It's a New Chapter for the Joice Library

June 25, 2019 10:53 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- In September of last year, residents of Joice, Iowa, woke up to see the center of their town – their library, community center and city hall – engulfed in flames.

“It was a pretty devastating call to wake up to that morning and to see really the focal point of our city on fire,” said Mark Thoma, mayor of Joice.


In the nine months since the Joice library burned down, the city’s 245 residents have kept their sights set on the future.

“It just, it really was devastating, because it’s such a big part of our community,” said Mardene Lien, library director, who’s lived in Joice most of her life.

“I went there when I was young and my children went there all the time, and yeah; it means a lot to a lot of people, and you just always think that it’s there, it’s always going to be there, and now it’s not,” she said.

Since January, the library has moved a block-and-a-half from where it used to stand, in a home that’s been retrofitted to hold as many books, audiobooks, DVDs and computers as possible.

“Really in small towns, this is oftentimes where kids and people go to do research, gather, do all the activities; they vote, our city council meetings are here, so it is really the main center of our community,” Thoma said.

The community lost a lot in the fire.

“Most of the history that was in the library is gone, and that was really sad because that can’t be replaced. The books can be replaced, the building can be replaced, but the history: the things from like the Joice High School, can’t be replaced,” Lien said.

Physical donations, books and movies, were coming in so quickly that the library staff and volunteers had to turn them away because there’s just not enough space at their temporary location.

“Everyone’s been stepping up with a positive energy, and it’s just been great: 'what can I do to help, how can I help support?'” Thoma said.

Plans for a new library, community center and city hall have been drawn up.

Even with insurance money, the price tag is steep for a town of just over 200 people: more than $1.8 million.

But incredibly, they’re already 80 percent of the way there.

“Wanting to build, rebuild, for the future. Not just right now, but what are the needs of our residents going into the future,” Thoma said.

The new library, which probably won’t break ground until spring 2020, will be across the street from where it used to sit, which Lien said is fitting, as the town itself is turning a new page.

“I’m happy that it’s not going to be in the exact place, because it can’t be exactly the same, so it’s kind of like a new chapter,” Lien said.

On Wednesday, June 26, the community is putting on a pulled pork dinner fundraiser with live entertainment in Joice at the park on Main Street from 5 to 7 p.m.


Alice Keefe

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