Library staff asks users to share their stories

Robin Visser’s life would be very boring without the library.

She said she spends roughly 10 hours a week there, drawing while her son plays Yu-Gi-Oh!. But she said it also saves her a lot of money.

“We don’t have a place to buy books in Marshalltown,” she said. “If you want a new book, you tell the librarians and, most of the times, it might take a while, but they will get it for you.”

Visser, a Le Grand resident, said library staff got her father the new Robert Jordan book and her Stephen Tyler’s autobiography.

On Thursday, people like Visser who make frequent use of the library can tell the world why they like the Marshalltown Public Library. As part of its nomination for the National Library Medal, the library is asking people to post their experiences as part of Share Your Story.

Sarah Rosenblum, library director, said the postings act as a sort of billboard to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), who will name the winners of the Library of the Year title in April.

She said Thursday is an opportunity to brag about the library, to brag about Marshalltown. People don’t need to share life-changing experiences. Even the smallest difference the library has made helps inform library decisions as it looks forward with its programs and services.

“They might point out something that we weren’t really aware of that made an impact,” Rosenblum said. “It’s always great to hear from people in their own words.”

Edgardo Ortiz, of Des Moines, said he uses the library every day. As a coordinator for the Boy Scouts of America in Tama, Marshall and Hardin Counties, he needs a centralized public place to hold meetings and keep his finger on the pulse of the community.

Ortiz said he is impressed with the quality of the library compared to the size of the city. Although Marshalltown is a fraction of the size of the Des Moines, you would never know it by visiting the library.

“I use it like my office,” he said.

Rosenblum said the library is woven into the community, and she hopes the stories shared will be reflective of it. While Internet station use and DVD rentals are the fastest growing service, she said other, less obvious services, like its genealogy archives, are also widely used by the public.

How progressive the library is helps to quash some misnomers some people might have about places like Iowa.

“For most people, there is an east coast and west coast, and there is the part of the country you fly over,” she said.

Sandy Witt, of Marshalltown, said her two children, Dylan, 13, and Kylee, 9, make avid use of the library’s Internet, DVDs and books. Kylee is a voracious reader, and library staff always help her find what she needs. Recently, they helped her find some books on poetry after Kylee’s teacher had discussed poetry in school.

“Because they are so easily accessed, and have such a wide variety of material available, [the library] has accelerated my kids’ reading level,” she said.

Of the 16 finalists for Library of the Year, the IMLS will name five winners. The winners will receive $5,000 and be honored at ceremony in Washington, D.C. May 8.

No library in Iowa has ever won the medal.

Visser said the library’s accessibility encourages curiosity and shows that learning is for everyone.

“It helps you keep in touch with what is going on in the world,” she said.

To share your story, visit on or after Thursday. Be sure to mention the Marshalltown Public Library by name. Library staff will even post on your behalf. To have staff post on your behalf, visit the Marshalltown Public Library at 105 W. Boone St. or call 641-754-5738.