From the Past: Growing Pains

125 years of Iowa City Public Library History Est 1896

1970 - 1980

In 1970, Director Mary Croteau resigned and recommended staff member Lolly Eggers be Acting Director. Later that year, the Library Board hired Jack Hurkett as the new Director. Hurkett inherited some troubling conditions as he began his time with the Iowa City Public Library. There were political protests, budget cuts, an energy crisis, federal wage control, and a failing library building. A large cut to the Library’s budget in 1974 forced the Library Board to cut all Sundays hours, cut Thursday evening hours, eliminate staff raises, and reduce health benefits. On top of this, the Seven Rivers Library system ended in 1973, requiring the Library to pay staff to perform tasks that the Seven Rivers Library System had previously covered.

Most of Hurkett’s management and budget decisions were unpopular with staff and board members. Facing an unsympathetic city staff, an unhappy library staff, and an unsatisfied library board, Hurkett was asked to resign, which he did in 1974. The City of Iowa City had recently settled an Equal Employment Opportunity discrimination case, brought forward by Lolly Eggers, Carol Spaziani, and other city residents. It was assumed, but not confirmed, that Library jobs would fall under the EEOC agreement when the position of Director opened up. The Library Board appointed a three-person committee to hire a new Director, looking for someone with management experience and a degree in Library Science. Lolly Eggers, Acting Director and Head of Cataloging and Technical Services, applied for the Directorship.

After little deliberation, the Library Board chose Charles Kauderer to be the next Library Director. Immediately, several issues became clear. The Library staff noticed that Kauderer did not seem to be qualified for the position, and found that he had lied on his resume. Notably, he claimed to have received his degree in Library Science from the University of Iowa, but his supposed graduation date was two years before the Library Science program started. Seven of the Librarians at the Iowa City Public Library signed a formal letter to the Board addressing the issues they found with Kauderer. At the next Board meeting, the Board stated that the Librarians could choose to join forces with the new Director or resign. Following this statement there were two hours of community complaints.

Two days before Kauderer was to begin his job, he resigned his position. He made accusations that the Library staff would only accept Lolly Eggers as Director, but Lolly had withdrawn her application and no longer wished to be considered. Lolly spent another seven months as Acting Director, solving many of the problems that the Library Board had been struggling with. After time to reevaluate, Lolly applied again and was hired as the 14th Director of the Iowa City Public Library in 1975. Learn more about former Director Lolly Eggers and her lasting legacy here.

Outside of Directorship issues, other programs got their start in the 1970s. In 1974, the Iowa City Public Library began weekly service to the Johnson County Jail, funded by an anonymous gift. Around the same time, the Library began deposit collections with community organizations. The Library hosted its first annual book sale in 1974 as well. This was the first big fundraising event since 1898. By 1975, the Library was receiving 25,000 information requests a year, which prompted the introduction of the Information Desk. There was a rework of the entire audiovisual collection in 1976. In 1979, the Iowa City Public Library began the process of automating its catalog. The Library purchased a mini-computer and created 125,000 digital book records that corresponded to 125,000 new barcodes on the books. This project also included re-registering all borrowers so that they had a computer record - this was the beginning of the yellow library card! The cost of this automation project was included in the proposal for the new Library building that passed in 1978.


To read more about the history of the library, take a look at our timeline or check out Lolly Egger's book, A Century of Stories.


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