An open book, a powerful connection and a comfortable space.
Everyone in Omaha has an exciting opportunity ahead of us. When we invest in our people, our places and our buildings, our entire community benefits.
We’ll continue to add to this page as we gather information and encounter more questions through our public engagement initiatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this project?
Omaha deserves a world-class central public library. People use libraries differently now than they did a generation ago. The digital information landscape has changed the physical design of libraries, and the needs of people who frequent them.
The idea is to create a beautifully and thoughtfully designed library in a centrally located place where all residents can have access to it.
Let’s imagine what a true centerpiece of knowledge in Omaha would be like. We could increase the use and circulation of Omaha's physical library collection, ensure everyone in Omaha has a library card, support student success by providing more robust resources for kids in collaboration with schools, introduce even more advanced technology to our community beyond what's now available at Do Space, and more.
Why do we need a new central public library?
The 2017 Omaha Public Library Facilities Master Plan explained the need for a new central public library between 72nd and 90th streets on Dodge.
The same master plan also called for a new central public library more centrally located in our city, one that is relevant for today and tomorrow. A brand new space can combine books with community and technology while setting a new standard for placemaking, sustainability and green spaces for all. If this project moves forward, this would likely be one of the most innovative libraries in the country. With the benefit of transformational philanthropic investment, Omaha could dream big — and make it a reality.
What do we want the new central library project to do for our communities?
We imagine a true centerpiece of civic life in Omaha — a place that is welcoming to all ages and communities, meeting modern needs for trusted information both in print and digital form, and a gathering space for the community.
What's happening downtown?
Why was the location chosen?
Beyond alignment with the 2017 Omaha Public Library Facilities Master Plan, the 72nd and Dodge area is being explored because of its central location and great potential to push forward a multi-modal vision for Omaha. This intersection has some of the best public transportation options in the city, with an ORBT bus arriving every 10-20 minutes. Modeling how this area could be more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and people with limited mobility would also be a key design goal for the project. Do Space has also provided a proof of concept for this intersection, having anchored the area here for six years, serving a broad and diverse audience of 86,000 members. Nearby developments, including apartments, retail and restaurants, will add additional interest and destinations to the growing neighborhood.
What would parking be like?
The new central public library would include parking spaces in an attached, multi-level parking garage on the southwest side of the new structure. Vehicles would be able to enter from the eastbound lanes of Dodge Street and access the upper level of the garage. There would also be an accessible drop-off point at the west entry of the building.
The westbound lanes of Dodge could enter at the 74th Street signal and then turn on Douglas Street to access the south side of the garage. From Douglas, there would also be access to a book drop-off and pick-up point on the west side of the building.
From 72nd Street northbound and southbound, vehicles could enter at the Farnam Street signal, then turn on 73rd to access the garage.
Where will the funding come from?
Omaha has an incredible history of philanthropic giving and most of the funding for a new central public library would come from philanthropic contributions. Additionally, the City has committed to budgeting funds for the ongoing operation of the entire Omaha Public Library system.
How will this benefit Omaha?
The idea for a new central public library is one that still elevates books, storytelling and community connection, while also promoting creativity, knowledge and technology. Given today’s information and employment landscape, Omahans need greater access to resources and training to confront some of our most pressing issues including inequity and information gaps. Enhancing, growing and providing services beyond the current capacity, keeping books at the heart of the system and increasing access to tech and human-centered services would provide a strong foundation for our community’s future. The new central public library would offer flexibility for all types of users, with a wide variety of public spaces.
Who is behind this project?
This potential project will be a partnership between Omaha Public Library, Omaha Public Library Foundation, City of Omaha, Heritage Omaha and Do Space. Local architects HDR and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture will be designing and developing the space. National library expert Margaret Sullivan Studio will be leading public engagement.
Omaha residents will have the opportunity for significant involvement. Your input is highly valued, and your voice will be important if this project moves forward. The Omaha community and Omaha Public Library will be at the heart of this project.
Who is Heritage Omaha and what role do they play in this project?
Founded in 1989, Heritage Omaha is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing impactful philanthropic projects in Omaha to enrich the lives of community members.
If Heritage Omaha is involved with developing a central library, Heritage will raise funds and facilitate the building project, then donate the building to the City of Omaha for Omaha Public Library (OPL) to operate. Heritage will not play a role in running the library and did not play a role in developing the original plan for a new central library on Dodge between 72nd and 90th Streets. Management and funding of the OPL system is the responsibility of OPL, the OPL Board, Omaha Public Library Foundation, and the City of Omaha.
To learn more about Heritage Omaha, visit their website.
How will this affect Omaha Public Library programs and services?
Much would not change: the people of Omaha would continue to own their public library. The library would continue to operate just as it does now, and library staff would continue to make decisions in service of the people of Omaha. Books and collections would continue to be available and accessible.
Changes could include new state-of-the-art technology and new gathering spaces to better serve Omahans today and tomorrow. Books will remain at the heart of the system, along with access to technology, training, employment assistance, digital services and much more. The potential central public library would also incorporate the highly impactful and nationally recognized Do Space technology programs with traditional library services.
Who would own the new library?
If a new central public library is built, it would be operated by Omaha Public Library. Like all of the library branches, the City of Omaha would own the new central public library.
Will this project involve Do Space?
Any future project at this location would incorporate the highly impactful and nationally recognized Do Space technology programs with traditional library services.
Do Space would continue to operate during the building project phase and is committed to continuing to provide access to technology and innovative programs. If the project moves forward, more information regarding an interim location will be announced later.
What is the proposed agreement between the City of Omaha and Community Information Trust?
Community Information Trust (CIT) is a 501 (c)(3) organization formed by Heritage Omaha, a 501(c)(3) organization, to oversee operations of the nation's first technology library: Do Space, which is located at 72nd and Dodge. Do Space provides free access to technology and innovative learning experiences to the Omaha community.
This proposed agreement between the City of Omaha and CIT calls for several items:
- The City of Omaha would agree to provide annual financial support to the Omaha Public Library system at the same level or greater as it is providing in the 2022 budget, and to contribute $20 million to provide support for the new central public library.
- CIT and Heritage Omaha would make a good faith effort to construct on behalf of the City of Omaha and the Omaha Public Library a new central public library building at 72nd and Dodge.
- Once the new main central public library is built, CIT would become part of the Omaha Public Library Foundation and transfer ownership of the library to the City of Omaha for Omaha Public Library to operate.
- CIT would also transfer control of and integrate its Do Space technology library into the Omaha Public Library system.
The agreement is intended to help ensure that a new central public library serves the needs of Omahans for generations to come, that it is well funded and it is modeled after the best practices of libraries from around the world. Thoughtful, thorough, future-oriented agreements will ensure responsible stewardship of our community's best attributes. With this strong collaboration, we can come together to create a truly transformational public library to Benefit Omaha.
Why would Community Information Trust become part of Omaha Public Library Foundation?
The proposed merger of Community Information Trust (CIT) into the Omaha Public Library Foundation (OPLF) is intended to help OPLF increase its capacity to raise significant capital from philanthropic gifts to support the Omaha Public Library (OPL) system. OPLF would still serve in all of its current functions — advocacy, fundraising for programs and special events — but would have an increased capacity to launch and develop capital campaigns and serve as an innovative programming partner to OPL. OPLF has been raising money for the library system for decades and this agreement ensures that more library advocates are at the table for ongoing fundraising. Both organizations are still in conversation about the details of what this merger could look like.
What is the status of the project?
The confirmed location for the potential central public library is 72nd and Dodge. Additional steps are in progress before a final decision on the future of the project is made.
The schematic design phase of the project is complete, informed by valuable input gathered during a community engagement phase. Read the full report outlining those community engagement findings here. To date, this project builds on previously gathered input, and stakeholders — including library staff, library users, and the general public — will all have multiple opportunities for ongoing involvement if the project moves forward.
How can people get involved?
Libraries are important civic spaces. They're about democratic access to information and community connection. The public’s engagement and feedback are key for developing a new central public library and master plan for the Omaha Public Library system. This includes those closest to the libraries, too: Omaha Public Library leadership, staff and librarians; Omaha Public Library Foundation; and the Omaha Public Library Board of Trustees will all play an integral role managing, creating and implementing plans for a new central public library and broader master planning and community engagement.
Omaha’s public libraries belong to the people of Omaha, so if the development of a new central public library moves forward, it will be an inclusive process so that all needs are taken into consideration. Read the community input we've gathered.
Let’s do this together.
Project partners are committed to laying the groundwork for a transparent and collaborative potential project. Right now, additional research and planning are needed before decisions can be made. Public and stakeholder input are essential to this project. To date, this project has been built on previously gathered input and the work of the 2017 Omaha Public Library Facilities Master Plan. Stakeholders — including library staff, library users, and the general public — will all have multiple opportunities for ongoing involvement.