A founding value in library science is that libraries are growing organisms. This concept was first articulated by Dr. Shiyali Ramamrite Ranganathan—considered by many to be the father of library education—in 1931, and it is as true today as it was then. Libraries grow and change constantly. We adjust for new material formats, technology modifications, community needs, and in response to variations in funding.
One of most exciting things I have observed in my first six months as the director of the Marion Public Library is the change readiness of both the staff and the community. Staff is eager to share new ideas, engage in conversation about ways to implement changes, and discern effective ways to evaluate what we’re doing. Our patrons are responsive to new practices and services and share their opinions enthusiastically. That’s not to say that we don’t have some traditionalists in the mix—both on staff and among our patrons—but we’ve found most people see the value in trying new things even if they don’t immediately agree with a change.
Library staff and patrons had a chance to implement and experience some short term changes late in September, when we welcomed many new patrons—and a couple of temporary staff members—while the Main Library in downtown Cedar Rapids, along with many area businesses and offices, were closed because of the predicted flood. We made some service decisions in response to high demand for access to some of our resources, like adjusting the session length on public computers and making some spaces available for public use that are not typically used that way. I was impressed and delighted by the way staff and patrons worked together to successfully navigate the changes, even in a high-stress time.
Some changes are more strategic and internal, like staffing design. The library is in a unique position this year, since there are three planned retirements happening in the span of just a few months. Each of the staff retiring has served at the library for over 20 years. While it is truly sad to see these amazing staff members retire, the vacancies they create provide opportunities to carefully assess the needs of Marion and craft positions that best meet those needs. We have brought in some new staff already, and it’s wonderful to get to know them and learn from their experiences. Good stewardship and a dedication to effective service guide our choices in building positions, and our applicant pools are typically diverse and inspiring (not a surprise when you look at all Marion has to offer). As an agency, we honor the staff who have served so conscientiously and celebrate the new staff joining our growing and changing library, and we strive to continue the library’s legacy of service to the Marion community.
Another big change on our horizon is the building project. Like substantial staffing changes, this kind of significant space design opportunity needs to be approached with a commitment to exceptional stewardship and a real desire to meet and exceed Marion’s needs. We’re working hard to plan a project that will allow for outstanding service right now, but will also be flexible enough to meet the needs of our users as those needs change and evolve.
As our agency shifts and develops to best meet our community’s service needs, we find joy in redesigning our services and spaces in response to your input and feedback. Thank you for growing and changing with us. Please keep asking your questions and stating your needs; the more we hear from you, the more fully we can serve our community.
--Elsworth Carman, Library Director