Jeff Krohn

Jeff Krohn

Building & Facilities Manager, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Coping in the Aftermath of Nature’s Wrath

BOC graduate Jeff Krohn, building & facilities manager of the Cedar Rapids Public Library (CRPL) system in Iowa, had a great project to detail for his BOC certification renewal. The downtown library branch, a 24 year-old, two-story structure, had its original heating system, which was dated and very unreliable. When the system was replaced, the number of heat pumps was not only reduced from 71 to 68, but the energy efficiency ratio (EER) improved from an overall performance of 6.0 to an EER of 16.0 to 18.0, depending on the model used. The usage schedule was also tightened to reflect occupancy. The project resulted in decreased run times, better air flow, lower noise levels and a more comfortable environment for occupants, with more consistent control over humidity and temperature in the various zones of the building. Project work ran from December of 2007 until June of 2008.

But the success of the project was short-lived. On the 13th of that June, the Cedar River, estimated to crest at 24 feet, finally crested at over 30 feet above flood-stage. Over 25,000 people were evacuated as the city saw its homes, businesses and other buildings engulfed in the river’s overflowing waters. The downtown branch was located just one block away from the river in an area where an estimated 1,300 blocks were underwater. Much of the collection was destroyed – books, magazines, the public access computers. The damage was so extensive that the 85,000 square-foot space was deemed contaminated.

But the library management team, librarians, aides, administration, facilities personnel and volunteers all came together immediately. After participating in the post-flood emergency activities, a satellite branch at the Westdale Mall with about 2,900 square-feet of space served in the traditional capacity of a lending library and a community resource, such as providing free internet access. Soon, three other small store fronts within the mall were attached to the library and in November of 2008, the library leased a 15,000 square foot area in the same mall, formerly occupied by an Osco branch.

“As soon as the ink was dry on the lease, we immediately began the formidable task of revising the store to fit the needs of the library,” says Krohn. About two-thirds of the space had no insulation, but only bare metal stud walls. He goes on to detail the work done:

“We sealed, insulated, and installed vapor barrier on all of the outside walls. We installed several hundred sheets of drywall for various offices, work rooms and meeting rooms within the new facility. We cut openings and installed 3” by 6” steel headers to join adjacent rooms to the library. All of the primers, finish coats, and wood finished used were latex products, avoiding oil-based finishes entirely. We also replaced any damaged ceiling tiles with insulated tiles, and cleaned and disinfected the HVAC units and all ducts to improve air quality and air flow. Lighting was a major concern in utilizing this area as a library. We converted all of the T-12 multi-lamp ceiling fixtures in the facility to brighter, longer-lasting and more efficient T-8 lamps. We were also able to recycle hundreds of pounds of construction materials rather than sending it to landfill.”

Krohn took the BOC program in 2007, in one of the first classes to be held in the Midwest, and many of the principles he learned in the training are reflected in the choices made for the temporary library site – use of low VOC paints, checking for utility rebates, re-use of material. Recently, FEMA decided that the old downtown building was far too damaged to be renovated and will have to be razed. A new location will be chosen and the target for completion is in three years time. The library team is not yet sure where the new location will be but they are already planning that they will aim for LEED certification. Krohn will be heavily involved with overseeing the building of the new facility. He also believes that the BOC training will be a help for a number of reasons. “I’ve been in the business for over thirty years but when you’re with people that are in different situations, it sometimes gives you an idea for your own facility. Not only is the training useful, but connections made end up being great resources, which is so useful when you’re looking at something new or are suddenly put into an unfamiliar situation.”

After about three and a half months, the initial library project at the mall was completed well under budget, at about $100,000 versus the $300,000 originally allotted. Krohn observes, “While the two other maintenance staff and I did a lot of the work, what amazed me was the level of participation from the library staff and volunteers.”

Team Cedar Rapids was ultimately recognized with the Librarian of the Year award by Library Journal in 2009. It was the first time the award had been given to a group rather than an individual. The Library Journal quoted Cedar Rapids city councilor Monica Vernon as saying, “The library is a beacon of hope.” The journal bestowed the honor with the citation, “For that hope, that determination to recover and serve the people of Cedar Rapids, that courageous and effective effort to overcome disaster, the CRPL team wins a collective 2009 Librarian of the Year Award.”

it takes more than books to make a library.