The success of the Cedar Rapids Public Library demonstrates the impact a next generation library can have on a community. A catastrophic flood in 2008 forced the community to replace its 30-year-old library — previously in decent condition and of adequate size, but lacking vibrancy, community spaces, and inspiration — located in the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids. OPN, along with the library staff and board and support of the community, seized the opportunity to reinvent library services in the community and create a new vision for the future library.

The design of the library embraces this opportunity by creating an urban plaza, and positions the vibrant, active library spaces so the large expanses of glass highlight the library services to the community.

The new design broke barriers between the staff and patrons, library and civic spaces, and staff departments. Views into the building frame the rhythmic placement of library stacks juxtaposed with a lively and active children’s collection and the adult fiction collection. The views in and out of the collection spaces are seen from nearly every vantage point. A two-story lobby space — including a popular full-service cafe — is a community hub and starting point to a library visit. A 200-seat tiered auditorium situated on the second level is expressed in the volume of the space and positioned to offer dramatic views of Greene Square and the community beyond. The library further embraces the sense of community with a 20,000-square-foot green roof that was a key part of the LEED Platinum storm-water management strategy and has become a go-to spot in the library.

Circulation, meeting room use, and computer use have surpassed expectations and prove that community has embraced and uses the facility in ways unimagined. It truly is a participatory library.