OPN library specialists Bradd Brown and Mindy Sorg, along with Cedar Rapids Public Library director Dara Schmidt and community relations manager Amber Mussman, presented at this year’s American Library Association Conference in San Francisco. The OPN-designed Cedar Rapids Public Library has won a multitude of awards, including the 2015 AIA/ALA Library Building Award, attracting national and international attention to the forward-thinking design.
“The Cedar Rapids Public Library is designed to be both modern and welcoming,” says Mussman. “It was designed to be flexible to prepare for whatever the future holds, acknowledging that we don’t know exactly what the library of the future will need. In addition to the amazing physical space, the library welcomes the community to use the meeting room and event spaces for social events, family gatherings, and even weddings.”
The Cedar Rapids Public Library was designed with openness in mind to create gathering spaces to invite the community in; actively taking a space-versus-stock approach has notably been the driving factor behind the library’s success in today’s increasingly tech-obsessed world. Today’s libraries are moving away from the archetypal repository space, instead opting to function more like open community spaces, with smaller collections and high-tech, streamlined checkout systems.
“Cedar Rapids Public Library stands out because our design team worked alongside the library staff and board of trustees to reinvent library services in our community,” says Brown. “We achieved this goal through an innovative design in conjunction with a major cultural shift. The library staff have adopted a culture of saying ‘yes’ whereby they are open-minded about trying new programs and events requested by the community, like a petting zoo in the lobby, a high school prom, a baptism on the green roof. Leaving space for the un-imagined allows for endless opportunities.”
This idea of “leaving space for the un-imagined” was the theme behind the group’s ALA presentation. The presentation focused on five key design strategies critical to the participatory library experience:
- Removing the barriers
- Retail theory
- Leaving space for the un-imagined
“It was amazing to be a part of all the wonderful and innovating programs. It is a great opportunity to learn from other libraries, but also to meet and chat with peers who do what we do in other parts of the country,” says Mussman. “ALA seems to be shifting focus to innovation in design and programming, and we were thrilled to be a part of that shift. It was even more exciting when the room filled up to capacity. Hearing from the audience after the program validated what we already knew—that we are on the right track.”