New director to take the reins

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, May 10, 2017
In 2001 Deb Lowman attended Toddler Story Time at the West Liberty Public Library with her child, little did she know that 16 years later she’d be the director of that very library.

“It just felt like home,” she recalls, “The West Liberty library was beautiful and vibrant and just had a real connection that my family appreciated.”

Lowman officially replaces Director Janette McMahon on Monday, May 15.

McMahon recently took a position as Executive Director of the Fremont County Library System in Wyoming after 22 years of service in West Liberty, leaving a vacancy.

It was McMahon who hired Lowman back in 2001, and McMahon who shaped Lowman into the librarian that she is today. In a way, Lowman was a heir to the library thrown.

“I’ll have to say she took a risk on me, I didn’t have a lot of experience in the area of Library Services,” says Lowman. “I’ve always been a reader and a patron and involved in local library organizations.”

Lowman started part-time as the Children’s Librarian, but within her first year she was brought on full-time. This gives her more than a decade’s worth of experience at the very library she’ll now lead.

As director she plans to stay the course with the local library’s over-arching mission. However, she does have ideas of her own.

“I definitely want to continue to get as many people through the doors on a weekly basis as we can,” she says. “I want to reach out to the school district and make sure families know we’re here and we’re open.”

“This library gets an immense amount of monthly uses and we need to make sure we continue to get people through the front door,” she adds.

Lowman plans on taking a good long look at the West Liberty Public Library’s place in Iowa, as well as working with the board and trustees to put together a new five-year strategic plan for when the old one expires in 2018.

At the same time she’ll continue programs such as Toddler Story Time, Early Out and the Reading Program, build the libraries overall collection and archives and manage the Betty Akers Creative Space.

Of course then there’s the Spanish collection, the building maintenance, the programming for adults, community activities and managing the library staff.

There’s a lot offered in West Liberty’s library, and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

“I think that libraries have always been a repository for knowledge, for resources, for information, and intellectual and recreational pursuits,” she says. “Our library still follows that mission.”

“We may choose to do it in some very creative ways, but we’re still meeting the mission of a public library,” she adds.

Deb Lowman was born in Wheatland, Wyoming and grew up in Nebraska. She joined the Army early on and settled in Massachusetts. After a round of base closures she was moved to a base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Ultimately, it was her first child that brought her to Iowa. Her daughter needed several surgeries and it was decided that the hospitals in Iowa City were the best options.

In the late 90s and early 2000s she worked as a nurse with Mercy Services. But between work and her daughter she was spending way to much time in the medical field, so she left it.

That was when a part-time position opened up in West Liberty and Lowman snatched it up in 2001.

Eventually in 2017 she was selected by the library board to be its next director, the next in line of a long tenured crew. Before Director Janette McMahon was Director Betty Akers.

Both directors spent years of their life building up the West Liberty Public Library from a small acceptable institution to a community leader in books, entertainment and programming.

So with all that history you’d think being the next director would be a bit daunting right?

“I think that I’m ready, I’m in the community and I’m in touch with the service organizations and I have a good understanding on how libraries work in general, specifically this library,” she says.

“Janette is a dynamic personalty,” says Lowman, “She’s a true extrovert while I run with a little bit different temperament. But she and I have worked as a team for 15 years.”

Lowman also encourages the public to come speak with her at the library. The phone number is 319-627-2184 while her email address is

“Come see us, come through the doors and see how our library is being used,” she says. “Come have a conversation with me.”

Speaking of which, the West Liberty Pubic Library will be holding an Open House Reception Thursday, May 18 from 5-7 p.m. at its location on Spencer Street.

Everyone is invited to join the Library Board of Trustees for a community meet and greet and a chance to bid farewell to Janette McMahon.

Our new director will also be there as well as a preview for the upcoming Summer Reading Series Program that will begin on June 28.

For those who desire, in lieu of gifts, please bring a card containing a special message for Janette McMahon. We’ll see you there!
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