Resilient Cedar Rapids library deserves national accolades

The Cedar Rapids Public Library in downtown Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Cedar Rapids Public Library in downtown Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The rest of the nation now knows what we do: The Cedar Rapids Public Library is a vital and vibrant community hub.

It is one of only five 2017 library recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, Library Director Dara Schmidt announced Monday.

The library, of course, has been award-winning for some time. But unlike other accolades that focus on aesthetics of the facilities or their low impact on the environment, this prestigious award acknowledges the library’s many contributions to the community — offerings that go well above what similar facilities throughout the nation provide their patrons.

Amber Mussman, library community relations manager, noted, “This award validates the work the library did.”

Given the 2015 defeat of a proposed 27-cent tax levy for library operations, it would have been far easier (and perhaps understandable) for library staff to toss their hands in the air in frustration and shelve many of their outstanding programs. Staffers instead looked for ways to preserve and expand offerings while maintaining patron access.

The Legacy series offers area immigrant and black residents an opportunity to share stories about their Iowa experience.

Prospective small business owners benefit from the MICRO Loan program.

Residents displaced by 2016 flooding were met at shelters by library staff offering resources and companionship.

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Just last month, facilities in the Metro Library Network — Hiawatha, Marion and Cedar Rapids — began lending Wi-Fi hot spots to patrons lacking home internet access or who need a more mobile option.

And the Summer Dare Everywhere program returns this summer in an effort to advance literacy throughout the community.

“The Cedar Rapids Public Library has taken every opportunity to respond to our community’s changing needs as best we can and with the resources that we have available. That others outside our city see and recognize our work is both humbling and gratifying,” said Schmidt.

The mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

Resilience and grit has kept those goals at the local forefront, and the entire Corridor reaps the daily benefit.

• Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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