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New Cedar Rapids Public Library Reaches 'Biggest Milestone'

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- With little more than a month before its grand opening, the Cedar Rapids Public Library is in the process of reaching its 'biggest milestone' in terms of completion.

On Thursday afternoon, the library's new downtown location began to receive books by the truckload. Soon, those books will be shelved and ready for public consumption.

And after nearly two years of working to build an almost entirely new collection, Amber Mussman, public information officer and adult programming coordinator for the library, said the staff is thrilled that the library is now in its finishing stages.

"I think we've all sort of been working toward this day so much -- sort of with a head down, keep going mentality -- so it's really exciting to see this stuff coming together," Mussman said. "I got so excited the day I came over and there was carpet on the ground, the first time there was a door you could open on the building -- things like that are a milestone for the staff and the fact we have books coming today? That's probably the biggest milestone for all of us."

The first delivery of items in the new library arrived Thursday morning and handlers will begin to unpack the loads of books, cds, dvds and other collection items on the shelves over a course of the next few weeks. Mussman said there are nearly 225,000 items in the collection.

Completion of the library is also a significant milestone in flood recovery, because it is one of the most public buildings in the community, Mussman said.

"A library always is something that's shared by every single member of the community, no matter how old or where you come from, so to be able to share with them a building that's such a state of the art facility that is beautiful and open to everyone -- that's the most exciting thing," Mussman said.

The library's public art sculpture, "Regeneration," also arrived on Thursday for installation. Created by Albert Paley, the large, red, abstract steel structure somewhat resembles a page of a book opening towards the entrance of the building. Mussman said the $225,000 piece was funded almost entirely through donations, in addition to the 1 percent portion of the new library's budget that is required to go towards public art. She said the library's Public Art Task force received more than 300 submissions in its call for public art in Jan. 2012.

Paley visited Cedar Rapids to learn more about the community before starting work on the roughly 18-foot high, 30-foot-long piece.
Aside from shelving books and making sure all pieces are where they should be, Mussman said landscaping still needs to be completed outside the building before the library's grand opening on Aug. 24.
She said she's most excited to see people's faces when the building is open to the public next month.

"I think this community deserves it, they're going to be proud," Mussman said. "I think we're going to get visitors from across the country to visit this library and it's just going to help this community be even better than it already is."

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