New Cedar Rapids Library Aims to Serve a Variety of Needs

By Jillian Petrus, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The new Cedar Rapids Public Library aims to be more than your typical stuffy, silent room full of book racks.

"We worked with a design team to say, 'How can we present our service in a completely new way?'" said Library Director, Bob Pasicznyuk. "It's what the best of libraries in the U.S. can be and what most libraries are aspiring to be."

The new library is 94,000 square feet and sits across from Green Square Park in downtown Cedar Rapids at the corner of 4th Avenue and 5th Street SE. The building itself comes with a price tag of 21 million dollars, but the total cost is around 45 million dollars. This is about 3.5 million under budget. The project is funded through city funds, private donations, public grants, I-Jobs, federal money and the Local Option Sales Tax.

Design leaders said they knew they needed to create something that fit the needs of the whole community.

"I think libraries are becoming more of that in general," said Amber Mussman, Public Information Officer for the library. "They're less about being a house for books and more about being a place where people can come together."

The building is LEED certified and will likely meet a platinum performance level. That means the building costs less to operate and is energy efficient. When complete, the downtown location will be home to fifty-seven full and part-time employees and work with several nonprofit organizations.

"We're excited about all the partnerships we'll be able to explore about inviting people in," said Katie Geiken, Executive Director of the Public Library Foundation.

The ground level is divided into sections for young children and young adults. Pasicznyuk said they used a focus group of teenagers to find out what might draw them into a library setting.

"They said they wanted something quiet and sophisticated," said Pasicznyuk. The Director said they put the teen section near the library's coffee shop with comfortable seating similar to what you might find at a café. Locally owned, Brewed Awakenings, on 1st Avenue has committed to housing a café with a drive through window to serve more than just library goers.

The second floor is tailored to business needs with technology fitted conference rooms and several lounge areas for group meetings. A 200 person theater is an architectural highlight that links to a massive rooftop deck overlooking the city. The deck can play host to about 150 people. Library officials hope to use it to host some larger events, possibly even a small wedding.

The building will have free public wifi that extends to Green Square Park, two hours of free parking for library card holders, as well as a total of around 110 computers.

"I think are going to be so excited that this community has one of the best libraries in the country," said Mussman. "When they see the finished product, I think they're going to be so proud."

To bring in a piece of history, 80 square feet of bricks taken from the Sinclair smokestack will be used to construct a fireplace located in a library room known as "the den". The library is also close to contracting with artists for a piece of artwork in the front entrance to the building as well as in the children's area.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library downtown will likely be open in the summer of 2013. For more information and updates, you can click here to visit their website.
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