We're celebrating 125 years!

The Iowa City Public Library is celebrating 125 years of being the center of community life. Stay up-to-date throughout the year as we mark our 125th anniversary.

Explore the highlights of our history, reflect and share your own ICPL memories, and connect through celebratory events in 2021.

Share your ICPL story

You're a part of our story too! Each month we'll post a new prompt and we're looking for your contributions. Share your thoughts, photos, and memories here or on social media using the hashtag #LibrariesAreForEveryone or #LasBibliotecasSonParaTodxs.

Submit here to be a part of our collective story. We'll be posting your responses throughout the year.

Tell us your library story!

Decades of service

See the growth of ICPL decade by decade with new photos posted each month

1896 - 1909

An aerial view of downtown Iowa City, with the four past and present library buildings outlined and their years of opening
An aerial view of downtown Iowa City, with the four past and present library buildings outlined and their years of opening
The library has been homed in four separate buildings between 1897 and the present. Each building is marked here on an aerial map of Iowa City, showing that they were all located within these few city blocks. Two of the four buildings, the present one and the Carnegie building, are still standing. One, the Cannon & Pratt building, used to be almost exactly where the current Children's Room is located.
A damaged poster advertising a play called Honour Before Wealth to support the new library 1897
A damaged poster advertising a play called Honour Before Wealth to support the new library 1897
To benefit the newly formed library, a play was performed at the Opera House called "Honour Before Wealth" in 1897. The original poster, although very damaged, still exists in the library's institutional archives.
Needlepoint of the COD Steam building
Needlepoint of the COD Steam building
Needlepoint building designed by Carol Krob and stitched by Alice Kurtz, representing the first location of the library in the C.O.D. Steam building.
First location of the Iowa City Public Library, the C.O.D. Steam building
First location of the Iowa City Public Library, the C.O.D. Steam building
The C.O.D. Steam Laundry, the first location of the Iowa City Public Library. The library itself was located on the second floor, housed a rather modest collection, and had limited hours and staffing compared to today's standards.
Needlepoint of the Cannon and Pratt building
Needlepoint of the Cannon and Pratt building
Needlepoint building designed by Carol Krob and stitched by Jeanette Lynch, representing the second location of the library in the Cannon & Pratt building.
Workers laying the groundwork for the Carnegie building
Workers laying the groundwork for the Carnegie building
The dimensions of the Carnegie building plans are laid out on the ground at it's new location on South Linn Street.
Horses and workers preparing the ground for construction
Horses and workers preparing the ground for construction
The ground is prepared for construction of the Carnegie building.
Horses and workers preparing the ground for construction, with move of the ground torn up
Horses and workers preparing the ground for construction, with move of the ground torn up
Horses are used to prepare the ground for the construction of the Carnegie building.
A single worker poses for a photo in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building
A single worker poses for a photo in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building
The corners are marked for the foundation of the Carnegie building, and excavation is underway.
Workers pose in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building
Workers pose in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building
A group of workers pose for a photo in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building.
Workers even out the walls of the foundation for the Carnegie building
Workers even out the walls of the foundation for the Carnegie building
The walls of the foundation are evened out to prepare for the stones of the soon-to-be Carnegie building.
Workers pose in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building next to a large pile of gravel
Workers pose in the dug out foundation of the Carnegie building next to a large pile of gravel
A larger group of workers can be seen in the excavated ground where the Carnegie building will soon be built.
Workers pose as the initial internal framing and superstructure progress.
Workers pose as the initial internal framing and superstructure progress.
With the first bit of framing in place, the foundation and interior superstructure are in a very early stage of being constructed.
Workers laying bricks for the Carnegie building
Workers laying bricks for the Carnegie building
Large stones are being brought onto the construction site to begin building up the walls.
Workers laying bricks for the Carnegie building
Workers laying bricks for the Carnegie building
Stones are moved into place, by pulleys and man power.
Worker poses in front of what will be the rear of the building.
Worker poses in front of what will be the rear of the building.
Still in its early stages, what will be the rear of the building begins to take shape.
Construction is well underway.
Construction is well underway.
The building is beginning to take shape as construction progresses through cold weather. Most of the initial foundation work is complete and the rest of the building is progressing nicely. This view is of the front of the building.
Workers building up the walls, stairs, and windows of the Carnegie building
Workers building up the walls, stairs, and windows of the Carnegie building
This angle of the developing construction shows the holes where the side windows will be installed, and the developing exterior.
View of the building's North face.
View of the building's North face.
Taken at the same time as image showing the progress on the building from its front side, this captures the state of progress looking at the north side of the building (where part of Iowa Avenue is now).
Needlepoint of the Carnegie building
Needlepoint of the Carnegie building
Needlepoint building designed by Carol Krob and stitched by Denise Wilcox, representing the third location of the library, the Carnegie building.
Completed building from Linn St. side looking east
Completed building from Linn St. side looking east
The finished Iowa City Public Library building in the classic Carnegie style of the time. However, some landscape and street work still needs to be completed.
Finished building open for business
Finished building open for business
Now completed, the building is open and ready to serve the public.
Interior view of completed building
Interior view of completed building
Interior view of lobby area with staff desk and first and second floors. Notice how few books are on some of the second floor shelves.
Invitation from the Board of Trustees to the dedication of the Carnegie library
Invitation from the Board of Trustees to the dedication of the Carnegie library
The library's Board of Trustees sent out invitations for the dedication of the Carnegie building in 1904.
Program for the dedication of the Carnegie building on November 29th, 1904
Program for the dedication of the Carnegie building on November 29th, 1904
The dedication for the library was held at the Opera House, which had since undergone fire damage and a restoration since the benefit play was preformed for the library in 1897. The dedication itself occurred on Tuesday, November 29th, 1904.
The second page of the program, including names of the trustees and library staff
The second page of the program, including names of the trustees and library staff
The second page of the dedication even program includes names of the Board of Trustees and library staff at the time.
The third page of the program, including the order of events
The third page of the program, including the order of events
The events of the dedication are listed, including mention of a reception at the library after the events at the Opera House.
Children sit around tables in the children's room of the Carnegie building
Children sit around tables in the children's room of the Carnegie building
The children's room in the Carnegie building was located in the lower floor and opened in 1905.

Top borrowed items in 2020

125 Most Borrowed Fiction Books of 2020

See what general fiction, mystery, and science fiction titles made the top 125!

125 Most Borrowed Nonfiction Books of 2020

How many of these nonfiction titles have you checked out?

125 Most Borrowed Teen Books of 2020

See what teens were reading in 2020.

125 Most Borrowed Kids Books of 2020

Graphic novels, picture books, chapter books, oh my!

125 Most Borrowed DVDs of 2020

See what our community watched most in 2020.

125 Most Borrowed Kids DVDs of 2020

Tried and true plus new favorites - see the top 125 kids DVDs.

Explore our history

Highlights from our past

We've been in six different buildings, but we've always been at the heart of downtown. See how your library has evolved with the community, reflecting your needs, supporting digital literacy, and expanding services with outreach.

Support the library

Represent your library with swag from the ICPL's Society 6 page. Pick out a canvas bag or print with your favorite library design or slogan.

Or if you'd like to support the Library but don't need another bag, you can donate directly to the Friends Foundation.

More info