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Waukee Public Library History

Library Establishment

In 1878, a group of citizens started the Library Association in Waukee with $30 worth of books. In spite of an 1879 newspaper account that the Library Association was increasing and doing fine, it faded from existence.

In July 1885, a new library with I.G. Wallace as librarian opened. Like the Library Association, this library also eventually closed.

Waukee Library Original Building

Waukee’s existing public library was formally established in 1929 and opened with 500 books provided by the Traveling Library of the State of Iowa. Mrs. Lyle served as the first librarian. The books were exchanged every 90 days. In addition to the 500 books provided by the traveling library, the Waukee Library contained 190 permanent volumes.

In 1941, all the books were lost in a fire when the Leonard Building burned. At that time, Sadie Wilder was the librarian.

Library Reopening

The library opened again in 1942 with 150 new books. Sometime between 1942 and 1969, the library moved into the back room of City Hall at 410 6th Street. Amy Hofstot served as librarian from 1944 to 1975. In 1969, it was reported that the library received 200 books quarterly from the traveling library and owned 3,866 volumes. Nearly 300 books were checked out during the month of February 1969.

After Hofstot retired, Hannah Weil and Ann Ford served as librarians in addition to their jobs as city hall employees. Jane Brown became Library Director in 1979 and served until 1986 when Diane Findlay became the new Director.

Friends of the Waukee Public Library was formed in 1987 to support the library with volunteers and gifts. The Friends, Library Board, Director Findlay completed a successful fundraising drive, and coupled with the passage of a small bond issue, the library purchased the old Christian Church building at 500 6th Street. After remodeling, the library moved in October 1990.

Linda Mack was hired as Library Director in 1992. The Waukee Public Library Foundation was formed in 1993 to help meet the long-term financial needs of the library. In 1994, the library had 2 full time and 2 part-time employees and a collection of approximately 10,000 items.

Current Building

A bond issue for a new library building was placed before the voters in May 2000 and passed with 89 percent support. Public meetings were held to determine what the citizens wanted in the new library building. Ground was broken in September 2001, and construction began in the spring of 2002. The $2 million building cost was covered by the city bond issue. Through gifts and grants, the Waukee Public Library Foundation raised another $200,000 for furnishings, fixtures, and equipment.

The building, located on Warrior Lane, officially opened March 3, 2003. The Waukee Public Library was nearly 14,000 square feet. The building architects were FEH Associates.

Linda Mack retired in February 2009 after 17 years of constant change and growth. Also in 2009, the Hal Manders’ Museum opened as an addition to the library. The museum houses a collection of memorabilia related to Manders, a Waukee native who played professional baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs during the 1940s. Maryann Mori, Erik Surber, and Jacob Speer served as library directors between 2009 and 2014. In October 2014, Kristine Larson was hired as library director. 

In 2011, the Waukee Public Library received a very generous bequest from former resident Hiram Ori. The approximate amount of $700,000 is the largest single donation in the long history of the library and secured funding for an addition to the library. On November 2, 2013, the Coal Mine Museum and Meeting Room opened to the public. This donation serves to remind our community of its roots in the coal mining industry. 

An iconic piece of art was installed at the library in October 2015 and dedicated in May of 2016. John Brommel's American Gothic -derived & Iowa - Past and Present - Living Fence was relocated to the library from the Krause property on University Avenue. 

In the summer of 2020, a new parking lot was constructed for the library as part of a City of Waukee Stormwater Project. 

In the summer of 2022, a second driveway entrance was constructed for the library as part of the larger City of Waukee Warrior Lane Improvement Project. 

Currently, the library owns more than 40,000 print items in its collection and has twenty full time and part time employees. The library also has 7 public computers, and printing and faxing services available 60 hours per week. The library offers numerous storytimes, children and teen programs as well as a wide variety of adult programming. The library also offers e-books and a vast array of online resources for learning and researching. 

The Waukee Public Library is a city department and the majority of funding comes from the city through property taxes. The library also receives funding from Dallas County and the State of Iowa based on certain usage statistics. The WPL Friends Foundation continues to provide additional funding for the immediate and long-term needs of the library through generous donations from our community residents and businesses.