CORONAVIRUS

Pandemic preps Marion library for future

Sudden turn to technology speeds its transition

A rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects shows plans for a new and larger Marion Public Library. The library is in a #
A rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects shows plans for a new and larger Marion Public Library. The library is in a “silent” fundraising phase right now, which will become a public fundraising campaign this summer. (Supplied illustration)
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MARION — The Marion Public Library is busy, even though its doors are closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marion library Director Hollie Trenary is hopeful that October will finally bring a groundbreaking for a new and larger building, unveiled earlier this year in a first draft of renderings.

The library is hosting “virtual” community meetings May 11 and 12. Attendees can give their input on the renderings for the new library.

More information about the meetings will be available at marionpubliclibrary.org or on its Facebook page at Marion Public Library.

The Gazette spoke with Trenary about the planned new construction and how the library continues to serve the community in the time of social distancing.

Q: How is planning for the new library going during the pandemic?

A: Things are moving in a positive direction. We know the pandemic is going to change things a little from a timing perspective, but not necessarily from a giving perspective. If everything stays on track, the goal is to be breaking ground around October.

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We will launch a (public fundraising) campaign quite festively mid- to late-summer. This is the community’s library. Everyone is going to get the chance to give to help support the $3 million we have to raise. Every penny will help.

Q: How is the library functioning during the coronavirus pandemic?

A: The library is busier — it seems as busy with the door closed as it was when we had people coming in.

We are launching Book A Librarian, where people can book a librarian for 30 minutes over the phone or on Zoom to get help with online resources.

We’re going to start circulating virtual meeting rooms on Zoom, so people can check out a Zoom account and host their own birthday party or meeting. We’re registering a lot of people daily for library cards.

Q: How has the Marion Public Library’s online resources put it at an advantage during coronavirus when everything is virtual?

A: Our goal is always to provide the same experience online that people would get when they walk through the door. For people with different abilities who may not be able to come to the library, we want to mimic as much as possible that physical experience.

This pandemic has expedited our move to that kind of environment. A pandemic reinforces why all those (virtual) elements are important.

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Thinking about the new physical building we’ll be moving to, a couple things we have planned are crucially important now that we’ve been through something like this. We’re planning a drive-up window in the new building. If we had a drive-up window right now, it could change the way we’re responding and would have allowed us to provide service a little longer.

The mobile library branch still is in the works. We’re waiting to hear from some final grant money to move that forward. That would be a fantastic resource for us to have right now during the pandemic. Perhaps we could be delivering materials to senior living facilities or little free libraries. If we had that unit right now, we could take it into a parking lot and create a little internet cafe for people to drive up to. That mobile library unit would be killing it.

Q: What did the library staff do before we even knew about coronavirus that prepared you for this time?

A: We’ve been preparing staff for change and talking about being nimble and agile. When you go out and watch some of the videos our staff is doing on Facebook, they’ve embraced this vision. We have six programmers working from home right now, and with very little direction, they’re coming up with content and rolling with it.

We have a new mission statement: Ignite possibilities. Setting a mission statement the staff really resonates with has been the biggest step we’ve made to prepare them for this.

Q: Tell me more about the new mission and vision statements.

A: We updated the strategic plan and our mission and vision in the fall of 2019. The mission is “Ignite Possibilities,” and our vision is “Be the spark that lights the way.”

It reflects what it is we believe we’re trying to do in Marion. We want to ignite possibilities for entrepreneurs, education, literacy, jobs, employment, a new hobby.

I wanted (the new mission statement) to be something that when an employee says it, they feel it. The previous mission and vision was longer, and I don’t know if anyone could have recited it. It wasn’t something that was rolling off someone’s tongue.

What’s our mission? We ignite possibilities. I want to be able to say it.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.