For more than 140 years, the Council Bluffs Public Library has met the changing needs of our residents and businesses. Longtime library director Mildred Smock oversaw the old Carnegie Library. On most Saturday mornings, my mom would arrive early at the library with kids in tow. She dropped us off on the second floor at the youth department for an hour of free babysitting, otherwise known as "Saturday Morning Story Time." Once relieved of her parental responsibilities, Mom would head downstairs and sort through the library's card catalog, organized by the Dewey Decimal System, to locate a book or two for herself.
Our beautiful library is a significant community resource for every age group, where they can find access to information, spiritual inspiration, or simply gather together and exchange thoughts and ideas. The Council Bluffs library supports almost 49,000 individual cardholders throughout Pottawattamie County and is open to the public eighty hours a week. On any given month, at least 14,000 cardholders will visit the library to check out some 21,000 items. The library also subscribes to 42 database research engines covering various topics that help focus and simplify your information quests.
Research confirms that spending time while reading aloud helps to create strong parent-child bonds and promotes healthy brain development. Children who are read to often have improved language and listening skills, experience stronger emotional connections to their loved ones, and gain a lifelong love of reading. Toward that end, youth materials are still the most popular library commodity, with about 7,000 checkouts per month, followed by adult fiction and then audio/ visual materials. Homebound library patrons can get their books and materials delivered directly to their homes, and many of these resources are carried in both English and Spanish. Every student attending Council Bluffs Community School District and the Lewis Central School District has access to a free student library account.
The library isn't just about books; this month alone, over seventy programs focused on various discussion topics that are uniquely targeted toward adults, teens, or children. Did you know that as a library cardholder, you can check out community "Discovery Passes" for free admission to multiple attractions, including the Durham Museum, Fontanelle Forest, The Henry Doorly Zoo, Pottawattamie County’s Conservation Parks, The Lauritzen Gardens, El Museum Latino, and The Omaha Children's Museum? You can also check out board games, video games, unique cake pans, art, bicycle repair kits, backyard movie kits, native seeds for seasonal planting, and a free bike rental from Heartland Bike Share.
Many would be surprised to learn that the library also has a "Maker’s Space" lab that provides some of the latest in modern manufacturing technology, including; 3-D printing and scanning, video recorders, cameras and editing software, audio production equipment, media conversion capabilities, robotics, and specialty printing. You can even check out a sewing machine to take home. Teen Central provides teens access to many popular gaming devices, including Oculus Virtual Reality.
Ancillary community services provided at the library include printing and scanning, notary services, a summertime community lunch site for children, a monthly Red Cross blood drive, and organizations that help with income tax preparation.
The library hosts a communitywide reading challenge called "One Community Reads" to raise community awareness of important issues through a book selection that supports discussion, awareness, and action. The theme this year is "The World is Your Garden," and it focuses on community gardens and ways to build community and fight food insecurity. Thanks to the work of our library and their partnership with Raise me to Read, every second grader in Council Bluffs, Lewis Central, and Saint Albert will receive a free copy of the children's book as part of One Community Reads. The library also hosts the summer reading challenge and lots of summer programming for kids.
The Iowa legislature has proposed multiple statutory changes that could make continued funding for our library or anything other than the very minimum of essential city services challenging to achieve. City Hall certainly hopes that the Iowa Senate, Iowa House, and Governor come to realize that Iowa's residents want and deserve more from local government than stripped-down, bare-bones municipal services.
I am proud of the work that our Council Bluffs Public Library does. We have dozens of dedicated library staff who are committed to increasing access to information and resources. If you haven't visited the library recently, I encourage you to stop by. You can find more information, check out virtual materials, reserve books, and view their events calendar at councilbluffslibrary.org.