MARION

Marion library makes most of cramped quarters but seeks room to grow

Programming suffers because of space, library director says

A card catalog containing seeds at the Sonia Kendrick Memorial Seed Library in the Marion Public Library in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, April 8, 2019. Students with Iowa BIG refurbished the old catalog with new stain to be used as the seed library. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A card catalog containing seeds at the Sonia Kendrick Memorial Seed Library in the Marion Public Library in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, April 8, 2019. Students with Iowa BIG refurbished the old catalog with new stain to be used as the seed library. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — Fitting into the current Marion Public Library space is like “a jigsaw puzzle where you have three pieces missing,” Library Director Hollie Trenary says.

The library, which has spent years in limbo awaiting definite plans for expansion or a new building, is in tight quarters. The current location has about 24,000 square feet while a January needs assessment called for more like 52,000.

“We just don’t have enough space,” Trenary said. “So there’s only so many moves that you can make without feeling like you’re still missing a few pieces.”

The library is undergoing a reorganization with the hopes of better utilizing its space and cleaning out older items in the collection that no longer circulate. Trenary said the library will close May 9 to finish up moving around the spaces and reopen the next day.

The move will likely carve out some dedicated teen space and more space for children’s programming, Trenary said, adding that what suffers most in the library is programming.

“We are lagging way behind in the programming that we’re that we’re able to offer. And it’s not because we don’t have the people in the staff and the heart and the desire to do it — we don’t have a place to have it,” Trenary said, adding that staff are working with the city’s parks department to adapt and bring programming outside.

Trenary’s library philosophy, however, demands staff to make the most out of the space to create “not just your mom’s library.”

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“We’re not just about books, right? We’re about access, and access to information, access to technology, access to community, community space,” Trenary said.

The library’s most recent venture is the of Sonia Kendrick Memorial Seed Library, which provides seeds to the public with the hopes they’ll one day be returned through seed saving.

Trenary also highlighted the library’s partnership with the Mercy Caregivers Center to provide support programming to those taking care of their ailing loved ones. The children’s staff is also working on “positive parenting” classes to inform young parents.

In the last week, city and library leaders changed directions on plans for a new library. While new plans will have to be made, Trenary said a new or expanded library will mostly likely come in the next three to five years — possibly in the open lot it uses for parking between the library and City Hall.

Colleen Bates, 83 of Cedar Rapids, said she enjoys the library the way it is when she comes a couple times a month for books. She said it feels senior-friendly with it being small and books being easily accessible.

“Busy is good,” Bates said. “It’s probably different if you’re a worker here or something, but I enjoy it.”

LaRonda Saeugling, 33, of Cedar Rapids, comes to the library a few times a month for her 2-year-old daughter, Nevaeh. She said she’d like to bring her daughter to more children’s programming as she gets older.

“The only thing I’d be nervous on is what they do with this building,” Saeugling said. “But I do think it would be beneficial to have a bigger area.”

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The bigger library could also serve a social services hub and home for the Marion Youth Coalition. Currently Willis Dady Homeless Services and the Abbe Center for Community Mental Health both operate in the library building.

“The library is where everybody goes to find information and resources. And I think a lot of the folks that are looking for those resources are already coming into the library and using our facility. So it is a place that they know they can come to,” Trenary said. “It’s also a public place where everybody’s welcome.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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