From the Past: The End of the Millennium


To kick off the 1990s, the Iowa City Public Library introduced a second-generation digital catalog called ‘Compass’. It was released exactly ten years to the day from the premiere of the first digital catalog. In the eighties, Iowa started a program called Open Access, which allows residents to use libraries outside of their residing city. In 1990, the Open Access program expanded to include almost every library in the state of Iowa. This increased the number of users at ICPL. In the three years following the introduction of Open Access, there were 2,000 new cards and an extra 35,000 loans. The beginning of the nineties also saw the start of ICPL and Hill Bank’s ‘Begin with Books’ program. This program delivered an informational packet and children's book to the parents of each baby born at the Mercy and University of Iowa Hospitals.

In 1992, the Iowa City Public Library Board decided to add a library levy to the city election ballet. The library levy is a small tax increase that goes directly to supporting the local public library. The Board decided to ask for the maximum of 0.27 cents per $1,000 of assessed property. This came out to about $16.20 a year for the average Iowa Citian. The library levy was intended to help stabilize the Library budget, and lessen the staffing and collection issues ICPL had been suffering in the seventies and eighties. Without the support of the library levy, the Board would have had to cut services or hours to ensure the Library could continue to operate within its budget. That year, two other funding issues went up for vote in Iowa City and both of them failed to pass. The Library Board and Director Lolly Eggers continued to campaign on the issue. They emphasized that, because the final payment of the Library building bond was that year, the library levy wouldn’t actually increase taxes in 1993. In the end, the levy passed with 68% approval – 8% higher than needed.

The Iowa City Public Library Foundation and the Iowa City Public Library Friends merged in 1993, allowing the two organizations to work together to best benefit the Library. The organization is still known as the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation to this day. In 1994, after 25 years of service to ICPL, Lolly Eggers retired from her position as Library Director. The Library Board hired Susan Craig, previous Assistant Director, to be the new Library Director. 

For the first time since 1977, placing a hold became free in 1995. With the Compass catalog, patrons could place their own holds on a computer using their Library card number and password. The number of holds tripled from 7,000 to 21,000. That same year, public internet access became available at ICPL. Within the next twelve months, there would also be access to the World Wide Web. Carol Spaziani retired in 1995 after 26 years of working at the Library. The Iowa City Public Library hosts the Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival every year to honor her commitment to Intellectual Freedom and the Library. 

In 1996, the City Council denied the Library Board’s recommendation for a building expansion plan. Instead, the City Council proposed a new multi-use facility, which would have put the Library in the same building as a public auditorium and a cultural center. When this went to ballot in 1999, Iowa City voters did not pass the proposal. In 1997, ICPL celebrated 100 years of service to the Iowa City community. Centennial events were held throughout the entire year. The Bookend opened for the first time in 1999. The Bookend's first location was at 115 S Linn St, which was outside of the Library. 


To read more about the history of the library, take a look at our timeline or check out Lolly Egger's book, A Century of Stories.


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