New Iowa City Public Library director focuses on community

Elsworth Carman took over as Iowa City Public Library’s director in January. He hopes to bring fresh perspective to the well-regarded agency.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Elsworth Carman speaks during the Iowa City Public Library Director Candidate Forum on Monday, {man} 29, 2018. The Iowa City Public Library is seeking a new director after Susan Craig retires in December. Craig has served as Library Director for 41 years.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

Since taking over as the director of Iowa City Public Library on Jan. 2, Elsworth Carman has focused on maintaining the library’s tradition in the community.

With historic low temperatures on Wednesday, Carman said, he and the staff were unsure if they would close the library because of extreme cold.

Eventually, the library doors opened early to accommodate people who needed a warm place to spend the day. Carman said the staff provided hot drinks and winter clothing to the public as well.

“We’re here for the people,” he said. “There’s no other reason for us to be here except to serve our community.”

The philosophy of serving the community has been key to his approach to the job so far.

We’re here for the people. There’s no other reason for us to be here except to serve our community.”

After a lengthy search process that included a public forum with three candidates on Oct. 29, the library announced on Nov. 18 that Carman had been hired as the new director.

Carman had worked at libraries in Washington D.C., New Jersey, Illinois, and Iowa. He most recently served as the director of the public library in Marion.

He said the transition to Iowa City was a smooth one.

“I kind of knew coming in that it was a very healthy agency doing great things,” he said. “But being here every day, I’m amazed at the strength and talent of the staff.”

RELATED: Public forum introduces Iowa City Public Library director candidates

Carman was hired following the retirement of the previous director, Susan Craig, who served as the library director for 24 years.

“Coming in after a legacy director like Susan Craig, who was here before me, is a really big challenge,” Carman said. “I’ve literally never met anybody who didn’t love Susan.”

Craig said in October that the library was looking for a director that would uphold the library’s role as a cornerstone of the community.

“The Iowa City Public Library is really a community center and a hub of so much activity that goes on in the library,” Craig told The Daily Iowan on Oct. 29.

Kara Logsden, the library’s community and access services coordinator, said Carman is doing a great job of providing leadership and becoming a part of the community.

“He is asking the right questions; he is observing; he is very supportive of staff,” she said.

It’s always hard for someone to follow up such a beloved director, Logsden said, but Carman has the potential to leave a lasting mark on the library.

“He has the skills that he potentially could be another legacy director for us,” she said.

Looking to the future, Carman and Logsden said they will continue finding ways to improve services at the library and make it a more accessible, community-oriented place.

The City Council is considering removing fines from children’s and young-adult materials, which Logsden said would make the library more accessible to the public.

Carman said he is excited to create a new strategic plan for the library, with work on the new plan expected to begin in early 2020.

“I’m looking forward to building on the success and just seeing how we’re going to move forward,” Carman said. “Things are changing all the time, so how are we going to change our work to best serve our community?”

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