About the Library


The library first opened its doors in January 1982. It serves Pleasant Hill and the surrounding area. During the last year, over 65,000 library visits were recorded and patrons checked out over 120,000 books. The Pleasant Hill Public Library remains committed to providing quality library services to its patrons.

History of the Pleasant Hill Public Library


On June 18, 1981, a committee appointed by Mayor Lawrence Hopper met in the Pleasant Hill City Council Chambers to discuss delivery of library services to the City of Pleasant Hill. Increased charges to Pleasant Hill by the City of Des Moines caused the city to initiate a study.

The committee recommended the establishment of a library for the city armed with ideas to make this goal a success.

Many duties now carried out by the library were conceived during these early meetings. For example, the library is entrusted with maintaining a history of the city. This information is constantly updated by one of the staff.

Donations were already being promised and fund raising began.

By July 15, 1981, this ambitious group had a bank account for the library, a trailer located for use as a possible facility, donations of shelving and 21 applications for the position of city librarian.

After careful consideration of applicants, the committee presented a recommendation to the City Council that Ms. Pat Rehder be hired as the city's first Librarian. Ms. Rehder would begin employment on September 1, 1981.

The committee enthusiastically supported the library with donations of cash, library materials, books and magazines. Most of these materials were used.

Librarian Pat Rehder enthusiastically joined the committee in planning a media blitz at the upcoming city's Silver Celebration. A booth would be set up informing the public that they would soon have a library in the city and inviting them to participate by becoming a Friend of the Library.

On October 22, 1981, the first official meeting of the Pleasant Hill Library Board of Trustees was held in a primitive mobile trailer unit set up in the back parking lot of City Hall at 4450 Oakwood Drive. The first meeting was held with members sitting on the floor surrounded by boxes of donated library materials. Electricity had been connected only three hours earlier.

Officers were elected, duties assigned, library hours were agreed upon and a goal set for an official opening date of January 3, 1982.

As the opening date drew closer, and the trailer began to look more like a library, it became apparent that board members would become even more involved as they donated hours of their personal time to staff the library on weekends.


The new year (1982) brought many new challenges as the board faced preparation of its first budget. Fortunately, with the expert guidance of Librarian Pat Rehder, the budget received council approval by February 1.

The months that followed brought growth to the library - growth in circulation, growth in programs, growth in staff, and furniture!

Board meetings continued to be held in the library, but members were seated at tables.

By September, the library was showing definite signs of growing pains - the library was outgrowing its first home.

Board discussions turned to alternatives and the word got out into the community. Grants were researched, donations were sought, vacant land was reviewed, and local builders made presentations to the Library Board.

The first full year of operation boasted a circulation of 24,500, or three times the library usage by Pleasant Hill residents over prior years.


The year 1983 brought a shift in the meeting place of the board as library hours expanded and table space gave way to shelving space for library materials.

Discussion of the need for a larger facility continued to dominate concerns.

In October, the board heard a presentation by a representative of Lloyd Witt, a local landowner regarding a commercial facility he was constructing on Maple Drive.

The months that followed brought proposed agreements and counter proposals. On December 21, 1983, the Board voted to accept a lease proposal between Lloyd Witt and the Pleasant Hill Library Board.


In 1984, the year ushered in a new wave of planning. New equipment was needed for the new facility. Grants were written and fund raising again took place.

Groundbreaking for Mr. Witt's building began in March. The Library Board and staff were interested and involved with every detail of the building, not only floor plans, but special placement of electrical outlets to accommodate a growing Library. This was an exciting time.

In April, the exact unit of the building that would house the library was selected. The Pleasant Hill Library would be housed on the Northeast Corner of the lower level.

April also brought the resignation of Librarian Pat Rehder who moved to other opportunities. Pat left the City of Pleasant Hill and the Library a fantastic contribution -- her leadership and abilities that had established the Pleasant Hill Library!!

July brought a new fiscal year and a new librarian, Suzanne Larson. In August, Suzanne announced that she had received notice that the building was ready for occupancy. Moving day was set for August 15.

Board members rolled up their shirt sleeves, gathered moving crates, vehicles, and dedication to pack, transport and unpack tons of library materials, books and equipment.

With extreme pride in the new facility, an Open House was planned for September 9. Citizens and city officials flocked in to admire the new quarters and acquaint themselves with materials now available.


In 1985, discussions began about cooperative services between surrounding libraries - the walk-in policy. The Pleasant Hill Library Board chose to provide services to all patrons regardless of residence. Policies set by surrounding libraries forced Pleasant Hill to seriously begin consideration of a formal collection development policy to serve the needs of patrons. Reference materials were targeted for purchase so students would be able to obtain information for school work on a timely basis. Usage of inter-library loan services increased. And, circulation continued to increase under the direction of Ms. Larson.

By July of 1985, records indicate the library was becoming crowded and in need of a facility that would provide a larger children's area, study areas, work space, increased hours, and house twice the number of books in the collection.

In September, the library hours increased and the library began offering Sunday afternoon hours from September through May.


Improvements to the library accomplished in 1986 included an upgrade to the now overloaded computer system, and software to barcode library materials. In August, the library began offering videocassettes to its patrons - the result of a donation by the Friends of the Library.

December marked the fifth year of the library and was celebrated by a Birthday Party / Open House.


January 1987, was saddened by the announcement that Librarian Suzanne Larson would be leaving the library in February. The board began recruiting and interviewing.

In April, the board welcomed Gary Bisignano as the new librarian. The board turned its concentration towards obtaining accreditation for the library. The City Council assigned responsibility for compiling the communicator to the library staff. A nursing home outreach program was implemented.


Accreditation papers were completed in March 1988 and submitted on April 14. Formal policies and procedures and personnel policies were adopted in May. June of 1988 was marked by the addition of yet another service for patrons - the library now offered vacation information for all 50 states. In August, the library held its first open house for teachers to coordinate the school year's activities with the library holdings. In September, the library began addressing long term planning.


This year brought continued concerns about space. The library had definitely outgrown its current facility. There was discussion of a new city complex. There was discussion of a multi-use recreational facility. There was the fact that the lease was up for renegotiation. Patron use continued to increase. People enjoyed the programs being provided and planned. It was a busy, prosperous year.

However, the accreditation submitted last March was not approved. The library holdings were not large enough. Undaunted, the board began planning for the next submission of accreditation papers and addressing long range planning.


The new decade (1990) brought welcome records and changes to the library. Circulation figures were the highest in history, with 26,259 items being circulated. Programming also set a record and almost 2,500 patrons attended 102 programming events.

In November, the library responded to patron requests and increased its hours of operation to seven days a week. In addition, books on tape and large print books were now available.

Director Gary Bisignano resigned after 3 1/2 fruitful years to pursue specific career interests in the Des Moines Public Library System. The board rolled up its sleeves and assumed the administrative responsibilities of the library until 1991.


In February 1991, John Lerdal was appointed as director of the library. The board then returned its efforts to strategic long term planning.

In October 1991, the library boasted a 51% increase in circulation over 1990, again proving that as the library approaches its 10th Anniversary, it indeed had come a long way!


The year 1992, began with the library's 10 Year Anniversary celebration. Over 100 people attended a formal open house. Special events filled the following week.

The library received many generous donations from the Friends group and other devoted supporters. These acquisitions, plus purchases of needed equipment led to an update of the library's inventory to ensure that adequate insurance coverage was maintained.

In March of 1992, a City Hall Study Committee was formed to study current and future facility needs of the city. The Committee recommended to voters that three new buildings be constructed to house city services. A new library was to be constructed on the site of the existing City Hall at 4450 Oakwood. With 52% of the voters approving, the bond fell short of the required 60%. The library would continue to be housed in its now cramped quarters.

Library progress continued to be made and the Strategic Plan and Collection Development policies were completed in 1992.


Library activities and use forced the installation of two additional telephone lines in January 1993. A second Story Hour was added in March of 1993 to accommodate attendance.

New library services now included a TV / VCR, CD player, CD Rom Encyclopedia, the Iowa Locator and an answering machine.
In July of 1993, the library was honored to receive notification that it had achieved accreditation.

During the spring and summer of 1993, the City Hall Study Committee regrouped its efforts. A proposal for a single building housing all city government services, including a 6,500 square foot library, was placed before voters and received approval in December, 1993.


The year of 1994 was sprinkled with hope and enthusiasm as floor plans for the new library were reviewed, modified, and reviewed again.

The Friends of the Pleasant Hill Public Library shared in this excitement and planning by sponsoring a raffle of many fine donated items including many hand crafted items made by patrons and friends supporting the library. This raffle netted over $1,400.

In July of 1994, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new facility took place. The library undertook the project of preparing a pictorial history of the construction.

The library was also able to expand its computer services in July as a result of a generous patron donation of a computer and accessories.

In November, the library was selected to participate in the First Search Initiative. November also brought an honor to staff member Helen Garey who was selected as City Employee of the Quarter.

December of 1994 brought the acquisition of another computer through the Roy Carver Grant allowing patrons to access job opportunities and other services. The library was set up on the internet. Wednesdays were designated as Amnesty Days for returning overdue materials.


This year promised to be an exciting year. The new building was taking shape. Staff and trustees toured the building under construction in January.

In February, the board approved expanding hours of operation to 59 per week after the move. A new informational brochure designed in March boasted expanded hours and additional library services.

Amidst the excitement and promise, the library, the Friends and the entire community suffered great sadness when Pat Van Sant, president of the Friends, and a devoted library promoter, passed away in March. While she would not see the results of her efforts, library patrons will enjoy the Friends Corner dedicated to her memory. She will not be forgotten.

Moving week was set for May 15-19. Volunteers, including Scout Troops and entire elementary classes, came to help. Library staff worked many long hours and with the excellent planning and guidance from Director Lerdal, everything fell into place. On May 22, 1995 at 10:00 am, the new library was in full operation.

On June 18, the official ribbon cutting ceremonies for the entire complex were held.

In July, the library received notification that it had been selected as one of eight to receive a fiber optics connection. This opportunity will expand the library's services extensively.

A contest was held in July to name the children's area. The children's area will be known as The Book Tower.

A review of circulation statistics in September showed that in the first four months of operation, the library experienced a 45% increase over the past year.

In October, the library added another full-time position to take care of the increased demand for services.

As 1995 draws to a close, the library, the Friends and the Community looks back on another year of accomplishments.


1996 brought technological advances for the Pleasant Hill Library. Just barely into our new facility, remodeling was underway to house fiber optics equipment for the ICN connections. Availability of Title 2 funds was announced, and Pleasant Hill received $25,000 in April to help with ICN costs.

In June, the library was awarded a modem connection from Iowa Workforce Development allowing patrons to access job openings from the library.

The library's first full year in the new building showed a 24% circulation increase.

In July, the library received another accreditation through the year 1999.

In September, final ICN room hookups were completed and in October the ICN system was operational.

Pleasant Hill's Library Director John Lerdal was elected President of the Polk County Library Association, leading Polk County libraries into the future.

Another computer was received in November.

In December,computer user requests overtook computer availability showing that Pleasant Hill Library Patrons indeed depend on the library and technology for their informational needs.


The year 1197 brought the library's 15th Birthday celebration, which was highlighted by ICN and Internet demonstrations for the public.

The Friends of the Pleasant Hill Public Library answered technology needs by providing another computer and printer in March. Another printer was donated by the mayor, and an additional phone line was installed to accommodate internet use.

In May, a special Substance Abuse session was hosted by the library. This session educated Patrons on the many facets of drug problems facing society and also entertained with a drug sniffing dog.

In October, Library Director Lerdal was again elected President of the Polk County Library Association.

In November, an electronic informational sign was installed at the corner of Maple and Hickory. The library, as information center for the city, was elected to program the sign.


During January, the book drop was refurbished. It was reinstalled away from the curb.

In March, the library's website was completed and put into service. A counter was installed to check on the number of visitors.

In April, the library hosted the Iowa Library Association's spring professional meeting.

The Friends of the Library started buying books on tape on a regular basis using money from the ongoing book sale.

Three computers were now available for use at the library. The computers were often all in use by patrons at the same time.

Director Lerdal served on Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels' Select Committee for Tax Reduction. Shared services were evaluated among many other topics.

The library received a document camera and other equipment in May for use with the ICN.


During 1999, the library staff worked on ensuring that all of the computer equipment was Y2K compliant. The number of computers available for patron use increased to six during the year.

In January, the Winnebago circulation was installed and put into use. It increased the capability of the circulation system. Technical support was greatly improved as well.

In July, the library was accredited for an additional three years.

In July, Runnells residents were no longer able to check out items from the library without purchasing a $40 fee card. The City of Runnells was not paying for library services to the Altoona library at an acceptable amount.

In December, the internet connection was changed to the ICN. This greatly improved the speed of the connection available for patrons. The amount of computer use continued to rise.


The library director began a three-year term on the Iowa Library Association's Executive Board in January.

In March, children's nonfiction books were separated from the rest of the nonfiction books.

Books on CD and DVDs were now being purchased.

In April, the Friends completed the process to become a 501 (c) 3 organization.

In May, the land to the west of the library was purchased by the city for future expansion.

Beginning in July, a new state program Enrich Iowa provided funding to Iowa libraries.

In July, longtime employee Helen Garey retired from the library after almost 10 years of employment. She will be missed.

In October, staffing on Saturdays was increased to two people during the entire day.

On December 7, the mural in the Book Tower area was finally installed. Local children were used as models for the project. It depicts children climbing to the top of a tower of books. Paul Micich created the mural illustration.


Voice mail became available for library staff members during 2001.

A birthday party for Arthur, a celebrated children's character was held on May 23m where 170 children and adults attended the celebration.

Library Director Lerdal was the Chamber of Commerce president during 2001.

A total of 543 children participated in the Summer Reading Program.

In September, Gale Rivas was selected to fill the new full-time position at the library.


The library's 20th anniversary was celebrated in January. Musical performances and special movie times were featured along with a special bookmark imprinted with the library's mural.

A CD ROM tower was purchased so that programs could be shared among all of the library's computers.

The library was again accredited. The accreditation runs through June 2005.

In July, Jeff Van Drew began his duties as the administrative assistant. He had previously been in the Library Technician I position.

George Lawson was hired to complete a Space Needs Assessment for the library. Funding for this project came from a grant administered through the State Library. In September, he gave a presentation to the City Council on the library's space needs.

Circulation of library materials in a fiscal year topped 75,000 items in 2002. Computer usage at the library has more than doubled in the past three years.


More than 26,000 people attended programs sponsored by the library during the last fiscal year.

Starting in February, books were taken to the Cottages Retirement Community for use by the residents.

The B.E.S.T. group began meeting in April. B.E.S.T. stands for Bringing Education and Seniors Together.

In February, tax assistance was offered by A.A.R.P. volunteers.

Signup for the Summer Reading Program topped 700. Adults were encouraged to sign up as well as children.

The library became a contributing member of OCLC, a nationwide consortium of libraries. Books from libraries in other states are now available directly.

Sue McMillen was named Employee of the Year for the library in conjunction with a citywide program.

Board member Kay Williams lost her struggle with cancer and passed away in June.

In July, new shelving was installed because of overcrowding.

In December, a grant proposal for Prairie Meadows was approved. The grant provided funding for purchase of materials for reluctant readers.

In December, a new internet connection through Mediacom was installed, greatly increasing the speed.


Summer Reading performances drew close to 1,000 participants.

In March, a birthday party for Dr. Seuss creator Theodore Geisel attracted over 70 children and adults.

In May, copies of old Pleasant Hill newspapers were taken to the State Historical Society for microfilming.

Story times were now being held at three different day cares in addition to the events at the library.

In June, Congressman Leonard Boswell read at the regular Wednesday story time at the library.

During 2004, plans were finalized to expand the library facility. The city purchased a building across Maple Drive. This building was renovated and opened as City Hall and the Council Chambers in November. The OPN architectural firm was selected to create plans for the renovation. Several meeting were held with the library staff and Board and OPN.


A grant for $1,000 from Dollar General was received for the purchase of children's books in January.

A Humanities Iowa presentation on the Underground Railroad was held on February 19th.

In February, job titles for many positions at the library were changed:
  • Staff Librarian / Program Coordinator (formerly staff librarian)
  • Staff Librarian / Technical Services (formerly staff librarian)
  • Senior Technician / Inter-library Loan (formerly administrative assistant)
  • Program Specialist (formerly programmer)

In March, renovation of the library facility began. The library operated in a smaller space through June. In June, the entire collection was moved to the former City Council Chambers and City Hall while work was completed in the library. Following completion, the collection was moved back. The library began operation in its new space in August. The space increased by approximately 50%

An online auto repair database was purchased. Patrons can access this database from their home computers as well as the library's computers.

Thirteen computers were now available for patron use. Many of the computers were purchased by the Friends of the Library.

A wireless internet connection was now available for patron's use.

A new electronic sign was installed in August. The sign is programmed from the library using a wireless connection.


In January, a $10,000 check was received from Prairie Meadows. The money will be used for computer instruction.

Two machines loaded with games were now available for children's use. In the last fiscal year, uses of the library's computers topped 15,000, an increase of 50% over the last year!

The B.E.S.T. group continued to evolve. Instead of regularly scheduled meetings, road trips to various attractions were scheduled.

In June, delivery of books to the Courtyard Estates was begun. Activities were also begun with the Shores Retirement facility in 2006.

A total of 857 people participated in the Summer Reading program, a new record.

In August, a new area specifically for teens was completed. Named "My Space," the area featured comfortable seating and a bulletin board for postings.

Installation of a display case took place. The library's renovation process was completed.

In September, a 50th anniversary celebration was held in the parking lot in front of the library. A coloring contest was held in conjunction with the city's 50th anniversary as well.

In November, the renovation of the front entrance to the library was completed. Funding for furniture and wainscoting was generously provided by the Home Lodge #370.

A total of 270 children and adults participated in the library's Make and Take an Ornament, an event during Hill of Lights.