116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Bill Carroll, who has been the Marion Public Library director since late July, took the reins at a time when the library has no permanent location.
The library’s building was damaged in the August 2020 derecho and never reopened. A new $18 million facility is under construction and is set to open in the first half of 2022. In the meantime, the library is operating mainly out of a storefront on Seventh Avenue in Uptown Marion, with a separate technology station at the Marion Columbus Club, 5650 Kacena Ave.
The new library will be paid for through a $3.3 million capital campaign, $5 million in local-option sales tax funding, $3 million in property damage insurance and the sale of the current site, $6 million in bonding and $1 million in tax increment financing.
During his public interview for the position this summer, Carroll said he is looking to finish his career in Marion.
“I want to remain the director until I retire,” he said. “Those are my long-term plans. I would love to come back to the Midwest and finish out my career in a town like Marion.”
Carroll is the library’s fourth director in the last five years. Doug Raber retired in 2016 after five years in the position. In 2017, Elsworth Carman was hired as director but took a job as the city’s director of administrative services before leaving to be Iowa City’s library director in 2018. The next director, Hollie Trenary, was fired without public explanation last November.
Carroll recently talked with The Gazette about his what drew him to Marion, his new role and what’s next for the public library.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Well, I am 51 and am originally from the New York City area, growing up in Long Island. I met my husband in Phoenix, Arizona, and we moved to Dubuque, Iowa, for his job. Plus at the time, Iowa was only one of four states (where) we could get married.
Shortly after we landed in Iowa, I saw a job at the Carnegie-Stout Library (in Dubuque) and that’s where I spent nine years before I went to Washington state.
Q: So what brought you back to Iowa?
A: Truth be told, I was looking for a library director position, and there were no opportunities in Iowa at the time I moved. But this opened up and I came back. Marion is very desirable, and we’re pretty familiar to the area due to friends being here.
Q: How did you end up in this career path?
A: I’ve done many things over my career: environmental consultant, teacher and of course work in public libraries. I’ve also been active in volunteering. My common career thread is wanting to give back to my community. Even though I’ve done several different things, the path that led me here was wanting to give back. It’s also pretty common for many people in the library industry to have previous careers prior to finding their calling in libraries.
Q: Can you speak on the importance of community when it comes to libraries?
A: Any library is the nerve center for any community. People come to read books and watch movies but they come to learn, gather information and meet and greet other members of the community, and the library truly is a community center central to all members of the community. Once our new building opens up, the design of the new building will have new community spaces for all of that.
Q: How have the first couple of months been in this new role? What’s it been like working alongside staff, city staff and the library board?
A: It has been very busy. It seems like every day is bumper to bumper with meetings. It’s been amazing to work with everyone … but to say that I’ve been busy is an understatement.
When I first got to Marion, I hadn’t started the job yet and I was out and about in the community, and I would proudly tell people that I was the new director and the most consistent message I got from people was about the exemplary customer service the library staff brings to their job. Everyone has been so warm and supportive.
Q: What’s it been like starting the new role with no permanent library?
A: I’ve been very careful with balancing. My staff and I are separated between five locations right now. I’m working out of City Hall. Several staff work in our Uptown location. We have staff at the Annex location where the remainder of the library’s materials are stored. I also have programming staff at Lowe Park and staff at our Tech Center. I need to be strategic with building the relationships, and that’s been challenging at different locations. Usually, I would just get up from my desk and talk to people and walk around. Working around these connection barriers has been interesting.
We’ve had some other challenges. Our Uptown location is right on Seventh Avenue, and that’s been closed so there’s been some frustration and confusion from patrons. But staff is resilient and rolls with the punches.
Q: What’s the latest update on the new library construction?
A: I have biweekly meetings with Bush Construction, the firm managing the construction, and they are committed to turning ownership of the building over to us in January with an expected opening in late March or early April. The board of trustees hasn’t pinned down a date yet. We will have to move in all the books and furniture and shelving. There’s a lot to look at and do by then.
As of the beginning of September, city finance officials looked at budget numbers line by line, and all of our spending lines for various areas of construction are all under budget as of right now. We are very pleased with that and being on time.
Q: What are you most excited about for the new facility?
A: There’s a number of things I’m looking forward to. I’m excited for the public to see everything. There’s going to be so many offerings: a culinary demonstration area, a recording studio, a tech area, different zones for adult materials and adult studies versus a children’s area. There will be a teen area zoned into quiet area for doing homework versus a more social area. I’m excited by that.
Q: What can Marion residents expect from you as a library director in their community?
A: Marion residents can expect a library director that engages with the public, someone who is responsive with requests from the public, our building will be state of the art and it looks toward the future growth of Marion.
I would also invite patrons to visit our Youtube channel to see our virtual tour of the new building.
Comments: (319) 398-8255; firstname.lastname@example.org