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North Liberty Community Library unveils lactation room

A womb of their own
Iowa City artist Beppie Weiss created the vibrant mural that decorates the outside of the lactation room. A vinyl wrap depicting five of seven panels from the original 28-by-7-foot mural that hangs in Mercy Hospital of Iowa City were reproduced by Nesper Sign Advertising. (photos by Janet Nolte)

By Janet Nolte
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– “You guys are burning up the mommy wire.”
Such feedback from patrons of the North Liberty Community Library is exactly what Director Jennie Garner and her staff like to hear in response to the innovative programming and resources they have been developing for young families and children.
“That’s exciting to us because it means word is getting out on what we’re doing here,” said Garner.
On Tuesday, Feb. 14, a special valentine of sorts was delivered to young families when the library unveiled its new lactation room. The project was sponsored by Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, who enlisted the help of partners Rohrbach Associates, McComas-Lacina and Merit Electric.
“Part of Mercy’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of the community. This is a perfect example of just that, giving back to the community of North Liberty,” said Casey Greene, vice-president of support services at Mercy Iowa City.
“I’m extremely excited with how it turned out, excited to be involved with Mercy and able to give back to the library here an asset that is community-building to use for years to come,” he added.
From concept to actualization, the construction of the lactation room happened quickly, thanks to Mercy, whose mission of excellent birth and maternity care dovetails with key programming initiatives of the library.
“They have been incredible partners. It was a real whirlwind,” said Garner.

Meeting a need
“We had all these babies coming into the library with their moms and dads, and we had people asking us if we had a space for them to nurse or to use a breast pump.”
The frequency of that request– multiple times a week, sometimes daily– prompted Jennifer Jordebrek, assistant director and leader of the library’s Womb Literacy project, to investigate the options to fulfill the need for a lactation space in the library. Jordebrek’s online research turned up a portable, pod-type room often used in stadiums and airports.
“We went to Mercy last fall and asked if they’d be willing to work with us as a sponsor for a lactation room,” Garner recalls. “They called us back and did us one way better.”
“We really like the idea of this project, but we’re not real excited about the product,” a Mercy representative told Garner. “We want to know if you’d be willing to let us bring out an architect to look at the library to see if there’s something we could do more permanently in this space.”
“So it went from thinking about having a curtain drawn that people could nurse behind, to having a pod, to what you see today,” said Garner.
The new lactation room is part of the library’s strategic plan that seeks to serve the needs of families and the youngest members of the community, a demographic that continues to grow.
“We have lots of new families in town. I kind of joke around that half of our population is under the age of 10 and the other half is pregnant,” said Garner.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 421 babies were born in North Liberty in 2015, which recorded a population of 15,931 for the same year. Increasingly, that demographic has been finding its way to the library to participate in a variety of programs, including five story time sessions per week and many other family friendly activities for moms, dads and tots.
As part of its Womb Literacy initiative, the library offers a range of fun and useful programs geared toward expecting moms and dads as well, including a Stork Story Time podcast and the annual Baby Fair. The 2K Waddle Walk for pregnant women, a Read to the Bump fundraiser, will take place Sunday, April 23. Check out the library’s web page for details.