Library Renovation Moves Forward

Spring is a little late this year but it’s an exciting season for the library. Last fall the library’s Renovation and Expansion (R&E) Committee identified features required of a library designed to serve the 21st century needs of Marion. They also took on the task of identifying the look and feel of a library best suited to Marion’s unique character.

These were critical first steps. We took the next steps last month. First, the Board hired David Hoeksema of the Renaissance Group to conduct a capital campaign feasibility study. David organized the capital campaign for the current facility back in the early 1990s. Next came a consulting architect, Joe Huberty of Engberg Andersen. Joe is a public library design specialist and was the lead architect for the Iowa City Public Library renovation. Based on the work of the R&E Committee, Joe facilitated the first of two charrettes that we’ll use to identify the strengths and challenges of our renovation options.  We’re moving from concept to reality.

One of the biggest challenges we face is coping with Marion’s growth. While working on the community needs assessment for the renovation project, I came across a couple of astonishing facts. When the current library facility opened its doors in 1996, the population of Marion was 23,036. The latest U.S. Census estimate pegs Marion’s population at 36,506. That’s an increase of 60% in fewer than 20 years.

Since 1996 Marion’s population grew by an annual average rate of almost 2.75%. We expect this growth to continue, but even if it slows to a rate of 2%/year by 2035, just a little more than 20 years from now, Marion will be a city of over 55,000 people. It’s also very likely that Tower Terrace Road will connect I-380 and Iowa Hwy 13, and it will run right through the center of town.

2035 is an important year for us because when planning library construction you have to plan 20 years out, but few could have imagined how fast Marion would grow and how much library service would change. The time to look ahead another 20 years came a little sooner than expected, but that time has arrived.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be seeking community input, and developing and sharing plans for our renovation and expansion. I’ll have a spot on our webpage to keep the community informed and in touch with the process. Like I said; it’s an exciting season. 

--Doug Raber, Library Director