The community has used the existing Ladd Library space consistently since it opened in 2013. Tens of thousands of items have been checked out, hundreds of programs attended, and thousands of hours of computer use and Wi-Fi connections have taken place. The Ladd Library has been a critical resource for neighborhood support and resiliency throughout the pandemic and after the derecho, as well as during more typical times in our community. It serves as a key location for strategic partnerships that help fulfill our mission: to connect people to information, experiences, and services that enhance their quality of life so our community can learn, enjoy, and thrive.
In 2020, the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation received a significant gift, which will lead the way toward establishing a permanent library location on the city’s west side. The Library, City of Cedar Rapids, and Linn County are exploring the use of one-time American Rescue Plan Act funds to partially support this project as it directly relates to the program goals of social services support and workforce training and education.
Before the flood of 2008, the Library had a small storefront location in the Westdale Mall. After the flood, the Library operated solely out of space in Westdale Mall and the location quickly became one of the busiest libraries in the state. Library use came primarily from residents of the city’s west side. The Library had to vacate its previous Westdale Mall location, and needed a home on the west side.
The funding was not available for a permanent location at that time. Ladd was developed using funds from the Marilyn Ladd estate, a gift left to the CRPL Foundation in 2012, combined with a smaller fundraising campaign. Materials were brought over from the Westdale location.
The Ladd Library opened its doors in February 2013. The location was selected for its proximity to the neighborhood it serves, and the availability of space to operate as a branch library.
The Library, City, and County are investigating the opportunity for a multi-use development which could include space for human service agencies, affordable housing, workforce development supports, and a public library, all with a focus on providing equitable services to the west side of our city.
Examples of mixed-use public library and housing developments exist throughout the country and provide excellent models for Cedar Rapids.
Existing community partners like The Opportunity Center and Urban Dreams are looking at their service delivery and permanent facility needs at this time as well. Locating services within neighborhoods has proven critical during emergency response, such as the derecho, and added to the resiliency of the community.
A location for this project has not been determined. The Library Trustees and City are committed to the westside by keeping a new permanent facility in the same general area.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library is committed to its Guiding Principle of Equity and has strategically placed its physical locations and outreach efforts into high need and high poverty neighborhoods.
The City of Cedar Rapids is developing a Neighborhood Action Plan in the Westdale neighborhood with a needs assessment to understand opportunities and challenges in the area. This project aligns with the City’s Sustainability plan: their commitment to addressing and improving environmental, social, and economic health.
By working together, the Library, City, and County are leveraging resources to better meet the needs of the entire community. There is still much to learn before a project plan would be put together and a facility would begin to take shape.
There will be multiple opportunities for community feedback and input throughout this process.
The Library and partners are working on a phased approach to this project.
The first phase is simply understanding the scope and cost associated with this type of project. To do this, the Library hired MSR Design for the first phase of this project, to be completed by December 2021. MSR was selected through an RFP process after much deliberation.
MSR met with stakeholders for initial feedback and to gain insight into the goals and needs of a permanent westside library mixed-use facility. The Library also gathered community input through online and paper surveys to ensure community alignment.
MSR will present a report to the CRPL Board of Trustees at their December meeting. This report is solely to demonstrate scope, associated costs, and challenges.
This project is dependent on funding sources and the goals of the Trustees, City, County, and partners.
Should this project move forward, there will be multiple opportunities for community input and feedback. The timeline for the next phase of this project will depend on funding and scope of concept.