Sharon Moreland believes a public library offers something unique: A free, open space to relax, read, learn and even conduct business.
“You can come and read the paper, go to children’s story time and learn to read, come and use our WiFi or the copy machine. We welcome everybody, whatever your age or socio-economic status,” Moreland said.
“I think libraries help make American life more equitable.”
Moreland is the new director of the Iola Public Library and the Southeast Kansas Library System.
She succeeds Roger Carswell, who served as the director for 29 years until his retirement earlier this month.
Moreland was able to work with Carswell for a few weeks before his retirement, learning the ropes and making introductions to other directors and staff across the region.
“We had lots of windshield time to talk,” she said. “He has left both organizations in such great shape. I get to do all the fun stuff.”
Of course, the “fun stuff” still brings its challenges. Moreland already is working on grants to help improve the facilities. She’s excited to get the adult reading program and other activities restarted after the pandemic, and wants to increase the number of patrons who regularly use the library’s services.
The “fun stuff,” though, might include something as simple as rearranging the furniture.
“I like to do stuff like that, change things up a little,” she said. “We have a great crew. I’m open to whatever ideas the staff bring to me. This is a time of transition, but it’s also a time that we can transform into whatever it is that we want.”
MORELAND’S career has been marked by ambitious goals.
She grew up in Manhattan, the daughter of the librarian at Kansas State University’s Hale Library.
She worked part-time at the Kansas City Public Library and joined a continuing education program to become a librarian. She thought she’d be a children’s librarian, until she learned about the responsibility of a library director.
“I said, I want that job.”
She served as the director in Tonganoxie for a few years, before moving on as the technology consultant for the Northeast Kansas Library System.
“When I learned about what a library system is, I said, I want that job.”
She enjoyed learning about the different governance models for libraries.
She moved to Philadelphia to work for a non-profit library until the COVID-19 pandemic began. She came back to Kansas and took a position with a district library in Linwood, a community of just over 300 people.
The Iola library and SEK library system are just a much larger version of the type of program she worked in Linwood, she said.
“I think the library is an important part of the City of Iola, so I want to make sure we’re capitalizing on that as best we can,” she said. “As for SEK, so many of our libraries are struggling to recover from COVID and helping them get patrons back in the door is something we’re all thinking about.”
MORELAND considers herself “a hard-core public librarian.”
She grew up around librarians, particularly in an academic setting, and perhaps that made her comfortable in that kind of space.
But perhaps being a librarian just fits her personality. She enjoys customer service and working with a wide range of people.
It’s also a great way to learn.
“It definitely fits my desire to see constant improvement. I appreciate knowledge. I appreciate entertainment,” she said.
Plus, all her friends are librarians.
“It’s a fabulous profession for strong, smart women.”