Saturday, March 19, 2016

382. Waterloo, Iowa

This is a big-city, two-story library, and a handsome one, at that. I turned left after entering and immediately spotted a "never seen before"--a notice for a book club called the "Must List Club," devoted to "binge-worthy books." This notice was on the end of a shelf in the large collection of Large Print books. Adjacent to that collection is the Friends of the Library  used book store, an enclosed room that seems very well maintained and organized. There were a few specials on the day I was there: magazines, 3 for a dollar, food magazines 10 cents. Comic books command a premium at $1.00 each. One side of the room has a high ledge with special books displayed (all for sale, of course).

The main part of the first floor has extensive "New" displays: Fiction, Non-ficition, Playaways, Teen, BluRays, and DVDs. There are also Express books (1 week, no renewals, 50 cents/day over due) and DVDs (3 days, no renewal, 50 cents). A book club section has shelves with multiple copies of book club titles. I've seen plenty of libraries with "book club in a bag" arrangements, but the Waterloo approach is new to me. I like it. It was also here that I saw a notice that some books have special stickers indicating that they are also available for download. Beyond all these special displays are the adult fiction stacks with all the usual genres.

The other half of the first floor is the children's area. Local schools were on spring break, and the area was lively with kids of all ages. There are all the kinds of books you'd expect to find, and a few surprises. The best surprise was a cardboard rack of 12-page books with colored photograph covers, each related to Iowa sports. These are all easy readers; I saw "emergent" and "level 1"--there may have been others. It appears that they were all written by Ann Bek in cooperation with the University of Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee. With the sports themes and the local tie-ins, I'd expect these to be very popular.

The area is surrounded by tall, round-topped windows for lots of light. The "stacks" are five shelves high, but the bottom shelves are not used, a nice feature for adults. There is a large wooden puppet theater and a wooden train on a low table. Eight computers are designated for kids, and in a very nice touch, there is a row of adult-sized chairs a few feet behind the kids' chairs, allowing parents to be nearby, perhaps reading, while kids do their thing on the computers.

One corner seemed quieter than the rest, partially because nobody was using it but also because it's somewhat out of the main traffic patterns. It is full of picture books, a couch, tables, and chairs, but no "toys." Another corner with an alphabet rug and bins of board books is clearly a spot for toddlers and adults.

The children's librarian and staff have an enclosed office with window walls above desk height. I had a fine time chatting with the librarian. I had assumed I would be unable to take pictures, but she suggested the enormous goldfish hanging from the ceiling nearby. You can also see some of the many LEGO constructions on display. One other cool thing: The McElroy Trust donated 1000 books to the library for them to distribute, free, to kids during spring break. How cool is that?!

Next I headed upstairs. It's a long way up, but made manageable with a "square spiral" staircase with four or six steps, then a landing and a 90-degree turn. [A far cry from the intimidating 'straight up' staircase at a library near my home!] Of course, there is also an elevator. The upper floor holds the non-fiction, periodical, and media collections and an area for teens. Historical photographs are displayed on the outside walls. In fact, as I recall, there are very few inside walls. The space is very open and full of natural light. There is one closed room for history and genealogy materials. There are some materials in Spanish.

I saw about 30 computers and seven study rooms. And I learned from a librarian that Waterloo was the only city west of the Mississippi to have, at one time, two Carnegie libraries. The two were combined in 1981. The current building, built in 1938, was once the post office. 

My biggest surprise wasn't exactly a "library" thing at all. There is a kiosk on the second floor where you can renew your driver's license! It's self-service. Stand on the footprints and have your picture taken, insert your license (and credit card, I'm sure) and get your new license back. Amazing!

See the libraries website at and visit them on Facebook at

3/17/2016, car

The front facade of the building;
the children's area is behind the first-floor windows
on the far end of the building.

Just a hint of the handsome details

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcomed, and I will generally respond to them. Please be tasteful; comments that are in poor taste will be deleted.
Sorry about the "verification" step; I added it after a rash of spammish comments.