By Pat Shaver
CEDAR RAPIDS – It won’t be an ordinary library.
Instead, it will have a book drop-off and drive thru with food and coffee, a mobile staff, an indoor auditorium that seats 200, touch screen Microsoft table computers, a green roof, and innovative architecture among several other features.
And, of course, plenty of books.
“We really wanted to change the way we did business so we wanted the architecture to push us toward that,” said Cedar Rapids Library Director Bob Pasicznyuk.
The new building will cost about $25 million, though the total cost will amount to about $49 million, which includes land acquisition, books, technology, furniture, professional services, public art and a contingency fund. Rather than focusing on book storage, the main goal was to feature public space and seating, cater to young minds and include new technologies, Mr. Pasicznyuk said.
“We found out what space we had and made the books fit the space instead of making the space fit all of the books,” he said.
Traditionally, the book shelves at libraries are straight and tall, but the new Cedar Rapids Library will have shelves that are curvilinear and only 5 feet tall, and shorter in the children’s areas. Mr. Pasicznyuk said it will look more like a Barnes and Noble than a library, and more like a living space than an academic facility.
The facility will be 95,000 square feet and is expected to be complete in the summer of 2013.
The first floor of the library will be the more active floor, with areas for children and young adults, a coffee shop, an express Internet zone, the main lobby and the adult fiction area.
The second floor will be quieter, Mr. Pasicznyuk said, and will feature several different types of meeting rooms, about 100 public computers and reading areas.
To come up with the look and focus of the library, Mr. Pasicznyuk and the library board took several approaches to collect information. They traveled to different libraries to see what was done well to incorporate that into the Cedar Rapids plans, and also took note of things that didn’t work. They also met with community members to find out what they were looking for in a library.
In addition, preventing potential future flood damage was a focus. The building was raised about 3 feet above the 2008 flood elevation and mechanics like heating and air conditioning will be on the third floor of the building.
One of the primary goals of the design of the library was to make the inside of the building match the exterior architecture, said Bradd Brown, with OPN Architects Inc., the company leading the library’s design.
“We felt a contemporary design was appropriate for a contemporary library,” Mr. Brown said.
One of the signature features to the facility will be the 200-seat auditorium, overlooking Green Square Park and downtown Cedar Rapids.
“It has really dramatic views of Green Square Park,” Mr. Brown said.
There will be mechanics available to shade or cover the windows, he added.
Mr. Pasicznyuk said the previous library building was built in 1985 and many people thought the exterior was too grey and lacked variety in its design. The design of the new building, he said, will have a similar approach to the look of the Kirkwood Hotel in Cedar Rapids.
There will be different colors and shades on the walls, large windows and masonry around the building. An outdoor plaza facing Green Square Park is also planned.
The large windows, which make up about 30 percent of the buildings walls, were strategically placed in areas that have the best views, Mr. Brown said.
Another aspect to the design was the T shape of the building, Mr. Brown said. The top of the T faces west toward train tracks, which is where a majority of the staff offices and storage spaces are located.
The library kicked off the public phase of its fundraising campaign last week, announcing that about $3.5 million has already been raised, which is nearing the $5 million goal.
The Friends of the Cedar Rapids Library announced a donation of $400,000 toward the project. The fundraising initiative is called the Library 3.0 capital campaign.
The Hall-Perrine Foundation has committed a $3 million matching grant, and a $500,000 donation has been secured from Archer Daniels Midland Company. The Federal Emergency Management Administration is funding about 55 percent of the project.
Before the 2008 flood, about 1,200 people entered the library on a daily basis. Officials anticipate the new library will bring in 1,600 people every day.
That traffic can also help nearby businesses and entice further development, according to Quinn Pettifer, director of marketing and community outreach for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District.
“Traffic brought to the downtown area from library patrons has always been impressive and we are eager to welcome those patrons with existing favorites and new pieces of downtown to enjoy,” Ms. Pettifer stated in an e-mail.
“As downtown continues to advance in development projects such as the library, developers and prospective businesses are certainly taking notice. We have already seen new business open their doors to downtown, many in anticipation of what’s available now and what’s in store for downtown in the very near future,” she stated.
For example, in the last six months, La Cantina, The Hub Pizza and Grille, and Salsa del Rio have all opened in the area.