MUSCATINE — At Columbus Junction Public Library, among the stacks of books, movies and CDs will be a full kitchen.
“These days in libraries, books are important but people are coming in also looking for experiences,” said Mandy Grimm of Columbus Junction Public Library.
The project was made possible through a $23,000 donation from the late Connie and Warren Lewis.
“They wanted to do something that was going to be permanent for the library and a great use, but still enhance the offerings that we can give to the community,” Grimm said.
“Warren was looking for a memorial that would be suitable for Connie,” said Stacy Lewis, Warren Lewis’ son. “They were talking about signage, but they quickly moved passed that. They wanted to do something that was more meaningful.”
According to Lewis, his father settled on getting the kitchen built for the library.
“Prior to him passing, he was all on board for doing this,” Grimm said. “The family continued that project to its completion in honor of both of them now.”
The build took over the employee break room, adding cabinet space, a full sink and movable island. And according to Grimm, it is expected to get some serious use this summer. Among them, New Choices, Inc. a organization that provides opportunities for people living with disabilities to learn new skills.
“They come to our library after school during the summer months and work with multiple individuals on developing different skills,” Grimm said. “One of the skills they work on a lot is cooking. Having a space for them to prepare snacks and work on using things like hot-mitts and how to pull something out of the oven.”
In addition, Grimm said that the kitchen fits neatly into the vision the library had for the services it would like to offer.
“We realized that there were a lot of different programs that we weren’t able to offer because we didn’t have the right tools, the right space,” Grimm said.
These ranged from a healthy living class offered by the Iowa State University extension office to a cookbook book club that allows people to sample recipes at the library from different books.
“We have had some people that wanted to learn how to make bread,” Grimm said. “There were some people that wanted to learn how to make pies. Now we've got a space where we would be able to do that.”
On top of that, during summer break, the library will have a lot of students coming in from the summer heat.
“It's summer break so we have kids here who are here from 10 to six in the evening,” Grimm said. She said she wanted to see the space begin a site for a summer food assistance program.
Through the Lewis family’s donation, Grimm said the library is able to offer more to their community.
“If it were something that we had to fit into our budget while trying to keep up with technology and trying to keep up with all of those different things, it might have taken us longer to get to this point,” Grimm said. “We would probably have to wait to debut some of these programs.”