HIAWATHA — The Hiawatha Public Library can be cramped quarters when more than 100 children pile into its community room for programming events like story times.
A two-phase expansion of the 1998 library’s 8,500 square-foot facility at 150 W. Willman St. will hopefully help library programs and community events have better accommodations. The improved library will total 22,000 square feet when finished around May for about $4.2 million.
“It would be wonderful in the sense that we will not have to compete with the public or the public won’t have to compete with us,” said Jeaneal Weeks, library director. “As we get bigger, bigger and bigger, we use that programming space more and more.”
The first phase includes an expansion of the parking lot and two-level addition to the library, which is scheduled to be complete in December. The addition will contain staff space, three study rooms, two small conference rooms and a large meeting space.
Once the addition is complete, the rest of the library will move into that space while the existing portion of the building is renovated.
Weeks said the library expansion is necessary because not only does it serve the northeast side of Cedar Rapids, but the city of Hiawatha itself will likely grow with the addition of the nearby Village Center, a downtown-like development the City Council approved in March.
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“I can’t say specifically about the number of people but it feels as busy as it ever has been,” Weeks said. “But this is prime real estate right here. ... We’re kind of next to City Hall and sort of a bit of a city center right in here.”
While Hiawatha officials anticipate the completion of the library expansion, their fellow Metro Library Network member Marion still is a ways from breaking ground on its new facility. Earlier this week Marion Library board members chose a site for its new building after years of stops and starts.
The growth of both libraries and partnership with Cedar Rapids illustrates how heavily used all three are and the advantages in combining resources into a network, Weeks said.
What keeps library use up, Weeks said, is the changing role of acting as more of a community center for resources like social services and new technologies.
“To people who don’t use the library, they don’t really know what happens here,” Weeks said. “Books are still here ... but we deliver information. And sometimes that information comes in new technologies. So we adapt to the world, and we adapt to what people want.”
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