Librarian ready for new adventure

Iola Public Library director Roger Carswell is retiring after almost 29 years. He plans to pursue his passion for travel.



June 22, 2021 - 10:22 AM

Roger Carswell is retiring as director of the Iola Library and Southeast Kansas Library System after almost 29 years. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Roger Carswell is ready for adventure.

After serving as library director for almost 29 years, the 64-year-old Quenemo native is retiring, especially so as to pursue his passion for travel.

Before hitting the road, however, Carswell sat down with the Register to share some of his memories of the library during his tenure.

Roger Carswell points out the childrens’ section of the library to highlight changes that have been made there in recent years.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

“OBVIOUSLY the biggest change over the years has been the internet and other technologies,” Carswell noted.

“But I think we were as on top of things as any library in the region, with how early we started offering [it].”

The process began shortly after Carswell took the helm, when the library switched over to its first automated system with a (rather slow) in-house server.

“We had a BYOB party, barcode your own book,” he said, and “we had 215 volunteer hours put in,” in order to begin converting the filing system.

“We got most of it done during that time … and launched the automated circulation later on in 1994,” Carswell added.

“It was a big thing.”

OTHER major accomplishments that Carswell pointed to include the homebound program, whereby folks with a disability or without transportation can still enjoy library offerings.

A curbside delivery service was added during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We also started an automatic reserve service,” Carswell said.

“Some people want to read every new book by James Patterson or Danielle Steel or any number of authors,” he explained, and this system automatically helps get peoples’ favorite authors into their hands sooner.

Another automated system for which Carswell oversaw the implementation was SEK-n’-Find, which allows patrons to place their own holds, submit their own renewals and more, on materials anywhere in the Southeast Kansas Library System.

Carswell likewise said he has fond memories of the library centennial celebration in 2005.

“We just had a whole year’s worth of activities of various kinds,” he said, to commemorate when “the library was established by an election on February 14, 1905.”

These activities included everything from recreating the library’s original Kansas Room, to hosting programs on Black womens’ elaborate church hats.

ALONG with programming, Carswell likewise shepherded the library’s renovation in 2010-2011, which “led to a number of layout and cosmetic changes.”

One of these changes included building a new meeting room, which in turn allowed for an even greater range of programming.

The renovation was no small task, however, especially given “the fact that we remained in the building all during the renovation, … so three different times we had to move. Everything in the library got moved at least twice.”