The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa suffered from a devastating flood in mid-June, 2008, which covered ten square miles of downtown with water. The city is still struggling to recover. Much of downtown Cedar Rapids is still struggling to recover. Virtually every public building flooded and areas of Cedar Rapids considered safe from floods were affected. Many people believe that the amount of disaster relief money, including FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) and state sources that was provided to the city is drastically insufficient and is delaying recovery efforts.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library was located across the street from the Cedar River, which rose to a level of over 31 feet: eleven feet higher than the previous record!
Prior to the flood, the library was in the process of building, modernizing, and identifying new building needs.
Given its location across from the river, the CRPL was devastated by the flood, which brought seven feet of polluted water, some containing raw sewage, into the first floor, destroying the entire adult collection, the entire young adult collection, reference materials, CDs, DVDs, magazines, journals, and more. In addition to these shelved items that were destroyed, the library lost a great many durable goods, from chairs to copy machines, from display racks to the security system. In all, the loss measures at about 160,000 individual items in a building that occupied an entire city block.
The flood disaster, of course, encompasses far more than one public library, and yet libraries are an important asset to any community. Yet the widespread nature of the damage has left funds for books in short supply when people were rendered homeless and basic services necessary to the day-to-day operations of city government were impaired.
The CRPL, operating temporarily out of its West Branch and Westdale Mall branch, is enthusiastically planning and fundraising for its “Library 3.0″ project.