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?
The idea is to create a beautifully and thoughtfully designed library in a centrally located place that is accessible to everyone in our community.
We imagine a true centerpiece of civic life in Omaha — a gathering place that is welcoming to all ages and communities, meeting modern needs for trusted information both in print and digital form.
Why do we need a new central public library?
The idea for a new central public library is one that 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.
The 2017 Omaha Public Library (OPL) Facilities Master Plan Update outlined why our city needs a world-class central library: Omaha’s geographical expansion and population growth; the need for more robust programming spaces and new technologies; and a location reachable within a reasonable drive time for most Omahans. This new location will strengthen OPL’s system of branches by centralizing distribution, thus providing more equitable and timely access to library collections.
The same master plan also called for a central public library that is relevant for today and tomorrow — a reimagined space that can combine books with community and technology while setting a new standard for placemaking, sustainability and green spaces for all.
This project would likely be one of the most innovative libraries in the country, and with the benefit of transformational philanthropic investment, Omaha could dream big — and make it a reality. We could increase the use and circulation of Omaha's physical library collection, support student success by providing more robust resources for kids in collaboration with schools, introduce advanced technology to our community and more.
How will this affect Omaha Public Library programs and services?
Much would not change: Omaha Public Library (OPL) 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. The people of Omaha would continue to own their public library.
Changes could include state-of-the-art technology and new gathering spaces to better serve Omahans. 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 is behind this project?
This project is a partnership between Omaha Public Library, Omaha Public Library Foundation, the City of Omaha, Heritage Omaha and Do Space. Local architects HDR and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture are designing and developing the space. National library expert Margaret Sullivan Studio is leading public engagement.
Omaha residents will have the opportunity for significant involvement. Your input is highly valued, and your voice will be important as this project advances. The Omaha community and Omaha Public Library will be at the heart of this project.
What is the status of the project?
The confirmed location for the potential central public library is 72nd and Dodge Streets.
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 as the project progresses.
The aspirational 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.
In September 2022, the project entered the design development phase. Project partners and the design team are reviewing, revising and expanding schematic plans to incorporate all the details and specifications required for construction.
Meanwhile, Heritage Omaha has committed to raising the necessary funds and facilitating the construction project through building completion.
Why was the location chosen?
Beyond alignment with the 2017 Omaha Public Library (OPL) Facilities Master Plan Update, the area near 72nd and Dodge Streets was selected as the future library site is being explored because of its central location and great potential to advance a multimodal 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 and plans to expand access along 72nd Street through MetroNEXT. Making this area 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 that this area can successfully serve library patrons, having anchored the area for seven years while attracting and serving a broad and diverse audience of over 90,000 members with free technology programs and services. While OPL’s 2017 master plan update was not a technology assessment, it identified inadequate bandwidth as a limiting factor in maximizing the use of OPL facilities. Significant Do Space investments made in fiber at the future site would provide central library visitors with reliable and scalable Gigabit internet access.
Nearby developments, including apartments, retail, restaurants and arts organizations, will heighten interest in this growing, vibrant neighborhood.
How will Do Space be involved?
Do Space would continue to operate during the construction phase and is committed to providing ongoing access to technology and innovative programs. If the project moves forward, Do Space’s programs and technologies are expected to be available to the public at an existing Omaha Public Library (OPL) branch and at community pop-up events around the city during the construction of the central library.
Through the transition, OPL and Do Space will strengthen their partnership and identify opportunities for future collaboration to reach under-connected Omaha community members and expand citywide technological and educational offerings. Upon building completion, OPL and Do Space staff will relocate to the world-class central public library.
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 on-grade upper level of the garage. There would also be an accessible collections drop-off and pick-up point at the west entry of the building.
Westbound lanes of Dodge Street could enter at the 74th Street signal and then turn on Douglas Street to access the lower-level south side of the garage. From Douglas Street, there would also be access to the collections 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 and then turn onto 73rd Street to access the garage.
Who would own the new library?
A new central public library would be operated by Omaha Public Library. Like all of Omaha’s library branches, the City of Omaha would own the new central public library.
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 of Omaha has pledged $20 million in redevelopment bonds to the central library project and remains committed to the ongoing operation and maintenance of the entire Omaha Public Library system.
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. Past projects supported by Heritage include the Siena Francis House’s Baright Shelter, the VA Ambulatory Care Center and the Do Space community technology library, among others.
While Heritage Omaha did not play a role in developing the original plan for a new central library on Dodge between 72nd and 90th Streets, it has committed to raising funds and facilitating construction of the library. The project aligns with Heritage's mission to enrich the lives of Omaha community members.
Once completed, the building will be donated to the City of Omaha for Omaha Public Library (OPL) to operate; Heritage Omaha will have no involvement after that point. 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 its website.
What are some of the amenities being considered?
The project team is working on some innovative ideas for the project, including a planned garden, landscaping for increased privacy and sound absorption, a play space, a patio with café seating and a lawn that could be a place for interesting library and community programming opportunities. The garden could be a future catalyst for further neighborhood development and greenery.
The new central public library will be filled with dynamic, user-friendly spaces for studying, working and playing with retail-style book and material displays to encourage browsing interspersed with cozy reading nooks and technology workstations for all ages. Plans also include a vibrant cafe, a fireplace for quiet reading, maker spaces and meeting rooms of various sizes.
What is the agreement between the City of Omaha and Community Information Trust?
Community Information Trust (CIT) is a nonprofit organization formed by Heritage Omaha, also a nonprofit organization, to oversee operations of Do Space, the nation's first technology library located at 72nd and Dodge Streets. Do Space provides free access to technology and innovative learning experiences to the Omaha community.
Passed with unanimous City Council approval in July 2022, the agreement between the City of Omaha and CIT outlines several items:
- The City of Omaha agrees to provide annual financial support to the Omaha Public Library (OPL) system at the same level or greater as it is providing in the 2022 budget and contribute $20 million to provide support for the new central public library.
- CIT and Heritage Omaha will make a good-faith effort to construct on behalf of the City of Omaha and OPL a new central public library building at 72nd and Dodge Streets.
- Once the new central public library is built, CIT will transfer ownership of the library to the City of Omaha for OPL to operate and fold into the nonprofit Omaha Public Library Foundation.
- CIT will also transfer control of and integrate its Do Space technology library into the OPL system.
- The agreement is intended to ensure that a new central public library serves the needs of Omahans for generations to come, that it is well funded and that it is modeled after best practices of libraries from around the world. Thoughtful, thorough, future-oriented agreements like this one 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 committed 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 management of 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.
How can people get involved?
Public engagement and feedback by the Omaha community will continue to be prioritized as development continues on the new central public library and facilities 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 in managing, creating and implementing plans for a new central public library and broader master planning and community engagement.
The aspirational schematic design phase of the project is complete, informed by valuable input gathered during a community engagement phase. Three key themes emerged representing the Omaha community’s desires for a central public library:
- A place to build community – free and flexible community meeting spaces; increased collaborations through co-location opportunities; and a one-stop shop for community services.
- A place to welcome everyone – equitable, inclusive spaces suited to a variety of activities; “centering” of the community around our most vulnerable populations; and multi-modal transportation access, particularly to and from North and South Omaha.
- A place to showcase Omaha’s strengths – enriching, family-centric experiences; a celebration of Omaha’s industrious and innovative spirit; and elevation of Omaha’s commitment to design excellence as a vehicle for community economic development.
Read the full report outlining those community engagement findings here.
Soon, community members will have opportunities to share their vision for how Omaha’s branch libraries can best serve the neighborhoods in which they reside. This page will continue to be updated as opportunities for public engagement are scheduled.
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.