Bio Dictionary of Iowa Reviewed

The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, ed. by David Hudson, Marvin Bergman, and Loren Horton.  Internet Resource. Reviewed in 2010 January CHOICE.

This collaboration between the University of Iowa Press and University Libraries is based on a print title that the university published in 2009 for the State Historical Society of Iowa. The print book and PDF e-book are available from the press for $45 each. The editors worked with some 150 contributors. The dictionary focuses on persons born in Iowa, living 20 years in Iowa, or making a significant contribution to Iowa. Those who died after December 31, 2000, are excluded. Biographees include athletes, writers, activists, scientists, and more, as well as Iowa governors and US senators/Supreme Court justices from Iowa. Not all are famous. The editors have chosen people who made significant contributions to the state, nation, or world, particularly those whose base was distinctly Iowan. The merely famous, the introduction points out, can be found on the Des Moines Register’s Famous Iowans Web page .

The Biographical Dictionary site is simple and attractive with tabs for the home page, introduction, and four browse functions. Users may browse 424 names, eight date ranges, contributor names, or 38 broad topics such as Indian Leaders, Mining, Settlement, and Women’s Rights, or use keywords to search the full text of the entries. The charming graphics come from a 1934 US Post Office mural–a Treasury Department art project. Entries vary in length but average about 750 words. They begin with birth/death dates and a very nice feature–an abstract of biographical highlights. In a lively but not unscholarly mode, entries cover personal and professional details, significant contributions, and long-term impact. Brief source lists complete the entries. For audiences of all ages and backgrounds, this site compiles useful and elusive information in an attractive, functional format. Photographs and better highlighting of keyword search terms would enhance the entries.

Summing Up: Recommended. All levels. — J. Drueke, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.