Legislation passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2001 (2002 Iowa Acts, Chapter 158, sections 25-36) make it possible to establish library districts. According to Iowa Code Chapter 336, library districts may be composed of one or more counties, one or more cities, or any combination of cities and counties. To form a library district, five percent of the eligible voters who voted for president of the United States or governor, as the case may be, within the district at the last general election would petition the board of supervisors of the county or the city council, for the establishment of the library district. The board of supervisors of each county and the city council of each city containing area within the proposed district would submit the proposition to the registered voters. A library district would be established if a majority of the electors voting on the proposition residing in the proposed library district favored its establishment. The result of the election within cities maintaining a free public library shall be considered separately, and no city shall be included within the library district unless a majority of its electors voting on the question favor its inclusion.
Prior to this legislation, the Iowa Code allowed for the establishment of only two types of public libraries—city libraries or county libraries. This legislation does not require cities, counties and wider geographic areas to establish a particular structure; rather, it allows them to choose among a number of library governance models to fit their needs.