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Public Celebrates Ladd Library Grand Opening

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Almost five years after flood waters destroyed the Cedar Rapids Public Library, locals got a taste of what the downtown location will look like with the opening of the permanent west-side branch Saturday morning.

"I think it's exciting because it's sort of the unexpected piece," said Bob Pasicznyuk, the library director. "Everybody after the flood knew we were going to replace what we had and we weren't going to be able to do without a library downtown, but to be able to cement something on the west side that meets the need is way over the top, it's pretty special."

After the flood, the west-side location, formerly located in Westdale Mall, expanded to serve as a temporary main library. When circulation nearly tripled, library officials said it became clear that there was a need for a more permanent west-side location, and the $2 million project was born.

The new west-side branch is named for Marilyn Ladd, a former test technician at Rockwell Collins, who left the library a gift of almost $750,000 at her death. Before the ribbon cutting, Library Director Bob Pasicznyuk said that Ladd's gift made the new location possible.

Frances Woods, who has lived in Cedar Rapids since 1960, also said she's excited about the new facilities. The 88-year old said she has been a friend of the library for a long time, and uses it primarily to rent books and movies.

"It's just wonderful," Woods said. "They made a lot of improvement in the way they're displaying things."

Library staff began moving 60 to 70 thousand books and other library materials to the new location, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW, last week in preparation for Saturday's grand opening. The new location has several new amenities, including comfortable seating areas, twenty public computers, wireless Internet, two study rooms, a printing and copying center, and public restrooms. It will also serve as the system's main branch until the downtown location opens this June.

Amber Mussmann, public information officer for the library, said finally being able to see the public enjoy the space and having a permanent location has made all the hard work worth it.

"It's just so exciting, the people who put this space together, especially the volunteers and staff, worked so hard to get this ready," Mussmann said. "So to get to see the faces of the kids when they walk into that kid space for the first time is priceless, it's amazing, it makes all that hard work pay off instantly."

Cedar Rapids City Councilor Monica Vernon said the new space will help keep Cedar Rapids relevant as it continues to develop and recover from the flood.

"We have got to stay in the game, we have to grow and change and evolve and we have got to stay in the game and one of the things that helps us stay in the game on a regional basis and a nationwide basis and really on a global basis is keeping up facilities for people and libraries rank right up there," Vernon said.

"This is a huge thing for us as we bring new companies in and new employees and try to retain people here. Having great libraries like this isn't just a feather in our cap, it's something we have to have, it's not just the jewel in the crown, it's the crown."

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