In 2021, the Iowa City Public Library celebrated its 125th anniversary. Since 1896, the library has been at the center of community life, and its rich heritage includes presidential visits, innovative ideas, four locations, and several remodeling projects. Over the years, the organization has transitioned from being a simple small-town library to becoming one of the most widely-respected media centers around the country.
When the state capitol moved to Des Moines in 1857, many wondered if our fine city could survive, but as SUI became one of the stronger universities throughout the Midwest, Iowa City began to take on a character all its own. In 1898, the Honorable E. F. Brockway called Iowa City “the city of education and culture that proudly claims the title – The Athens of Iowa.” So, one of the first projects the fine people of Iowa City undertook in the 1890’s was the development of a free public library. Early city records indicate that from the very beginning (1896), the library commission – while not yet having any facility to display them – began buying books for the library collection. Written receipts indicate that their first purchase included the works of Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens.
The new Iowa City “Carnegie” Public Library (pictured above) – located right off College Street at 212 South Linn Street – opened its doors on Thursday, October 27, 1904 – and served as the library’s home for nearly eight decades.
The library’s 125-year history includes presidential visits, innovative ideas, four locations, and several remodeling projects. Click here for an overview of this magnificent institution – from its humble beginnings in 1896 to its current status today.
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