Urbandale Public Library History
Four Homes in Four Decades
In the past 50 years, the demand for library services in the flourishing city of Urbandale has grown consistently with its population. That pattern has drawn the Urbandale Public Library through four locations, from a cramped basement to a beautiful new library.
The original Urbandale Public Library was opened Dec. 11, 1961, in the lower level of the then newly constructed City Hall building, 3315 70th Street. It offered 1728 books — many of which were donated — on four sections of shelves placed against the outside walls. Local organizations donated much of the new library’s furniture and other furnishings.
In the library’s first year of operation, 2,600 cards were issued. By 1965, more than 7,000 cards had been issued; and some 63,000 books, magazines, and phonograph records were circulated. The prospering suburb’s library already needed more room.
Still, voters in 1969 rejected a bond issue for a new library building — possibly because no specific site had been designated. Desperate for more space, the library was moved in 1972 to leased quarters in the Phipps Building at 3821 71st Street, just behind where Dairy Queen and Brenton Bank now stand.
A 1974 development provided the growing library a golden opportunity. The Urbandale City Council accepted a 1.7-acre tract of land on Aurora Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets, conveyed by the Urbandale School District. That enabled the city to receive federal funds to be used for a new library building.
A May, 1974, bond referendum was held to raise the remaining funds. It passed with a 71 percent margin, and construction at the new site soon began. The Urbandale Public Library building at 7305 Aurora Ave. proudly opened in April, 1976. It provided twice as much floor space — 12,000 square feet — as the previous location and had 32,000 volumes on the shelves. In addition, the new library included meeting rooms and expanded services.
Settled in a home of its own at last, the Urbandale Public Library spent the next decade growing in sophistication. Polaroid cameras and video cassettes became available for check-out, and the facility entered the computer age. In 1987, the library became one of 59 public libraries to meet conditions for state accreditation, and the Urbandale Public Library Foundation was formed.
By 1990, it was time for the Library Board to quietly begin exploring another inevitable expansion. After years of conferring with consultants and architects, the Library Board met with the Urbandale City Council in 1996 to discuss yet another new library building, possibly on city-owned land at 86th Street and Douglas Avenue.
Public meetings in 1997 were conducted to gather input from community residents. Finally, voters in September, 1998, approved by a large margin a bond referendum for a new library building. Construction began almost immediately, and Urbandale’s library for the 21st Century opened in July, 2000. Engberg Anderson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the architectural firm of the new building and FEH of Des Moines, Iowa was the local architectural firm.