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Omaha proposing central public library at 72nd & Dodge

The project would incorporate the Do Space
WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 12:14 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A second library move is in the works: The latest chapter in the city’s library plans calls for a central public library at 72nd and Dodge streets on the property currently home to the Do Space.

The Omaha Public Library Foundation and other partners are teaming up with Do Space to make it happen. Friday’s announcement comes from the City of Omaha; the Omaha Public Library and its foundation; Do Space and its operator, the Community Information Trust; and Heritage Omaha.

“The exploration of a new central public library is separate from the City’s and OPL’s work to transition the W. Dale Clark Library downtown library to 14th and Jones,” according to a release from the city, posted on a new website for Omaha’s Central Public Library Project.

If approved, the plans call for the Do Space to be integrated into the central library and continue to operate amid construction at the location, across the street from the redevelopment project underway at the former Crossroads Mall.

OPL Executive Director Laura Marlane said the project stems from the city library’s 2017 facilities master plan, the result of efforts that got underway in 2010 and are part of larger plans for the city’s 11 libraries.

“There have been a lot of conversations about what could happen,” she said. “This is the first time we’re really seeing some momentum, and it’s really exciting.”

But the Do Space location — with easy access, right on main bus lines, and with a large parking area — is ideal and the technological center is a natural fit for a central library location, Marlane said.

“Our broadband speeds have gotten better,” she said. “They’re still not yet where they need to be. And infrastructure-wise, that’s still something that we’re struggling with, so a merger like this — an opportunity like this — would be really amazing for OPL.”

The Do Space plan has no mention of the W. Clark Swanson library branch, located blocks away, near 90th and Dodge streets, but that property is mentioned in the master plan as a priority recommendation, suggesting it function as “a replacement for the Swanson Library that would serve as a new ‘Central Library.’”

Marlane said it’s too early to say what will actually happen with the Swanson library.

Heritage Omaha has been tasked with fundraising for the central public library project as well as managing the design and construction of the central library, the release states, noting that seed funding has already been secured to “engage three partners.” From the website:

  • HDR is an Omaha-based architecture and engineering practice serving as lead designer on the project. Tom Trenolone, the firm’s vice president and design director, notes in the release that “the project has the potential to transform the corner of 72nd and Dodge.”
  • Margaret Sullivan Studio (MSS), is a nationally recognized library expert and full-service design firm that specializes in civic projects. MSS will run community engagement as part of the exploration phase. “Margaret Sullivan Studio has worked with more than 40 public library systems to define what 21st-century libraries should and can look like,” the release states.
  • Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture (APMA) is an Omaha-based architectural firm that specializes in library design and will focus on library programming and interior space design.

“Together, HDR, APMA, and MSS began working earlier this month with library staff and community partners to gather input and begin the schematic design process,” the release states.

Plans call for engaging library staff and the community “to help develop a central library that integrates books, community spaces, technology, and programming, among other ideas,” according to Rachel Jacobson, president of Heritage Omaha. The project website is also soliciting public input on the proposal.

The announcement comes on the heels of a big unveil from the mayor’s office that would move the Mutual of Omaha to the space currently occupied by the W. Dale Clark Library, contingent on that library moving into a “temporary” space at 14th and Dodge. The City Council heard public comment on the plans at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, and is scheduled to vote on that lease, and the lease proposed for a library facility at 84th and Frederick streets, at its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Read the 2017 Omaha Public Library master plan

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