Fun Fact

"Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries." ~Anne Herbert

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Karl, Retired Pastor

The West Des Moines Library has empowered retirement days for me in two ways. One, I am able to read extensively in the newspaper and magazine sections. Two, I am able to borrow books to read rather than to purchase and keep in my now limited home library. An added feature is borrowing audiobooks to savor while I drive to visit family in other states. 


History of the Library

A Brief History of the Library

(Excerpted from the Library’s Grand Opening program–June, 1996.)

Modest Beginnings, 1934-1942

Valley Junction was founded more than a hundred years ago, but the community did not have library service until 1934. Thanks to the vision and energy of the charter members of the Valley Junction Civic Club (now the West Des Moines Women’s Club), the community’s first library opened in the home of Mrs. Dan Herron at 504 Sixth Street. The small library contained only 450 books, which were donated from personal collections. To finance the library, the Civic Club held Tag Days, Silver Teas, ice cream socials, candy sales, rummage sales, and concerts. Members also went door to door requesting cash donations.

Over the next twenty years, the library occupied five different locations, including two more private homes, the Longfellow School, the corner Bank Building, and the Old Security Bank Building.

Changes and Growth, 1943-1995

The Civic Club continued to support the library, unaided until 1943, when the City Council agreed to provide funds to maintain the library, and appointed the first Library Board. Alice Mitchell was the first city-appointed librarian, serving until 1946. She was replaced by Nell DeBoest who retired twenty years later.

In 1954, the library was relocated to a room in the new City Hall at 318 Fifth Street. Approval of a $7,000 bond issue allowed the Library Board to construct a separate facility in 1966. The property at 1105 Grand Avenue was purchased from St. Mark Lutheran Church for $17,000, and a new 2,700 square foot public library was built, containing 20,000 volumes.

On March 5, 1974, voters approved a $378,000 bond issue for an addition to the Grand Avenue facility. Library Director Miriam Hansen and the Library Board hosted an open house to showcase the enlarged building that now provided 14,400 square feet and included a lower level. From 1972 through 1976, the library maintained a branch on Fifth Street.

A New Library, 1996

Twenty years after the last referendum, 77% of the voters passed a $6.95 million bond referendum to build a new library facility for West Des Moines. The West Des Moines Library Friends Foundation launched the Resource for Renewal campaign with a goal of $1.5 million for the expansion of the collection, enhancement of services, and updating of technology in the new library.

The new 51,000 square foot facility was completed in the spring of 1996 and the library opened on April 29, 1996. The library occupied about two-thirds of the building; the remaining space was used by City offices until a new City Hall was built in 2003. As of the Grand Opening, in June of 1996, the library contained 80,000 volumes–in 62 years, the collection had grown almost two hundred times! With a capacity of 220,000 volumes, the new facility is expected to serve the community for up to twenty years. By March of 2004, the library already contained over 162,000 items, including books, audio and visual media, public computing stations, and more.

Addendum: As of November, 2018, the library contains over 183,000 items, including books, magazines, puppets, audio, movies and more. We have also vastly expanded our available technology, offering a wide range of services, including online databases, word processing/Internet browsing stations, as well as access to popular e-content (eBooks, eAudiobooks, eComics, streaming video and more!).