Several days after the local Ladies Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle opened a reading room in 1894 above a local hardware store, the building and collection burned to the ground. Following the accident, the community came together, donating books and funds and forming the Public Library Association by the end of the year.By 1906, the Sheldon Public Library was looking for a larger space and received a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie’s foundation. The new facility opened in 1908.
When the Public Library in the O’Brien County town of Sheldon moved to a new location in 1969, the grandiose Carnegie building sat empty for 7 years before it was taken over and repurposed by the county geological society. Now in its 35th year of existence, the Sheldon Prairie Museum includes displays of early local industry, Indian and animal artifacts, military and school exhibits, and the Sheldon Hall of Fame. The museum is open Monday evenings plus Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons.
Organization of the Hamburg Public Library dates to 1886, when the first library was established in the local high school. An 1890 fire destroyed the library, but the community stepped to the plate with money and book donations to rebuild the collection. By 1915, a permanent library space was desired, and Mayor Richards wrote Andrew Carnegie requesting a grant for a new facility. The following year, a $9,000 grant was awarded, and the new library was dedicated in June 1919.
The public library in Marion dates to 1901 when the local Federation of Women’s Clubs first organized a reading room and began soliciting donations for money, books, and furniture from the community. Within two years a tax levy was approved to support the library and nearly $4,000 was raised to purchase a lot for the new facility. Construction costs were covered by a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie; the cornerstone was laid in September 1904, and the new library was dedicated in March 1905.
When a modern library facility was constructed 91 years later, the Carnegie building was sold to the First United Methodist Church in Marion. The historic building now houses church classrooms and offices.
On December 30, 1901, Marshalltown was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie foundation to construct a new public library facility. The corner building opened its doors April 22, 1903, and served the community for the next 105 years. When the Marshalltown Public Library moved to a brand new, single-story facility in December 2008, plans went into motion to repurpose the historic building for local government use.
By September 2010, a $1.3 million renovation was complete, and several city departments had moved to the new quarters. An enclosed connection was added between the Carnegie building and the adjacent City Hall, benefiting both city employees and local residents utilizing government services. A standing-room-only crowd attended the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was held September 14, 2010.
The Council Bluffs Public Library operated in this Carnegie-funded building from 1905 to 1998, when operations moved to a modern 65,000-square-foot library building. Constructed at a cost of $70,000, the Council Bluffs building is the largest of the 17 Iowa Carnegie libraries designed by architects Patton and Miller. When the historic facility left empty, the Friends of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum group raised $3.5 million to renovate and repurpose the building for use as the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum features a mix of artifacts dating to the mid-1800s along with interactive exhibits which highlight Union Pacific’s role in the railroad industry and growth of America’s economy. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays year round, a unique public-private arrangement allows the Friends organization to manage museum volunteers, the City of Council Bluffs to lease the building to Union Pacific, and Union Pacific to pay for the museum’s operating expenses.