Cambridge librarian keeps patrons busy during pandemic

Barb McBreen, contributed news
Special to the Ames Tribune

Erin Coughlin took over as the library director at the Cambridge Memorial Library in October in the midst of a pandemic.

“It was a huge challenge. The former librarian had moved to another country, so I had to figure it out for myself,” Coughlin said. “On the other hand we were closed to the public, so I had a couple of weeks to work on ideas. Also, working in a small town has been a benefit because everyone is really patient.”

Coughlin, who grew up in LeMars, said the opportunity was a perfect fit. She and her husband had moved from Omaha to Ankeny recently to be closer to family. 

“I was a teacher in the Omaha area for about 14 years and then I decided to pursue a master’s degree in library science,” Coughlin said. “I decided to pursue a library science degree because I’ve always loved reading and I’ve spent a lot of time in public libraries. It never occurred to me that it could be a career.”

Erin Coughlin took over as the library director at the Cambridge Memorial Library in October in the midst of a pandemic.

The Cambridge library position is a part-time job, but Coughlin has some full-time plans for patrons. Currently, the library offers a weekly children’s storytime and story packets, STEM packets for elementary students, adult craft kits, an adult book club and a summer reading program.

“I’m at an advantage because I’m pursuing my library science master's degree and I’m picking up ideas from other librarians. It’s really cool to try new ideas,” Coughlin said. 

Coughlin promotes activities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the library website. The library serves both Cambridge and Elkhart, which means additional funding for Cambridge. 

“Iowa state law requires that all cities have to provide library services to their residents and Elkhart contracts with us to provide those services,” Coughlin said.

The library is in the process of being approved as a Tier 3 library, the highest rating you can receive in Iowa. Coughlin said that was due to the new location and previous programming work by the library board, Janet Thorson and Jay Robinson. Robinson served as the library director for two years before Coughlin arrived. He replaced Janet Thorson who served as library director for 47 years. 

Members of the Cambridge Library Board include Wendy Dubberke, president; Dona Cowman; Crystal Hughes and Angie Fleener. Dubberke said everyone has contributed to the success of the library and the new accreditation.

“We’re just thrilled and would like everyone to come in and check out the library and see how wonderful it is,” Dubberke said.

The Cambridge Memorial Library was established in 1945 in honor of World War II veterans. The American Legion members, who owned the opera house building, donated a room free of charge with the stipulation it would always be a public library. In 2018, the library moved across the street to its current location in the new city center. 

For more information on programs visit the Cambridge Memorial Library website at www.cambridge.lib.ia.us or call Erin Coughlin at 515-220-4542.