History

The Bettendorf Public Library became an independent library on July 12, 1955. Originally located in the Danish Brotherhood Hall on Grant Street, the library had a collection of 4,700 books. Within five years the Library’s open hours nearly doubled, patrons were given library cards that they could take with them, and with a staff of five they moved into their first city-owned building just down the street.

The Friends of the Bettendorf Public Library held their first meeting in January, 1960, and raised over $300 from the Library’s first Book Fair. Already considered to be “outstanding for the size of the community it serves”, the Library continued to grow, establishing the Large Print books collection and quickly exceeding the new building’s design that would hold 30,000 volumes.

In the early 1970s, reciprocal borrowing began between Bettendorf and Davenport libraries with an agreement from each library to honor the other library’s cards. Soon, the Library joined a consortium of Illinois and Iowa libraries, began publishing its own newsletter, the Bettendorf Bookmark, and held its first Preschool Story Time. In May of 1975, a groundbreaking began for a new Library building that opened its doors in August of the following year. By the end of that first day, staff had checked out a record 3,700 items in 12 hours!

A short time later, the Library began circulating a small collection of 50 VHS tapes as a test; in the first month, they circulated 61 times! In March of 1981, the Friends gave the Library its first copy machine for public use, and Director Faye Clow looked into getting a “microcomputer” for the staff. By August of 1983, Clow had established the Library Foundation, which would help raise funds that a tax-supported library could not. In October of that year, the Library made plans to join the River Bend Library System in a cooperative automation project. That required all libraries in the area to barcode every item in their collection, as well as all patron library cards. This project was known as Quad-LINC – Quad Cities Libraries in Cooperation. The Friends began their first magazine sale, and the first Senior Day event was held, both of which continue today.

In the early 1990s, plans began for a two-phase renovation and construction of the Library building. The first, and still very popular, Brown Bag Lunch concert was held, and dial-in access to the computer catalog was installed, making it easy for patrons to use the catalog from home. By 1994, the Library’s circulation had increased 65% from 1989, which allowed for the expansion of its volunteer program to help handle increasing library use. In May of 1995, groundbreaking began for new construction, and The Learning Campus was formed, making the Library and the Family Museum neighbors.

Nearly doubling in size, the new addition also brought a coffee shop, at the time called the Table of Contents Café. Patron usage increased 48% from previous years, DVDs were added to the VHS collection, and the Mystery Book Discussion group met for the first time. In 2002, the Bettendorf Library made headlines when it ranked in the 97th percentile of the nation’s public libraries by the Hennen Report, and was voted the Best Public Library in the River Cities’ Reader poll.

Along with an increasing number of circulating items, the Library added electronic books to the collection, as well as numerous online databases, and our first Global Gathering event was held, which highlights literature, film, dance, religion, art and music from another country. In 2010, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) was introduced to the Library, and all 200,000 items in the collection were tagged for the new system. A new self-checkout was implemented, the first annual Kids Experience drew a crowd of about 1,000 kids and adults, and The Quad, a new space for teens was opened with funding from the Library Foundation. A new online catalog debuted in 2011, and the next year saw the first annual Summer Concert Series, which is an eight week series that still draws more that 1,000 people to join us for music ranging from rock and blues to Celtic and big band.

Most recently, the Library underwent extensive remodeling and a renovation of the entire first floor. Among other things, the Youth Department received an amazing update, additional study rooms were added, a beautiful fireplace was installed to the reading area in the Adult section, and The Creation Studio was built – a space with a 3D printer and other equipment to inspire an interest in creativity and design.

Today, the Bettendorf Public Library continues to strive toward providing the latest in innovative library technology to meet the needs of our community. We look forward to serving you.