116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hiawatha library expansion offers ‘room to breathe,’ space for more programs
HIAWATHA — After years of operating in a space that was way too small, the Hiawatha Public Library has completed a $4.2 million expansion and renovation that nearly tripled the library’s space.
“This project started years ago,” Director Jeaneal Weeks said. “We had long outgrown the old space, and the facility that we were working in was just too small for the business that we were doing.”
The original single-story library at 150 W. William St., which was remodeled during the expansion project, was 8,543 square feet. The library is now on two levels with 22,000 square feet.
“What we did was build an addition to the existing library by adding a lower level to the west side of the original building,” Weeks said.
“In addition to adding the lower level, we remodeled the old part of the library so the whole thing matches and — if you had never been here before — you wouldn't necessarily know that had been an addition.”
Weeks said the library’s capital campaign raised $2 million for the work. Another $1 million came from local-option sales taxes, and the city bonded the final $1.2 million.
The original library, Weeks said, was cramped and lacked enough room for adults, teens and children to have their own spaces.
“We have always been very, very busy, and the old space was crowded and not very comfortable,” she said. “Now, the library feels open and welcoming — it’s like we have room to breathe. We just have so much more space to work with now.”
Among the changes is a larger young adult section and an improved children’s section with separate computer areas for both.
Also added: meeting and study rooms, work spaces, offices, storage and larger circulation desks.
The Community Room — which can be used for events, classes and group activities — also was expanded and designed so it can be divided into two rooms, Weeks said.
“We have programming for all ages, and we're hoping that this will really affect the amount of programming that we do and the types of programming that we do,” Weeks said.
“Possibilities that have opened up for us now, and I think that will also result in a lot more benefits for the community,” Weeks added.
Weeks noted the library, like other modern libraries, offers services that go beyond book borrowing and computer use.
“We are a certain size library in a smaller community, but we're two blocks from Cedar Rapids, and so we serve this huge area of people, and 75 percent or so of our circulation is to non-Hiawatha people,” she said.
“So we’re kind of like a suburban library, but we’re serving a largely urban population, and we have all kinds of people using the library and they all have different needs.”
Weeks said the library staff has all been trained in trauma-informed response and in aiding homeless patrons. The staff also refers people to social services and other local resources.
“We try with whatever we can,” she said. “We try to help with food insecurity in the neighborhood here, so we have a little free pantry where people can take food and leave food,” she said. “We also have the HACAP mobile food bank come here to the library.
“We do blood drives, we offer proctoring services, we have notaries of the public — whatever the community needs, we will try to figure out a way to make it happen.”
“We are that community hub that people know they can come to, and we don't really have another community hub in the city,” Weeks said.
“So it's not just books, it's not just audio books or movies or any of the tangible things,” she added. “A lot of it is not tangible, and the expansion of the building is also an expansion of possibilities. I think it will make it so that we can do more.”
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