, one with an HTC Vive and one with an Oculus Rift. Controllers for the systems can be checked out at the front desk. 

The Creative Space is also a great place to study! There are several tables and plenty of outlets to keep your computers and phones charged. two computer stations with collaboration tables so you can work together on one screen. You can also use any of the glass panels on the walls to work through a calculus problem together.

When you stop in, you may find a friend hanging around. Don’t worry about him, he’s a (skele)ton of fun!

Study in the Stacks

We’re coming to the end of the semester, which means that you might be looking for a new place to study. We have several options here for you!

Need to get that group project done? Come on in! You may be surprised to know that you don’t need to be silent in the library. Come in any time during our open hours, and you can use any of our spaces. On our main floor you can stop in and use our tables or computers anytime – no reservation needed! 

If you need a little more privacy for solo or group work, you can reserve one of our two Pods. You can fit 4-5 people in each room, and easily share content from your phone or computer onto the screen with the Solstice device (details on how to do that are in that link). Last year, our Pods were reserved 1,606 times! 

If independent quiet study is more your style, head downstairs where you will find several options. You can study at a  desk (also known as a carrel), in front of an “aquarium” or “fireplace,” in a comfy chair or beanbag. 

The Creative Space is also a fantastic place to study, but we’ll take an up-close look at that tomorrow!

Resources at your fingertips

Did you know that with your University of Iowa ID you have access to over 3,000 electronic journals and 400 databases? One of the most powerful tools to further your research is access to InfoHawk+ and our online resources. You can find them in several different ways.

1. InfoHawk+ Search for anything like you would normally search on any search engine. When you get the page of results, you can use the drop down menu on the right side of the search bar. You can then go to “Refine my results” on the left side of the screen and select the “Full Text Online” box. You then have a list of articles and books you can access from your computer! 

2. When you visit the Engineering Library website you’ll find our “Selected Resources” section right under the InfoHawk+ search bar. This section is really great if you’re looking for a standard, patent, journal, or database.

3. Not sure where to start? Try out our specially designed guides by department, found at the bottom of our homepage. Your librarians have handpicked resources for each department, providing you with places to get started.

We can’t resist a good countdown, so here are our top five most accessed online databases:

5. SAE Digital Library

4. ASCE Research Library

3. AccessEngineering

2. ACM Digital Library

1. IEEE Xplore Digital Library

Still not sure what resource is best for your project? Get in touch! You can get in touch with your librarians by visiting our homepage. Contact information can be found in the menu on the right hand side of the page, or just click here. You can call, email, chat, or text us. We’re here and ready to help!

What are our engineers reading?

It’s National Library Week! First celebrated by the American Library Association in 1958, NLW is a way for libraries to highlight and encourage the use of their services and spaces – so we’re doing the same thing! We’re starting up with the thing with you might expect from a library: books. 

Located on the lower floor of the library, the Engineering Library has approximately 45,000 books here for easy access, with an additional 105,000 available offsite at the library annex that you can order to pick up at the library desk. Last year we had 774 checkouts of physical books from our stacks. Here’s a look at what some of the most popular books here at the library, based on how many times they have been checked out. We’ve removed items that are on course reserve, since they are outliers.

#3 is a tie between Microelectronics: circuit analysis and design by Donald A. Neamen and Introduction to Communication Systems by Upamanyu Madhow, both with 4 checkouts


#2 with 5 checkouts is Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainability edited by Geoffrey Lawrence, Kristen Lyons, and Tabatha Wallington

#1 is Chemical Process Safety: fundamentals with applications by Daniel A. Crowl and Joseph F. Louvar with 18 checkouts! 

Come on in and see what we have in store – you may be surprised what you’ll find!