ABOVE: Macy Sigel, 5, works on a project during craft time that is part of the summer reading program at Marion City Library.
“People need to visit and use the library,” Marler said. “It’s important that kids keep reading, and that parents take the time to bring their kids in. All activities are important, but they’ll always have reading with them.”
Housed in the former Santa Fe Depot built in 1912, Marion’s library provides a pleasant place where children and adults can access information and knowledge.
This summer 80 children and 60 adults are signed up for the reading program, “Catch the Reading bug,” that began last week, Marler said.
Participants of all ages will set reading goals and record the books they read.
The library offers two weekly story time sessions for younger children on Fridays.
“I like to get them at that age…and get them to really start loving the library,” Marler said.
Six years ago the library moved from the city office building to the old train depot after a community-wide effort raised funds to restore and remodel the building.
“Our thing was to preserve (the depot) and let the whole community benefit from it,” Marler said.
Along with a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation, individuals and groups pitched in to help make the project a reality. Women’s groups donated money for specific needs, and memorial money was given to buy furniture and books.
“They just came out and helped us with everything,” Marler said about the community effort.
After the move, hours could be extended, new staff and programs were added and enhanced, Marler said, and since then circulation has doubled.
The library also offers computers for public use, genealogical research resources and study areas with wireless access.
“I felt the library should be a place in the center of town where people come for information and know they can get whatever help they need there,” she said. “When we moved here, all that could happen.”
Marler and husband Doug of 35 years grew up in Marion. Their family includes son Kevin, daughter-in-law Amanda and granddaugthers Tori, Katie and Trinity.
Marler said she began working at the library as “very part-time staff” in 1974 when Norma Riggs was the librarian.
“There was an opening in the paper that she needed part-time help, so I applied,” she said.
After Riggs retired in 1990, Marler took on the head position.
Marler’s staff now includes Vickie Kraus, Joan Winter, Amy Rowles, Beth Collette and Rachel Thurston.
“I have a great staff,” she said. “We all do every job that’s here, basically.”
Volunteers also provide help with programs and projects, she said.
Community events sponsored by the library include showing indoor and outdoor movies, providing an annual new book sale, hosting two Kansas Humanities programs and sponsoring the Christmas home tour.
Looking to the future, Marler said she and her board hope to add on to the facility, expanding the children’s section and providing a quiet area where people can read in solitude.
Marler credits her board, which meets monthly, for much of the library’s success.
“We talk about what issues are coming up, projects, ways to improve, programs we can do,” she said.
The city appoints seven members, who serve two four-year terms.
“It’s a very good board,” Marler said. “I believe we’re fortunate to have great board members that are supportive and back me, along with my ideas, and are always willing to try things.”
One member is community volunteer Margaret Wilson, who has served on the board for eight years.
“I have a real passion for the library,” said Wilson, who moved with husband Rex to Marion in 1964.
“Our role is to support what (the staff) sees that needs to be done,” she said about being a board member. “All of us have careers in other areas, and we bring various amounts of expertise. Some have lived here forever and some are fairly new to community. We’re a diverse group…with one goal in mind—to support the staff and the library.”
Along with advocating that children learn vital reading skills, Wilson promotes the community programs and monthly learning luncheons held at the library.
“They’re so wonderful,” she said. “They’re fun and educational and a social event and you see friends. It’s all good.”
Over the years, Wilson has observed the various uses for the old Santa Fe depot, including equipment storage, a youth center and now the city’s library.
“It’s metamorphosed into many, many different things,” she said. “But this is the very best use for it.”