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Marion library board fires director without explanation

Termination comes as new $18M million library under construction

Hollie Trenary stands Nov. 26, 2018, among stacks of books at the Marion Public Library. The library's board of trustees
Hollie Trenary stands Nov. 26, 2018, among stacks of books at the Marion Public Library. The library’s board of trustees this month voted, after meeting in secret, to fire her as director without citing a cause. (The Gazette)

Less than two months after ground was broken on a new home for a larger Marion Public Library, its board has fired the library director without public explanation.

In a special meeting Nov. 18, the board met in private — citing the possibility of litigation — to discuss Library Director Hollie Trenary, records of the meeting show.

Six of the nine library trustees then voted to terminate her $102,000-a-year contract “for no just cause” — meaning she will be paid two extra months of salary and insurance benefits, according to her contract, than if members had been able to make a case for a justified firing.

“I’m sad and heartbroken,” Trenary told The Gazette, declining further comment.

Deputy Director Kelly Dybvig is now acting director, according to Marion Communications Manager Amber Bisinger. The trustees will determine future steps at upcoming meetings.

City officials declined further comment, citing policy against discussing personnel matters.

Board President Sally Reck, who meeting records show opposed the termination, also declined to comment.

The library now has seen three directors in the past five years as it has struggled with changing plans to expand and meet a growing demand from the community. In 2016, former director Doug Raber retired after five years. In 2017, Elsworth Carman was hired as director but soon after was named director of administrative services for Marion before leaving and becoming director of the Iowa City Public Library in 2018. Trenary, who began that same year, previously was operations manager for the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

A new Marion library, which is being built across 11th Street from the current building, which has housed the library since 1996, will cost an estimated $18 million.

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The new library project broke ground Oct. 1 and currently is under construction, closing off a portion of 11th Street.

The city finally settled on the site for the new building after abandoning the ideas of tearing down the existing library and building a new one on the same site; or including a library within the Marion Square Plaza redevelopment plan.

Both of those ideas were scrapped and the current plan was chosen in June 2019 under Trenary’s tenure.

The Marion Public Library building was closed permanently after its roof sustained damage from August’s derecho. The library lost about 20 percent of its collection in the storm and has been operating out of temporary locations and will continue to do so until the new building is complete.

The next library board meeting is set for Dec. 14.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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