There are thousands of spines just waiting to be cracked.
More than 225,000 fresh books, DVDs and CDs line the crisp, white shelves of the Cedar Rapids Public Library's new, downtown location, set to replace the more than 160,000 books and other items were lost to water damage, humidity and mold in the wake of 2008 flood.
But on Tuesday, that image of despair was nearly forgotten and often pushed aside during conversation as library staff, board members, and many who made donations to bring the library back mulled about the new space, smiling and pointing at all the new features it has to offer.
Susan McDermott, president of the library's Board of Trustees, said she was ecstatic to finally be able to greet visitors and show off the new space. Like many who toured the library earlier this week, McDermott said her initial impression of the completed building transcended her expectations, even though she was highly involved in the design process.
"It was everything I had hoped. From being involved in a long, long planning process to when I first saw it in a more complete form it was more than I anticipated," said McDermott. "It was even better than I expected."
Something for everyone
The new environmentally friendly building, located adjacent to Greene Square Park at 450 Fifth Avenue SE, is 11 percent bigger than the previous location and will use approximately one third of the energy.
The $45 million project also features an expanded child and youth section, more civic space, a roof top garden, three walk and read treadmills, fireplaces and a café with a drive-through window.
It will also be tech-savvy to a level it was not before, with more computers, e-readers, e-books, and technology integrated throughout -- something library director Bob Pasicznyuk said was key during the library's design phase.
"It doesn't bother us to have juxtaposition between traditional books or e-books," Pasicznyuk said, as he pointed toward an area on the first floor where traditional books were displayed alongside a touchscreen where e-books were available. "Some people want that, or want both."
Pasicznyuk said the civic space the library now has -- with 530 meeting-room seats including the roof garden plaza -- is about double what's available at peer libraries. He said it felt good to see people begin to populate the 94,000 square foot space on Tuesday, but that he's most excited for the days and years ahead.
"Overall, what I'm looking the most forward to is making an impact on the community, and that's going to take us the rest of our lives to do," Pasicznyuk said. "It's what you do everyday."
Five years after the flood, the library's grand opening serves as a milestone in Cedar Rapids' recovery. And even though those involved said they knew the library would, one day, recover, the conclusion of construction and reveal to the public has been an emotional experience.
Jade DeLang Hart, a member of the library's board of trustees who also co-chaired the library's fundraising campaign, said seeing the nearly-complete library for the first time a few weeks ago was overwhelming.
"I almost got teary, I really did, because we lost so much, you know, and to see all this brand new stuff…" Hart said, tearing up as she looked up toward the library's ceiling from the front atrium, dabbing her eyes. "The fact that our community cared enough to help put this back together is really touching."
The grand opening of the Cedar Rapids Public Library's new, downtown location will begin on Saturday with a party at Greene Square Park at 9 a.m. The ribbon cutting is at 10 a.m., and will be followed by a full day of activities, including a time capsule and sculpture dedication, guided tours, musical performances, crafts, story time, and other auditorium events. A full schedule can be found on the library's website, www.crlibrary.org.