Library looks at changes
Aging C.R. facility hopes to be part of downtown revival
By Rick Smith The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â The No. 1 reason residents come to downtown Cedar Rapids is to use the public library, a consultantÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s study has found.
That, though, is not what a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“happeningÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ downtown should want, a consultant for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District said a few weeks ago. Live music, cultural hot spots and to-die-for restaurants should top the list of downtown attractions, not the public library, the consultant suggested.
Tim Hill, president-elect of the library board, on Tuesday said heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d like to see more going on downtown, too. But donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t discount what the 21-year-old library, which faces the riverfront on First Street SE, has meant to downtown and what it can mean in the future, he said.
Hill was announcing a nowcompleted needs-assessment by the library board, the library foundation, staff and their consultant, which has concluded that the downtown library has become worn and dated and is in need of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“significant renewal.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢
Hill said the library board is using a consultant to develop a building plan to help address the libraryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s future needs, both at its downtown site and its west side location.
ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s too early, he said, to be talking about how improvements would be financed, though he noted the board isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t talking about a new downtown building.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“If we do anything, I hope itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s tied to the riverfront redevelopment and that it creates interest not only in the library but in that area of town,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ he said.
Redeveloping the riverfront is one of the Fifteen in 5 community planning goals.
Rather than a new downtown building, Hill said, the library board is looking at reconfiguring space, replacing furniture, shelving and carpeting, improving lighting, increasing computer and Internet services, changing the layout of the childrenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s department and improving a chronic parking problem.
Much has changed about how the library delivers services since the current downtown library opened. It has been 21 years of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“relentless wear from heavy use,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ the libraryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s needs-assessment states.
Hill said the downtown library and the small branch at Westdale Mall had 576,797 visits in 2005 from people checking out 1.09 million materials.
Many of those users arenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hustling through the library but are there to visit and use the place, he said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s definitely a community, and weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d like to make it even more of a gathering spot,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Hill said.
The needs-assessment also pointed to space and service limitations at the west side branch.
Hill, an attorney at Bradley & Riley, said it was too soon to put a price tag on library improvements or say how the cost might be covered.
The library has a new board and a new director and will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the next few years. It opened Feb. 17, 1985.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve got needs, and itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s time to look at them,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Hill said.
The current downtown library is 85,000 square feet, and the libraryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s consultant suggested that the cityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s libraries might need 127,000 to 136,000 square feet of space by 2030 based on population projections.
Cedar Rapids does have a pretty nice library but it really is out dated. The carpet, walls and wood panneling kind of remind me of the library in The Breakfast Club. It's a quality building.. but a renovation I think it could be very nice. I'm curious how they would ever add that additional 40,000 -45,000 sq feet of space as it takes up pretty much the whole block and is a fairly closed building (massive concrete walls).
I agree with the consultant though... the library is a bad top attraction for downtown!