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Librarian Marler makes career of getting creative

News editor

When Janet Marler took a part-time job at Marion City Library in 1974, it wasn’t because she loved books. She wanted a job, and the library position was there to be had.

But the love of literature grew on her, and Monday, Marion Mayor Todd Heitschmidt honored the head librarian’s years of service by proclaiming Friday to be Janet Marler Day.

“It makes me feel proud, happy, honored,” Marler said. “I had no idea it’s been that long. Where did the time go? I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

Norma Riggs was head librarian when Marler started.

“She was just looking for a job, I think,” Riggs said. “At first I didn’t give her too many tasks. She started tending the desk. I thought that was the best way for her to learn the collection.”

Marler soon stepped out from behind the desk to put her creativity to use.

“She was a wonderful artist,” Riggs said. “She kept our bulletin boards looking wonderful. That was really her big thing.”

Opportunities to try new things remain one of Marler’s favorite aspects of the job.

“We offer so many activities, programs, and events, it gives me a chance to be creative. I enjoy the planning part of it.”

Marler and Riggs attended library workshops whenever they could, but Marler said her greatest learning came from her mentor.

“Norma taught me what I needed to know and how it was done,” she said. “She knew her library business. We were good friends, kind of a mother-daughter relationship.”

Marler moved into the head librarian spot in 1990 when Riggs retired.

“It was never understood, it was never discussed, but that’s what I was always hoping,” Marler said. “The board came to me and asked me if I would take the position.”

When Marler inherited the job, the library’s mission was in transition, too. The library board, along with Riggs and Marler, had decided to move beyond mere book lending to offer more services and activities associated with “core” libraries. It was a move Marler was well suited to handle, and something she enjoys in the present.

“We offer so many activities, programs, and events, it gives me a chance to be creative,” Marler said. “I enjoy the planning part of it.”

Moving the library from the city building to the depot in 2002 wasn’t a change Marler was sure she was ready for. A city preservation committee recommended the idea.

“I had never been in the whole thing, so I wasn’t sure what it was like,” she said. “The outside was bad, and the inside wasn’t much better. It was in pretty bad shape.”

But the move went forward, with the city raising $150,000 to match grant funding, and the new location allowed expansion of both holdings and activities. Most recently, the library added 970 books to its collection in 2014.

When asked what the most rewarding part of her job is, Marler’s answer was a contrast with her own early experience.

“Seeing the children enjoy the books and want to come in the library,” she said. “I’d say that’s what brings a smile to my face, when the moms say, ‘Oh, we had to stop at the library.’”

Marion’s library is one of only 12 in the state rated in a ranking of top libraries by Library Journal, an industry-leading publication. Library board member Pauline Holub gives Marler much of the credit for the library’s four-star rating.

“I think she’s the one who has really built up the library and made it popular,” Holub said. “She’s continually upgrading technology. She’s got an outgoing personality, she cares for people, she’s very organized and creative. Patrons feel comfortable coming to her.”

Marler said she hasn’t given retirement a thought yet.

“How lucky I am to have a job I love, how very fortunate to enjoy something so much and help people,” she said. “When I think of all the other jobs, I don’t know what else I would do.”

Last modified Jan. 8, 2015

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