116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HIAWATHA — The Hiawatha Public Library is growing its sustainability efforts — including adding a seed catalog — in light of climate change and the extreme weather that comes with it.
Library Director Jeaneal Weeks said the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho opened her eyes to what a local library could do for a community during a disaster.
“It wasn’t until the derecho that we realized our limitations, and now we know what people need in those situations,” Weeks said. “I’m hoping the entire area gets their act together and communicates with each other, and we can have a strong, regional plan. I know a lot of that is under consideration.”
Toward that end, the library recently became a Climate Resilience Hub.
It is the first library in Iowa to work with the nonprofit Communities Responding to Extreme Weather, or CREW, which seeks to advance “actionable, collaborative and equitable solutions at the individual, community and state levels.”
“How can we be part of the community and be there for people outside of the library?” asks Marta Petermann, the library’s adult programming and volunteer coordinator, who has been ramping up the library’s sustainability efforts since the derecho.
Joining with CREW “makes what we’ve been doing more structured with environmental issues programming,” Weeks said.
Right now, Hiawatha is a Level 1 Climate Resilience Hub, according to CREW, which means the library serves as a community outreach, education and engagement hub on climate preparedness.
Level 2 hubs provide direct support to a community during extreme weather, providing heating, air conditioning, electricity, phone charging, first aid, local resources and information. Level 3 hubs provide overnight shelter.
Weeks and Petermann say the library could become a Level 2 hub.
“We already do the Level 2 stuff,” Weeks said. “We just need to work to make it official.”
Earlier this summer, Linn County launched its own Resiliency Hub to provide resources to community members, especially in times of crisis, in the Fillmore Building, 520 11th St. NW, in Cedar Rapids. The hub offers information; solar-charging stations for electronic devices and public Wi-Fi; and local, nutritious food
Petermann said she wants to reach out to the county to see what more the Hiawatha library can do.
Petermann also started a seed library with part of a $500 Resilient Communities grant from the American Library Association.
Library patrons can register and take home seeds — beans, beets, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, flowers, herbs and so on. They can bring back the seeds they don’t use and donate other seeds.
“Basically, it’s come and take what you like,” Petermann said. “Overall, it’s been sustaining itself, and I think it will continue to do so.”
The library provides seed catalog users with information sheets on seed viability and growth periods.
In terms of programming, the library has partnered with Indian Creek Nature Center, the Sunrise Movement and others to provide information on such topics as composting, living with as little waste as possible, and the impact of climate change in Iowa.
Petermann and Weeks said the projects are part of the library’s path to becoming more sustainable and preparing for climate change.
“We have this little spark,” Weeks said. “It can grow into something really sustainable. It depends on how invested we want to be.”
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