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Libraries are transformational places of learning where people embrace new opportunities and ideas. We’ve been inspired by libraries from all over the world, including ones nearby, that have built expansive, inclusive spaces that honor books, showcase storytelling and serve people in their communities. These special places have reimagined the library experience from nearly every aspect, from building design to amenities offered to outdoor spaces and more.

Experiencing the best

While part of the planning process has been to research library trends and best practices, the core design team including representatives from Omaha Public Library (OPL), Do Space, Heritage Omaha, Margaret Sullivan Studio, Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture and HDR — also immersed itself in a few of the world’s best libraries through learning journeys. The design team got access to behind-the-scenes areas, to the staff and leaders of the teams who work at the libraries, and to their peers who created these magnificent buildings.

Images of the ASRS machine at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library.

Hunt Library

Tour of Hunt Library – Raleigh, N.C.

The James B. Hunt Jr. Library is the second main library of North Carolina State University (NCSU) and is located on the University’s Centennial Campus. The $115 million facility opened in January 2013 and is best known for its architecture and technological integration, including a large robotic automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) that houses most of the university’s engineering, textiles and hard sciences collections.

The design team, along with Do Space and OPL staff, observed how the ASRS works and gleaned important practical knowledge for the future central public library, and how it could positively impact the wider Omaha Public Library system by increasing storage and access.

Calgary Central Library

Tour of Calgary Central Library – Calgary, Alberta

The Calgary Central Library, also known as the Calgary New Central Library (NCL), is a public library in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and the flagship branch of the Calgary Public Library system. The building is located in the Downtown East Village neighborhood and opened in November 2018, replacing an earlier central branch built in the 1960s in Downtown Calgary.

The NCL is considered to be one of North America’s best modern libraries. The trip allowed the group to see how the library operates as a central library and how it interacts with neighborhood branches. It provided lessons on an active first floor and demonstrated decreases in sound and activity as patrons ascended to the upper floors of the library. In its first seven months, more than 1 million people visited the library.

Deichman Bjørvika

Tour of Deichman Library – Oslo, Norway

In 2021, 32 libraries competed for the world’s best public library award Deichman Bjørvika was the winner. The library is located in Bjørvika near the city’s iconic Opera House. It is a modern and dynamic library that contains not only Deichman’s extensive book collections, but also a movie theater, media workshops, gaming zones, lounges and a restaurant. Many consider Northern European libraries to be the best in the world, and the Deichman the best of the best. The team wanted to be able to benchmark and experience this environment as a measuring stick for a new world class library for our Omaha community.

More inspiration

Norfolk Public Library

Significant community input informed this renovation and addition, which resulted in nearly double the collection capacity and reimagined spaces for people of all ages and interests.

Photo: APMA and Corey Gaffer

Des Moines Public Library

This public library is the centerpiece of an urban renewal project, and contains flexible activity space, educational facilities, children’s play areas, a conference wing and a cafeteria.

Photo: David Chipperfield Architects and Christian Richters

Brooklyn Public Library

The new state-of-the-art spaces at this 125-year-old library, including a public meeting room, computer lab and passport office, will “help Brooklynites be active members of their communities.”

Photo: Toshiko Mori Architect and Michael Moran

LocHal Library

This repurposed train station in Tilburg, Netherlands, takes advantage of the soaring ceilings to inspire readers, people who co-work at the space, patrons of the arts and coffee drinkers alike.

Photo: Civic Public Architecture and Stijn Bollaert

Seattle Public Library

Architects rethought common library spaces and gave the environment a colorful, open feel. The imaginative building’s opening in 2004 has been credited as a turning point for Seattle.

Let’s build a library for today and tomorrow.

Modern library design has the potential to elevate our community in brand new ways. Imagine flexible space for students and job seekers, technology resources that can help create a digitally equitable city, research space, creative space and areas to think, connect and learn. Building upon the success of Do Space, incorporating technology solutions into the entire building can also be a hallmark of the new central public library.

Mind-growing technology for all.

Omaha Public Library is about storytelling in all its vibrant forms, and this can include a greater emphasis on technology. Increasing access to technology is essential for improving digital equity – a catalyst for resources, training, jobs and ultimately, Omaha’s vibrancy. A new central public library with modern technology can make books from the entire Omaha Public Library system more accessible to all, serving branches across the city.

“As evidenced by the work of library colleagues across the globe, the 21st Century library aspires to be a place designed around unique learning journeys, built around experiences, activities and accomplishments of customers, not around linear feet of shelving.”

Melanie Huggins, President of the Board of Directors for the Public Library Association and Richland Public Library Executive Director

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 Plan. Stakeholders — including library staff, library users, and the general public — will all have multiple opportunities for ongoing involvement.

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