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New Drake Library celebrated

By J.O. PARKER

library

What began as an idea 10 years ago came to fruition Saturday, Dec. 5 as more than 150 people gathered to celebrate the official dedication and grand opening of Grinnell's new Drake Community Library.

"I'm so excited," said Sue Drake as she and her husband, George, cut the red ribbon stretched across the lobby. "This is for the whole community."

The new 24,000-square-feet prairie-style library is named in honor of the Drakes, who have given their time and money to the library and Grinnell community in many ways.

Sue is a former library board member, children's department staff and current volunteer. George, a professor emeritus of history at Grinnell College and author, was instrumental with fundraising for the new $9.6 million facility.

"They both have been very active members of the community in many ways," said Lorna Caulkins, the long-time director of the Drake Community Library.

"We are pleased and very honored," noted Sue Drake of the library being named in her and George's honor.

"It is a privilege to have it named after us," added George Drake.

Sense of community

A sense of community rang throughout the corridors and aisles of the library on Saturday as various community and state leaders, library officials and others spoke, some shedding tears as they talked of the long journey it took to turn a dream into a reality.

"It is truly the citizens of Grinnell library, and I am sure you are as proud as I am of this wonderful facility," said Paul Pohlson, chair of the library board of directors and co-chairperson of the fundraising committee along with Julie Gosselink.

"I am so proud and I know you must be as well," continued Pohlson to those present at the grand opening. "I am so pleased to tell you that more than 900 people, businesses and friends of Grinnell contributed their hard earned money, and even though we are still around $300,000 to $400,000 short of our goal; you, the citizens of Grinnell have contributed more than $5 million towards this wonderful project."

Some of the contributions, Pohlson said, came from people with Grinnell ties that no longer live in the area.

"Some of those donations were $5," said Pohlson. "That's what it takes to make it work and what makes it a community library."

"The community has worked hard in many ways to complete this building that it needs and deserves," added Caulkins.

The Grinnell-based Turlach Ur Pipe Band performed two numbers following the ribbon cutting ceremony.

From idea to reality

The idea for a new library was born a decade ago. The initial design plans were scraped in favor of a prairie-style facility that is laced throughout with green features.

"All the (building) materials are from recycled products or are recyclable," said Jeffery A. Scherer, FAIA (Fellow, American Institute of Architects), head library architect with Meyer Scherer and Rockcastle in Minneapolis, Minn.

The library has been certified a near platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building. Platinum is the highest level a building can obtain, and is the rating system of the US Green Building Council.

LEED features include colorful recycled carpet in the children's area that is designed to look like plowed Iowa farm fields from the air. The outdoor entrance mats and flooring in the lobby area are made from recycled tires, and a bulletin board in the children's area is made from recycled cassette tapes. The building is designed in such a way to allow as much outside light in as possible.

Scherer, who has been with the project since it's beginning 10 years ago, said the idea of a prairie-style design was presented to the public about four years ago. The final design style, scale, location and features are the result of more than two years worth of meetings and presentations with the public.

Scherer, who's firm has designed 125 libraries totaling seven-million-square-feet, said the public looked at a number of library designs before voting in favor of the prairie-style facility.

"That gave us some clues to the type of building the public would like," said Scherer. "That is when we turned it from an idea to a reality."

To help with the fundraising portion, the library board called on Larry Dittman, a fundraising consultant from Onalaska, Wis., to guide them through the process. His contribution to the overall success of the library project was noted.

As Pohlson aluded to earlier, it was the people of Grinnell who turned made the library possible.

"It was the community that supported the bond issue that passed so we could get the money for the library," said Sue Drake of the bond that passed on the third try. "Their support is what got the ball rolling."

Ground was broken for the new facility in June 2008. Garling Construction of Belle Plaine was the general contractor on the project.

Stewart Library closed its doors Oct. 3, and for the next month books and other library equipment were moved into the new building as workers wrapped up last minute construction duties. The new library has three times the space of Stewart Library. It opened to the public on Monday, Nov. 2.

"It's so wonderfully lit," said Judy Hunter of Grinnell. "I like all the windows and all the ways to let outside light come in."

"It's just an inspiring space," said Simone Sidwell, youth service librarian.

"It's just a fun place to be," added Pat Larson, a library volunteer. "My grandkids love it. It's friendly and open. Everybody loves it."

Lilly Moffett, 7, of Marion who was visiting her grandparents, Sandy and Betty Moffett, said her favorite part of the new library is the birds (children's area) and the computers.

"I like the hand dryer (in the rest room)," she said. "It blows hard."

"We are very happy with the facility and hope people come and enjoy it," added Caulkins.

UPDATED December 10, 2009 6:19 PM

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