Renovated Cape Girardeau library dedicated in ceremony

Sunday, May 17, 2009
People explore the new Cape Girardeau Public Library after Saturday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Elizabeth Dodd)

After seven years of planning, 18 months of construction and $9 million of public and private funding, the Cape Girardeau Public Library on Clark Avenue is bigger and better than ever. On Saturday afternoon, the 39,000-square-foot "destination library" was opened to the public.

"What a great day for Cape Girardeau," library director Betty Martin told the 200-plus people who gathered in the Hirsch Community Room for Saturday's dedication ceremony. "Fifteen years ago, when I first filled out my application to work at the library, I never thought I'd one day be the director standing here helping to dedicate such a facility," she said.

The new library has two community rooms that, when they are not partitioned, can seat up to 200 people and are suitable for hosting an assortment of presentations. There is a conference room, a genealogy room, a cafe, a computer lab, two study rooms, an area for teens to read and play video games, and an area for smaller children complete with a puppet theater. Patrons can return material through an indoor slot that sorts it out on the other side; those in a rush can use a drive-through window.

"When we say 'destination library,' we're talking about a place where you do so much more than just check out books," said Sarah Nussbaum, president of the Cape Girardeau Public Library Board. "We want people to hang out for a while and explore, use what we have."

"Libraries have changed quite a bit," Martin said. "Now they are community centers with specialized areas and something for everyone."

Architect Lowell Berg told those at the ceremony that the Mississippi River "was essential in our design." The library's wall and floor designs are meant to evoke the spirit of moving water.

"Even the carpet has movement as it resembles the sun's reflection off the Mississippi," he said.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Jerry Ford Combo performed and members of the Friends of the Cape Girardeau Public Library Foundation guided patrons on informal tours while children got acquainted with Mark Twain, portrayed by Lester Goodin.

The new library was funded by a tax increase approved by voters in 2007 along with donations from the Hirsch Foundation, the Kirby Trust, Praxair Foundation, Union Pacific and numerous other groups.

"In times of gloom and doom, this is good news," Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said. "Dedicating this wonderful library is the type of thing that defines Cape Girardeau and separates us from other communities. There was no money in the city budget for this or parks projects. These exist because of resident support, and the citizens will reap the rewards."

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