About the Library header

The Waterloo Public Library has been supporting and addressing the needs and interests of our community for over 125 years. We look forward to serving you in the future in accordance with our mission.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Waterloo Public Library is to provide free access to information, education and recreation in a welcoming environment.

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Statement

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are core values of our organization, and we condemn racism, xenophobia, violence, hatred, intolerance, and prejudice of any kind. We respect all people’s rights, dignity, and feelings and strive to recognize the burdens and barriers Black, Indigenous, and people of color, in particular, face.

Through our mission, we aim to provide the highest level of service to all of our patrons through diversity and inclusion-informed decision-making in our planning, policies, programming, and collections. We are committed to learning and working with community partners, addressing our communities’ needs, and providing equitable access, inclusion, and belonging.

2020-2025 Strategic Plan

The Waterloo Public Library conducted a survey from December 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019 to ask the public their thoughts about their library. After over 600 people completed the survey, we analyzed the results and developed our Strategic Plan for the next five years.

Annual Report

Our annual report provides a snapshot of what the library has done in the past fiscal year.

Library History

Founded in 1896, Waterloo Public Library began service in two rented rooms, one on the east side and one on the west side of the Cedar River. In 1906, the Library moved to its new Carnegie buildings which saw extensive remodeling and additions over time. The Library's current building, constructed in 1938, began as Waterloo's post office and federal building. It served as such until 1979 when the post office was relocated. In 1977, Waterloo voters approved a $3,650,000 bond issue to renovate the building for use as a library.

This renovation preserved the modified Italian Renaissance architecture. A two-story addition added garage space, meeting facilities, and additional space for the collection. A new mechanical and electrical system, thermal pane windows, and insulation boosted energy efficiency. The interior of the building now provides the flexible, open space essential for efficient library operation. The building is completely handicapped accessible.

Two murals on the Library's first floor, painted in 1940 by Edgar Britton, were retained during the renovation. A student of Grant Wood, Britton received $2,500 in payment for his work under a New Deal program which funded art in federal buildings. "Exposition" depicts the National Dairy Cattle Congress; "Holiday" is a picnic scene. The murals are tempera applied directly on the walls utilizing the fresco technique. They are considered good examples of the 1930's Midwestern style of regional art.

In 1981, renovations to accommodate the computer system and increase collection space were funded by a gift from the Margaret Nordholm estate. The library held the opening dedication ceremony for its new location on April 26, 1981. ​

The Youth Department was renovated in the fall of 1994, through a bequest from the Julia Easley estate.​

In 2008, the library built the Training Center, a computer lab, funded by Black Hawk County Gaming Association.

In 2016, the library added its makerspace, The Hive, made possible with funding from Black Hawk County Gaming Association, Helen E. Watkins Estate and the Friends of the Library.

In August 2023, renovations were initiated to relocate the Youth Department from the east wall of the first floor of the library to the back (north) wall. A wall was built with a single entry point to enhance safety for families and define the space more effectively. This adjustment also improved access to amenities like the family restrooms and the dedicated youth programming area.

As part of these renovations, the Teen Department received enhancements, including new carpeting and the installation of a glass wall to create an enclosed space. This allowed teens to enjoy themselves and engage in activities without disturbing other library patrons. Funding for these renovations came from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, Friends of the Waterloo Public Library, Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation, Otto Schoitz Foundation, R.J. McElroy Trust and the Waterloo Community Foundation.