Thursday, May 14, 2015

319. Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Public Library, Downtown

This is a handsome new downtown library; the Time Capsule is dated August 24, 2013. It replaces a library that was destroyed in a flood about five years ago, and what a replacement it is!

In the first picture below, the children's area is on the first floor behind the red sculpture; non-fiction is on the second floor, with a whole wall of windows; and above that is a roof garden, shown in several pictures below. Let's go inside.

The children's area is expansive and delightful, with windows on three sides and a glass-walled office on the fourth. The floor in front of the librarian's desk has several round panels that change appearance when you step on them, very cool. A "seating piece" is so unusual, I had to take a picture, the third one below. I waited until it had no kids on it, but I assure you, they find many ways to "sit" here!

Shelving throughout this area is just three shelves high. I like the signs above the shelves with labels like "Earthquakes" and "Farm Animals" and "Tornadoes." See the fourth picture below. One long shelf is labeled "Hola amigos! En Espanol."

The dominant feeling, after the light from all those windows, is curves. Many of the shelves, the varied seating, almost everything curves. Even the program room, which is in the center of the space, is round! This is very attractive and somehow feels more welcoming than straight lines.

There are study tables and chairs for school-age kids, computers, and a play space for the pre-school crowd, with a "kitchen," Duplo table, and other toys. The pre-school space is adjacent to the office, which seems smart.

Back in the lobby, there is a coffee shop, almost a given now in new urban libraries. The fiction collection has a long window wall lined with easy chairs. A browsing area for periodicals is accented with stained-glass panels that I thought might have come from the old library; I learned that they actually are from a church that was being razed. Some of the fiction shelves have touch-screen computer panels mounted on the end; these panels take up virtually no space, but allow patrons ready access to the catalog, "get a card," pay fines on line, and Media Box (a way to check out DVDs). There are "sit down" computers also, of course but these panels, which I also saw in the non-fiction area upstairs, are great.

A large teen area, "The Union," is in a corner of the lobby. It was occupied by a lively group, so I didn't go beyond the doorway. (I guess it was a bit too lively, as a librarian walked in while I was there, and the noise level dropped--a bit. There appears to be a gaming system, but my favorite feature is a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard. The ceiling must be at least 12 feet do they write on the top?

I was running short on time on my meter (I hadn't found the parking lot), but I decided to take a quick look at the upper levels. The second level houses the non-fiction collection, conference and study rooms, the Tech Commons with many computers, and my favorite, the "Un-conference Room," a medium-size room with a long, low table, couches, and casual chairs. A wonderful place for a meeting that doesn't require the formality of "chairs around a table." There is also a Family Computer room, with a computer on a table, several chairs including an easy chair, and a "beads on wires" toy for the youngest family member.

The top level has a roof garden and an auditorium. The roof is wonderful (see pictures), but was uninhabited on this rather chilly day.

Finally, though I took the elevator up, I walked down the staircase, finding one quibble and one delight. The delight is a motion-activated set of lighted panels beside the staircase. The quibble is the darkness of the stair treads; I had to walk very carefully to be sure my feet were in the right place.

And where would I have been without my GPS? There is a LOT of construction going on in Cedar Rapids. The streets that are not one way (and always the wrong way) are dug up. But the good old GPS, which is mannerly enough to NOT say "recalculating," kept finding new possibilities, and I was finally on my way to my next visit.

For more about this library, see the website at and visit

Creative seating near the entrance to the children's area

Signage in the children's area

The rooftop garden

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