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Ready for my armload of books

A flood destroyed her beloved town library. But now there's a plan to rebuild.

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Plans are under way for a new library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As yet, we have no idea where it will be or even when it will be, but our city's library board promises that a library is coming, and it will be even bigger and better and more beautiful than the library we lost in June.

I can hardly wait.

In June, Cedar Rapids, my hometown, suffered a devastating flood. Much of our downtown remains vacant, most of our city buildings and museums are empty shells, and many streets are still lined with condemned homes awaiting demolition. My condo home, high on a hill on the outskirts of town, escaped the raging water, but actually no one in Cedar Rapids escaped the flood. In myriad heartbreaking ways, all of us grieve for some missing part of our lives. For me, it's life without the library.

If you rarely use your library, you won't understand how I feel. You would probably tell me to buck up and concentrate on our many "people problems." But for me, it's not that easy. The library is a gentle haven, a quiet shelter from life's busyness. All my life, it has been where I go when I'm looking for inspiration and wisdom and energy and joy – and I always find what I need.

And all my life, I've taken the library for granted. It never occurred to me that there could be a time when there was no library. So in June, when the floodwaters subsided and 290,000 soggy books – plus CDs, DVDs, videotapes, and computers – were hauled to the dump, for the first time in my life, I couldn't go to the library.

When I was a little girl growing up in a Chicago suburb, the library was three blocks from our house, and those three blocks made up the most important path in my life. "I'm going to the library," I'd call to my mother, and off I'd run. I loved that solid, square Andrew Carnegie building – the quiet, the smell of the books, the librarian who supervised with a smile from her stool at the center desk.


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