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News and events at Bertha Bartlett Public Library.

Why You Need a my Social Security Account

To date, over 15 million people have opened a my Social Security account at, taking advantage of the benefits of my Social Security.

Why are so many Americans opening accounts? Because my Social Security is a fast, easy, and secure way to:

  • Access your Social Security Statement to keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
  • Manage your benefits:
    • Change your address; and
    • Start or change your direct deposit.

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, said “A my Social Security account is a convenient, cost-effective and secure way for the public to do business with us from the comfort of their home, office or library."

To create a my Social Security account, you must provide some personal information about yourself, answer some questions that only you are likely to know, and: 

  • Have a valid E-mail address,
  • Have a Social Security number,
  • Have a U.S. mailing address, and
  • Be at least 18 years of age.

Check it out and sign up for your free my Social Security account today at


Social Security Changes for 2015

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015. The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

The estimated average monthly Social Security payments and SSI payments are: 

Estimated Average Monthly Social Security Benefits Payable in January 2015:

1.7% COLA

1.7% COLA

All Retired Workers



All Disabled Workers



SSI Federal Payment Standard:





$ 733/mo.




The earnings limit for workers who are younger than "full" retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will be $15,720. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,720.) The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2015 will be $41,880. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $41,880 until the month the worker turns age 66.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are "full" retirement age or older for the entire year.  Learn more by reading, How Work Affects Your Benefits.

The amount of earnings needed for one credit of Social Security coverage has gone up as well, but all workers can still earn up to four credits in a year. In 2015, a worker earns a credit after earning $1,220. In 2014, one credit of coverage was $1,200. It takes forty credits to be fully insured for retirement benefits.

If you worked this year and your latest annual earnings turns out to be one of your highest, we refigure your benefit and pay you any increase due. This is an automatic process – so there is no need to bring your W-2 form or tax return to your Social Security office. For example, in December 2014, you should get an increase for your 2013 earnings if those earnings raised your benefit. The increase would be retroactive to January 2014.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the standard Medicare Part B monthly premium remain unchanged at $104.90 for 2015. Further information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at

To read more about the 2015 Social Security changes, please visit


Medicare: General Enrollment And General Information

Need Medicare Part B? If you’re eligible, the time to sign up is near.  The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31.  Before you make a decision about general enrollment, let us fill you in on some general information.

There are four parts to Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D.  Part A helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and other services.  Part B helps pay for doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies not covered by Part A.  Part C allows you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization.  These plans, known as Medicare Advantage Plans, may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee. You must have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C.  And Part D is the Medicare Prescription Drug Program.

Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65, and there is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B.  In 2015, the standard premium is $104.90. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Part B premium also can be higher if you do not enroll during your initial enrollment period, or when you first become eligible.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, you can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or your spouse’s current employment. If this situation applies to you, then you have a “special enrollment period”, in which you can sign up for Medicare Part B without paying higher premiums:

  • Any month you are under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member; or
  • Within eight months after your employment or group health plan coverage ends, whichever comes first.

If you are disabled and working (or you have coverage from a working family member), the same rules apply.

Note: Special enrollment period rules do not apply while a person is in their initial enrollment period.  If you are eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65 and ends three months after that birthday.

If a person is already receiving Social Security retirement benefits they will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when they become eligible at age 65.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible to apply and you aren’t eligible for a special enrollment period, you'll have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.

For more information about Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at Or read our publication on Medicare at

Depending on income and resources, you may be eligible for Extra Help With Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs.  More information about the Extra Help is available at .

Find Links to Norway in New Books at the Library

Three new reference books may yield information about your Norwegian relatives. The Bertha Bartlett Public Library received the bilingual books as a gift from the Kong Sverre Sons of Norway Lodge in Story City.

The set is titled “Norwegians in American, their History and Record: A translated version of the 1907 and 1913 Nordmaendene I Amerika, dere Historie og Record” written by Martin Ulvestad. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 were given.

Local residents Bob and Carolyn Ahlstrom have found family references in each of the three volumes. Carolyn said, “We hope others will open the books and learn more about Norwegian history in our area.”

The books were transcribed from Gothic script, translated into English and edited. Deb Nelson Gourley of Waukon indexed the three books and copyrighted them in 2010. Astri My Astri Printing publishes them. The translation has been published with the financial support of Norwegian Literature Abroad, Fiction and Non-fiction.

The reference books can help connect Norwegian descendents with ancestors and their birthplaces in Norway. The usable structure is sorted by names, places and occupations; indexes cross-reference the three books.

Ulvestad compiled the Norwegian-American pioneer stories after sending out 163,000 small books and pamphlets plus 450,000 circulars and forms to early immigrants. In addition the author visited people in 882 places.

Information came from people in 41 states and 500 counties in the U.S. and six Canadian provinces. Ulvestad hoped the books would help reconnect those who had left Norway between 1825 and 1907 with those who remained in Norway. The people who responded told of their part in American wars, the American Civil War, Andersonville Prison and encounters with Indians. They reported their occupations and involvement in politics, church societies and their communities. The books provide information on more than 25,000 pioneers, sorted by 1,700 areas from which they emigrated and include maps.

Ulvestad stated, “I hope this compilation will help many a dear son or brother, relative or friend that one has lost track of to be found again, that it will build a bridge.”

He said reporting the personal information and records would strengthen the Norwegian-American immigrant history. He hoped his work would benefit historians and genealogists.

Members of Kong Sverre Lodge say, “Come, use the three new reference books while you are at the Bertha Bartlett Public Library to learn more about Norwegian pioneers in America.”

The books are housed with the Sons of Norway collection, near the genealogy reference section and the Circulation Desk inside the Bertha Bartlett Public Library. In addition to the three reference books, a second copy of “The Norwegian Paperclip and Other Stories as told by Olav Richard Crone-Aamot, a member of the Norwegian Underground During the German Occupation April 9, 1940—June 7, 1945” was also donated and will be housed in the Sons of Norway collection.

Improving the job search process, preparing for career certification, raising college entrance test scores, and improving 21st century basic skills are all possible with just the click of a mouse at your local library!

Log on to a computer, and enjoy free, unlimited access to interactive skill-building courses in math, reading, and writing as well as a broad range of practice tests based on official exams such as the ACT, SAT, GED, ASVAB Core, and EMT Basic, as well as firefighter, police officer, paramedic, Allied Healthcare, U.S. Citizenship, postal worker, cosmetology, and real estate agent and broker exams. This valuable service is available 24/7 from any Internet-enabled computer—in your library and even from your home!

The LearningExpress Library online learning platform provides over 770 of the most up-to-date test-preparation and skill-building resources, helping both students and adults prepare for a wide range of academic and career-oriented exams as well as improve basic skills in reading, writing, and math. In addition, job-skills tutorials are available to assist in creating a great resume, honing interviewing techniques, and improving business communications. Patrons also have the option of selecting from more than 130 e-Book titles to help learners of all ages prepare for success. This innovative platform includes self-paced study, instant scoring, and diagnostic feedback and can be accessed from any computer that has an Internet connection.

LearningExpress, LLC, is a leading provider of print and online educational and professional resources that are used in over 4,000 libraries and 5,000 schools and benefit over one million students, teachers, administrators, and career professionals around the country.

To find out more about how you can access LearningExpress Library, call Bertha Bartlett Public Library at 515-733-2685 or stop by and ask one of your local librarians for more information.

The Library Savings Calculator is a tool that allows you to understand the value of the services you receive from BBPL. Enter the number of times you use library services into a simple web form. The form computes the dollar value of each service as well as a grand total.

To librarians, it's a too familiar scenario. A patron returns a book that left the building in good condition but now is damp, moldy, torn, marked up or otherwise damaged. A disappointment to both librarian and patron who is now responsible for the book's repair or replacement. Too bad. With proper care, books last a long time so multiple patrons may enjoy them. Without it, they deteriorate quickly and become an unwelcome donation to the Friends of the Library sale.

Damage to books usually results from careless handling or improper storage so here are some suggestions for avoiding the most common book disasters. Some seem too obvious to need stating, but we've seen too many books damaged by carelessness or ignorance that spreading the word seems worth doing.

Use bookmarks. Never dog-ear a library book to mark your place. Paper clips, rubber bands, locks of hair, rubber bands, string, dental floss, pencils, etc. aren't bookmarks and shouldn't be used as such. Flat paper bookmarks really are best. Archival paper is nice, but if you remember to take the marker out of the book when you decide to quit reading, ordinary paper markers are fine. Pieces of paper, left in a book for 20 years, leave a brown stain so eschew the common practice of leaving bookmarks, relevant newspaper articles, scraps of paper, etc. in the book. Avoid markers, which damage the pages. Leave your grandmother's silver Tiffany marker on display, not in the book. Oh, and, as your fourth-grade teacher mentioned, don't leave the book open and flat to save your place.

Don't mark up library books. Any marks in or on books lessen their value. That includes coffee stains, rings left by glasses, your name and address, grandmotherly admonitions, underlining, highlighting (yellow highlighters ought always to be kept at least 10 yards away from valuable books), and, yes, even the cleverest of bookplates. Unless, of course, the bookplate or signature lends value.

The dust jackets are there to protect the book. But even a sturdy dust jacket can't save a book from dogs and babies - keep your library books out of reach.

Remove books carefully from the shelf. Ever noticed those tiny tears at the top of the spine of many books? They're a common fault and result from removing the book from the shelf by pulling at the top of the spine (the head cap). Better reach in from the top and slide the book out or push the books on either side in and grasp the spine. Dust with a feather duster (away from the spine) or a hand vac set at a very low power.


Store books carefully. The rules are simple but finding the space and creating the correct environment are often inconvenient ---- the result being books "temporarily" stored in bad places that turn out to be book homes for a generation or more.

At the top of the list of things to be avoided are heat, dampness, UV rays, and extreme changes in temperature and humidity. According to the AIC, "a cool, dry, and stable environment" is best for book rooms. The best shelving protects books from dust and dirt (glass doors are nice) and allows books to be shelved upright with space both in back and front of the books. Make sure your hands are clean. And please, please, please do not carry books in the same bag as any type of liquid!

Oh, and enjoy the library's books. Love them. Talk with them occasionally. Take them home, ruffle through the pages and spend some quality time with them. I'm not sure why it helps, but I know they hate being neglected.

Water damage to a library book.

Avoiding Holiday Headaches: Shopping Tips

'Tis the season to be jolly, but it's also the season to be cautious about spending your hard-earned money! With some effort, you'll find great shopping deals. But it also takes effort to make sure you know exactly what you're buying, whether the deal you found is truly a good one, and the rules for returns.

Before you buy, make sure it's a good product at a good price from a good seller. Is it a quality product or something that's simply cheap? Cheaper isn't always a better bargain! What do you know about the retailer - is this a store or website you trust? They're there to make the sale, but are they also willing to provide service? Before you buy, check around and make sure it's really a good product and a good deal.

Take your ads with you. If you're headed to a store, take the store's ad with you. Make sure the product and price match the ad.

Always keep receipts and paperwork! Most stores will not make refunds without a receipt, and many won't exchange without a proof of purchase. If you really think you need a service contract and end up paying for one, be sure to save the paperwork. (Find out more about service contracts at

Returns and layaways: Make sure you know a store's policy on returns or layaways before you make a purchase. Remember, there is no state law that requires stores to give a refund, exchange, or credit for merchandise that is returned or taken off layaway (unless the store advertises that it accepts such returns, or unless an article is defective or was misrepresented.) Also keep in mind that Iowa's three-day-right-to-cancel law only applies to door-to-door sales, or sales made away from a seller's usual place of business. In short, most refund policies are up to individual retailers.

Buying online: Be sure to shop with reputable companies. Make sure the seller lists an address or toll-free number, just in case you have a problem. Be sure purchases are refundable in case you are not satisfied. Get all details on shipping and handling fees, refund and return policies, and complaint procedures. Print out and keep records of your purchase. Use only "secure" websites (secure websites utilize an "https://" prefix for their website address, with the "s" signifying that it's secure). Pay by credit card - avoid using a debit card or check, so you can dispute the bill and withhold payment if necessary. Be wary of online classified ads and auctions, and avoid providing financial information directly to classified ad sellers.

Mail orders: If you order gifts by mail, by telephone or through a website, you have certain protections. Federal law requires the seller to ship your purchase within 30 days, unless the offer or ad specifies a later date. If there is a delay, the seller must notify you, allow you a chance to cancel your order, and send a full refund if you choose to cancel. Don't send cash or use your debit card - a credit card gives you the most safeguards.

Gift certificates and gift cards: If you're thinking of buying a gift certificate or gift card, check the retailer's policy. Find out if the retailer will give a credit or cash return if the purchase price is less than the value of the gift certificate, and any other terms the store places on the certificates. Money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date of purchase, or from the last date you loaded any additional funds onto the card. Retailers can charge inactivity fees only after a card has been inactive for at least one year, and they can charge you only once per month. The card's expiration date must be clearly disclosed on the card, and fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.

A Virtual Service from BBPL!

Bertha Bartlett Public Library is now a participant of WILBOR: Blue Ribbon Downloads for Iowans. The virtual service, intended for home-use, allows card-holding patrons of BBPL to browse and download audio and electronic books 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

WILBOR is accessed from our homepage or by visiting Upon your first visit, we highly recommend that all users take advantage of the set-up wizard. You access the set-up wizard by clicking on the "My Help! Beta" icon located in the left side of the WILBOR homepage. The set-up wizard walks you through the download and set-up of your Overdrive software (free software that is required for accessing your audio and e-book downloads) and the process of downloading WILBOR materials.

You will need to know your patron number to download materials from WILBOR. Titles may be downloaded to your computer, then transferred to CD, MP3 players or other portable reading and listening devices. When the check-out period expires (7 to 14 days depending on the title), the title will automatically be inaccessible from your computer.

We are currently accepting suggestions for books that will permanently available via WILBOR to BBPL patrons only. You may find a long waiting list for some of the titles in WILBOR. Let us know if you think a title would appeal to a variety of other patrons. You may email your suggestions to, call 515-733-2685 or stop into the library.

The IRS has informed all public libraries of the following change to tax filing.  Please see below for a variety of options. 

"The IRS announced that individual and business taxpayers will no longer receive paper income tax packages in the mail from the IRS. These tax packages contained the forms, schedules and instructions for filing a paper income tax return.  The IRS is taking this step because of the continued growth in electronic filing and the availability of free options to taxpayers, as well as to help reduce costs. 
There are numerous free options available for your patrons to obtain tax products, tax preparation and assistance in filing their tax returns:

The IRS mailed postcards to individuals who filed paper returns last year and did not use a tax preparer or tax software. The postcard provides information on how to get the tax forms and instructions they need for filing their tax year 2010 return."


  • Bertha Bartlett Public Library will not receive masters of all tax forms. 
  • We will do our best to have a selection of the major forms to pick up or photocopy (10c/page).

The State Library of Iowa has compiled a list of investment resources available online to help Iowans strengthen their knowledge of and confidence in investing. The links may be used alone or in conjunction with the Smart Investing classes offered through Bertha Bartlett Public Library this fall.

The State Library has received a $98,251 grant to build the capacity of selected libraries to provide effective, unbiased investor education for the public by hosting face-to-face and online education provided by Iowa State University Extension staff.  Three different courses will be offered to Iowans:  those who are first-time investors, those preparing for retirement, and retirees.  In addition, participating libraries receive $575 worth of library books and DVDs about investing. The grant will also cover the cost of publicity for the courses.

Please visit "Help in Tough Times", a gathering of resources to make it through tough economic times.

Social Security is involved in a wide variety of new and important initiatives. 

  • Specifically, they have a new national campaign Retire Online. It’s So Easy! This campaign features a new online retirement application that can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.  The application is available online at, and can easily be completed at any  library computer.  A brochure on the subject can be viewed at
  • In May 2009, as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Social Security will distribute a one-time payment of $250 to over 55 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries.  A leaflet which discusses this in greater detail is available online at

Tightening your budget? Here are 10 things you can do – entirely free – at the Bertha Bartlett Public Library.

1. Get a library card. All you need is proof of your residence.

2. Borrow books, not just from BBPL, but also from libraries all over Iowa, thanks to Interlibrary Loans. No matter what book you have a hankering for, chances are good that some library in Iowa has it. Request your title at the Circulation Desk and be notified when it arrives at BBPL. Large print books are available too.

3. Meet friends who love to read. We have two different book clubs: Bartlett Book Club meets monthly on the third Tuesday at 2:30 pm.  Book Vikings meets monthly on the last Tuesday at 6:30 pm.  Call to see what titles the clubs are reading this month and reserve your spot.

4. Treat your kids. We have a number of kid-oriented and family-friendly programs!  Wee Read, a lap/sit program for babies and toddlers meets on Thursdays at 10:35 am.  Preschool Storytime meets on Thursdays at 10:30.  KOOL, for kids in K-2nd, meets on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm.  3*6 Book Club, for 3rd-6th grades, meets Thursdays at 4 pm.  In addition, we have a monthly "Family Night" on the third Monday at 6:30 pm and Early-Out programs from 1:30 to 3 on every school early dismissal.

5. Learn Story City history or explore your family geneaology. The library’s historical collection includes many books about Story City's Scandinavian heritage, school yearbooks and copies of area newspapers going back for decades.

6. Borrow an audio book or music CD.

7. Borrow a DVD or a VHS film. Have we made our point that the library houses a lot more than books, books, and more books? Okay, then...

8. Go online. Computers are available for free for public use.  We even have a special space for research, testing on-line and conducting job hunts.

9. Have a cup of coffee.  We offer hot coffee for your enjoyment while you peruse the daily newspapers, glance through a magazine or read the first few pages of a new book.

10. Give your teenager a place to hang out. Kids ages 11-17 have their own area in the library, with a table, comfy chairs, books and magazines.

Bertha Bartlett Public Library has a number of multiple-copy books available for Book Clubs to check out.  Please call 515-733-2685 or email to reserve a title for your Book Club.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (16 copies)

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (16 copies)

Bold Spirit by Linda Hunt (14 copies)

The Blue Bottle Club by Penelope (14 copies)

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (14 copies)

Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E. Ambrose (14 copies)

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (11 copies)

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel (16 copies)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (5 copies)

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (15 copies)

Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (15 copies)

Jewel by Bret Lott (15 copies)

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley (9 copies)

A Light in the Window by Jan Karon (15 copies)

The Lighthouse by P.D. James (15 copies)

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (13 copies)

Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken (5 copies)

Out of Canaan by Jan Karon (11 copies)

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve (4 copies)

Resistance by Anita Shreve (15 copies)

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (15 copies)

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis (12 copies)

These High Green Hills by Jan Karon (10 copies)

Through Different Eyes by J. Barbara Alvord (9 copies)

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (14 copies)

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (14 copies)

Join the Bartlett Book Club for monthly discussions!  The Book Club meets the third Tuesday of every month at 2:30 pm in the Meeting Room.  All invited to participate.  Books are available for check-out at the Circulation Desk.  Come share your insights and reflections!