Cedar Rapids Library Board Selects an Architect

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Public Library in downtown SE Cedar Rapids after the flood on Thursday June 19, 2008. (Cedar Rapids Public Library)

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By Mark Geary

CEDAR RAPIDS -- People haven't been able to use the main Cedar Rapids Public Library for more than a month now because flood damage inside is so severe.

Monday evening, the library board made several critical decisions about the library's future.

The Library Board chose Cedar Rapids' based OPN architects to manage the job. That's the same firm that’s working on a variety of projects, including the federal courthouse.

The firm beat out a handful of competitors because the board liked the company's ideas and approach to the project. Now, the board will start meeting with OPN to talk about opening a temporary location and getting the original library building back online.

Damage inside the Cedar Rapids public library is so bad, few people have been allowed to enter. But, library leaders still wanted to choose an architect as soon as possible.

"We really want to secure the library's future in this community. In order to do that, I think we need to act quickly,” Library Board President Susan Corrigan said.

Marie DeVries, also from the library said, "Anytime you have services that you need to provide to a community, you can't go long without providing those services before they'll turn elsewhere."

It's still unclear how the library will fit into the city's revitalization plans. Board members also don't know how much money the library will get from the federal government. Yet, library staff refuses to let anything stop them from moving forward.

"We're going to have to, in some cases, take an educated guess because we cannot get any answers right now to all the questions we would like to have to make the perfect decisions,” DeVries said.

While the library board renovates the downtown location, staff members are also working on a lease agreement for the former Big Lots building.

The goal is to open a temporary facility here within the next few months.

"There's plenty of parking. It's easy to get to. It's just really located in a great spot,” Corrigan said.

Even though several more chapters of the library's struggle to reopen are now almost written, no clear ending to this story will exist for quite some time to come.

If the Big Lots deal goes through, the library will have to pay about 27-thousand dollars a month to lease the space.

There are still no clear answers about when construction can begin here at the main location or when people will be able to check out books either.

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