Marion Public Library opens temporary location in Uptown

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 10:47 PM CDT
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - Snug in the midst of Uptown Marion, the city’s public library has a new home.

The Marion Public Library opened a temporary space in which to serve the community on Tuesday, about four weeks after the Aug. 10 derecho damaged its building to such an extent that the library opted to not make repairs and chose instead to permanently close the branch.

“To open up and kind of have our ‘boutique library,’ it’s fun, it’s exciting, but it also presents its challenges,” Blaine Phillips, the library’s marketing and community relations specialist, said.

Phillips says chief among those challenges is that the new space at 1064 7th Avenue is a lot smaller than the old one a block away, at 1095 6th Avenue, with the library downsizing from 24,000 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.

Five computers fit in the front room of the new library location, and people need to make an appointment to use them.

“We also have a public WiFi network that people can get on with their tablets or any devices they want to bring,” Phillips said.

The library moved most of its 80,000-plus books to a climate-controlled storage facility for now. Phillips estimates they lost about 10% of their books in the derecho, which damaged the former location’s roof and caused water to pour inside.

As staff settle in at the new space, which formerly housed the Campbell Steele Gallery, they plan to later open up a back room for patrons to browse a small portion of the library’s collection themselves.

Until then, they’ll be able to place holds on books and make an appointment to pick them at the new location, starting Thursday. Employees will move checkouts between the Uptown site and the storage facility as people request them.

“Everything that’s been offered in the past, we’re going to work diligently to make sure that it can be offered here at our Seventh Ave. or out at Marion Columbus Club,” Phillips said.

At the latter location, the Knights of Columbus Building at 5650 Kacena Avenue, the Marion Public Library set up another temporary shop about two weeks ago, where people don’t need to make an appointment to use its services.

That space offers nine more computers, a Department of Transportation driver’s license renewal station, and employees to help with resources, like applying for FEMA assistance.

Staff at the Knights of Columbus location said they haven’t had much traffic since opening because they’re not sure people know they’re there.

“With the storm that happened, if the library was not impacted, we would’ve been swamped,” Phillips said. “That’s no question. But the fact that the library was impacted, now it’s just a continuation of our services.”

Library staff said they’re glad to be back doing what they love, even if they never expected to be doing it at the 7th Avenue space.

“We’re from Iowa,” Phillips said. “We work through it, and we’ll figure it out at the end of the day.”

The Marion Public Library said it’ll be in the 7th Avenue location for the next 14 to 15 months, until its new building opens up. The library had planned to construct that branch before the derecho hit and was one of the reasons they decided not to repair the old site.

Phillips said the location at the Knights of Columbus building will also be open for the foreseeable future.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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