Meet one determined librarian – Lolly Parker Eggers.
For twenty-five years (1969-1994), Eggers was on staff with the Iowa City Public Library – serving as Director for twenty of those years (1974-1994). During those two decades under her leadership, the organization transitioned from being a simple small-town library to becoming one of the most widely-respected media centers around the country. Today, as unimaginable as it might seem for the thousands of Iowa City Library patrons who have browsed its shelves over the last four decades, there was a time when the future of the downtown library was truly in question.
The Iowa City “Carnegie” Public Library – located right off College Street at 212 S. Linn – opened its doors on Thursday, October 27, 1904. Thanks to the dedication of Director Lolly Eggers, the new library stayed downtown – opening at 123 S. Linn – in 1981. Read more here.
Former library director, Susan Craig (1994-2018) reports that when it was time for the city to replace its aging library (1970s), the Chamber of Commerce didn’t believe the organization deserved to be given any valuable downtown property. But, thanks to Lolly Eggers, the lion-hearted library director, that decision was overturned, and in 1981, the new library opened at 123 South Linn Street – in downtown Iowa City.
“Lolly influenced not just the public library, but the entire city of Iowa City,” said Craig. “I think the very fact that the library is still in downtown Iowa City is a credit to her. It could have gone the other way.”
Laurette “Lolly” Parker Eggers was born on October 25, 1929 in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Des Moines.
Lolly was very interested in books growing up and served as the editor of the high school newspaper. Her high school advisor, who was a Grinnell College graduate, helped Lolly get a scholarship in Grinnell where she received a Bachelors Degree in Anthropology (1951) – the first person in her family to accomplish such a feat.
While at Grinnell, Lolly met her future husband—Del Eggers—on the golf course. Upon graduation (1951), the couple married and moved to Iowa City, allowing Del to pursue a new job here.
While raising their three boys (Kim, Kelly & Kevin), Lolly was also an active community leader – particularly in the area of women’s rights.
In the 1960’s, Lolly worked on the development of the first Iowa City Fair Housing Act.
In 1969, Lolly received her Masters in Library Science from the University of Iowa, and began working at the Iowa City Public Library. As a member of the Iowa League of Women Voters, Lolly 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. Eggers also helped establish the Johnson County Commission on the Status of Women in 1973.
Before being selected as Director of the Iowa City Public Library in 1974, Lolly was a reference librarian, acting head of adult services, and led the technical processing department. In May 1974, the position of Director opened up – but things didn’t go too well with the hiring process…
By the spring of 1975, the controversy was over, and Lolly, unruffled by all the politics, got to work.
One of Lolly’s first projects was casting the vision of a new building in downtown Iowa City. Read more here.
Under Lolly’s leadership, the Iowa City Public Library became the first in the United States to have a computerized checkout and catalog system – introduced in 1980.
Lolly also oversaw 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.
Lolly continued to dedicate herself to the Library after she retired in 1994. Her passion for staff education resulted in creation of the Lolly Eggers Fund for Staff Development and she volunteered for many years at library’s used book shop, The Book End. In 1994, Lolly was named a “Woman of Distinction” by the Iowa City Senior Center.
(BH-143) (BH-102) In retirement, Eggers 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” about Iowa City’s renowned historian.
Lolly Parker Eggers died on February 26, 2021, at age 91, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. Lolly is survived by her husband, Del, and their sons Kim of Grand Haven, MI and Kelly of Mt. Pleasant; and grandson Gabriel. Lolly was preceded in death by her parents, her son, Kevin, and her brother, Richard.
Jeanette Carter, former head of the library’s reference department said this in remembering Lolly Eggers…
Lolly was just a remarkable person. When she took the job as director in ’74, her goal in life was to make the library the best library in the country, and I think she did. The library was almost always ‘ahead of the curve.
Former Library Director Susan Craig added…
Lolly was very innovative. She encouraged everybody to be innovative – introducing many programs, many services that were very helpful for the community. Lolly was very quiet, but with a core of steel in her. She was not a yeller – what she fought with was statistics and planning and thoughtful observation. She really moved the Iowa City Public Library into being a very modern institution that was respected around the country.”
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.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.