CEDAR RAPIDS – Grace Ehle is just old enough to remember the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library that was flooded in 2008.
Learning about the forthcoming new library inspired the 12-year-old Prairie Creek sixth-grader to donate all the savings in her piggy bank.
“I heard about the plan and I thought it was going to be really cool,” she said, standing outside the towering steel structure that will become the new downtown library.
More than 200 people joined Grace and numerous other children Saturday, May 5, 2012, to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new library in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue SE.
Katie Geiken, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Library Foundation, noted that the demolition of the TrueNorth building on the site began in December, with construction starting in January.
“We wanted to have a pretty day” for the groundbreaking, she said. “We figured we could celebrate whenever we wanted.”
Geiken said asbestos at the site has been remediated, but the discovery pushed back the library’s opening to late summer 2013.
The delay didn’t dampen the spirits of library supporters, who told stories of what having a public library means to them.
Bailey Zaputil, 16, a Kennedy High School 10th-grader, won an essay contest by describing how the library felt like home to her.
“I grew up there, pretty much,” she said, describing the summer reading program and other activities she enjoyed before the flood damaged the building. “It felt like a part of my childhood had been taken.”
Zaputil and other teens influenced the design of the new building by providing input on furniture and other amenities for the young adults section.
The library is being funded by $26.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; $10 million from the state I-Jobs program; $4 million in city local option sales tax; $1 million in public grants and $4.3 in private fundraising, for a total of $45.8 million.
A Library 3.0 fundraising campaign continues, with money going into a library endowment, Geiken said.
The 3.0 refers to the third city library in downtown Cedar Rapids. The first is now the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, just across Greene Square Park from the new library.
“This doesn’t happen very often,” said Library Director Bob Pasicznyuk.
Pasicznyuk pointed out amenities, including more than 250 parking spaces; 40 behind the building and most in the ramp next to the library.
Technology will be an integral part of the building, and beyond, with free Wi-Fi extending into Greene Square Park.
Pasicznyuk said the children’s area will be double the previous size and include giant iPads to learn letters and reading.
“I think this is going to be some of the most coveted space in town,” he said.