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Iowa City Public Library Mourns Passing of Lolly (Parker) Eggers, Former Library Director


For 25 years, Lolly was part of the Iowa City Public Library staff. In 1974 she was appointed to serve as the Director of the library. It was a role she held until her retirement in 1994. 

Lauretta P. “Lolly” Eggers was born on October 25, 1929. She grew up in Des Moines, IA. She earned a BA degree from Grinnell College in 1951 and moved to Iowa City that year when she married Del Eggers, another “Grinnellian.” Lolly began work at the Iowa City Public Library in June 1969 immediately after earning her MA in library science from The University of Iowa. She was the Director of the Iowa City Public Library for 20 years, from 1974-1994, when she retired. 

During her tenure at the Iowa City Public Library before being selected as Director, Lolly was a Reference Librarian, Acting head of Adult Services, and led the Technical Processing Department. Under her leadership, the Iowa City Public Library became the first in the United States to have a computerized checkout and catalog system. It was introduced in 1980. 

She also oversaw the development of a searchable catalog which reflected what was actually in the ever-changing collection, and developed the policy and system of purchasing multiple copies of popular titles to ensure one was always available to check out.  

She was an active community leader particularly in the areas of women’s rights and issues and political action. She worked on the development of the first Iowa City Fair Housing Act as a member of the Iowa League of Women Voters, and was one of the female employees of the City of Iowa City who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against the city alleging gender discrimination in employment policies in 1973. In a negotiated EEOC agreement to settle that complaint, the city agreed to specific practices to ensure fair treatment of women in hiring and employment policies. She also helped establish the Johnson County Commission on the Status of Women in 1973. In 1994, Lolly was named a “Woman of Distinction” by the Iowa City Senior Center.  

Under Lolly’s leadership, took ICPL from a small-town library to one widely respected around the country. Lolly’s tenure as Director saw significant engagement with the community. 

“Lolly was small in physical stature, but a giant in all the ways that count.  She built ICPL into a modern, nationally respected, and locally beloved institution, always moving forward, always looking for ways to improve, relentless in her support of the public good.

Long before schools would teach people to identify “fake news” she battled outdated thoughts and opinions with facts and statistics.  A tireless worker, she embraced new challenges whether it was offering a collection for everyone in a variety of formats, building a controversial new building in the heart of downtown, being the first public library west of the Mississippi to eliminate the old-style card catalog, or fighting for intellectual freedom (“If there’s not something in this library collection that offends you we’re not doing our job.”).

As a leader and boss, Lolly was the best, offering opportunities to succeed and picking you up if things didn’t go well, letting you know that it was ok to compromise when necessary as long as you never lost sight of the goal. 

Lolly Eggers was truly a member of the greatest generation,” said former Iowa City Public Library Director, Susan Craig. 

“Ms. Eggers’ legacy is tangible at ICPL. Our overall philosophy of service still reflects her passion for accuracy of and access to information, and she holds a very special place in the narrative history of the library.  Staff frequently quote her expression, “There is no answer. Seek it lovingly.”

Ms.Eggers’ influence on ICPL shows her dedication to active training and staff education.  She developed the concept of a library Inservice Day, where all staff come together to learn and grow, and generously gifted the library with an ongoing staff training fund, which allows library staff to participate in training and educational programs regionally and nationally.

As we work on programs and events for the LIbrary’s 125th Anniversary celebration, Ms. Eggers has felt very present in the library.  Archived images clearly show her love of working with staff and patrons, and her wide-reaching achievements--which included significant technological advances--speak to her skill as a leader and visionary,” said current Iowa City Public Library Director, Elsworth Carman.  

In retirement, she researched and wrote two books. In 1997, she published “A Century of Stories, The History of the Iowa City Public Library, 1896-1997.” In 2006, she published “Irving Weber, A Biography.” She also volunteered for many years at The Book End store of the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation. 

Her impact is also captured in a “Tell Me Your Story” interview by Ellen Buchanan in 1990. https://www.icpl.org/video/tell-me-your-story-lolly-eggers 

She is survived by Del, sons Kim and Kelly, and grandson Gabriel (Gabe). She was preceded in death by her son Kevin. Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service in Iowa City is handling arrangements. She died on February 26, 2021. Memorials are welcomed to the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, 123 S Linn St, Iowa City IA 52240. www.icpl.org

 

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