Community opinions sought in design of new central Omaha library

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – A public forum was held at the AV Sorensen Library Thursday night, giving community members the chance to provide opinions and ask questions about the new proposed central Omaha library.

The idea of ​​creating a more central location has been discussed for years and was part of the Omaha Public Library Facilities Master Plan in 2017.

Now, the design team hired to create the new space is seeking opinions from the community.

“It’s really cool that we can put our input into it and make it for the community,” says 13-year-old Nora Wessell who visits the library weekly.

The proposal would place the new library at 72nd and Dodge, a highly accessible location in terms of public transit, and arguably the busiest intersections in the city.

Anna Wastell, who frequents the Benson Library Branch, understands that it’s accessible to many, but wonders if it’s the best spot.

“I would like to see maybe more studies of maybe where library users live and to see if that location makes sense, it works for my family but we’re not the only people that would be using it,” she says.

Anna also tells 6 News she believes safety factors in the busy intersection would need to be improved, and a few more bus routes would need to be added.

The library would also be combined with Do Space, and the technology and resources it offers would be offered for library goers, too.

“The way that people read is changing, and the way that people absorb information is changing and combining a library with Do Space, I think makes a lot of sense from a media and technology aspect,” Anna says.

Designers say they’re planning spaces based on the expansive library programs of today and the future, and based on the community’s evolving wants and needs.

“I really want to see a lot of books of course, cause that’s what a library is,” Nora says. “But I also want to see more stuff that can help out communities and families like classes, homework help, things that are designed specifically for teens, too.”

“I would also love to see a space that works well for the community, whether that’s gardening, cooking classes, whether that’s some outdoor space maybe we could bring into play,” Anna says.

The partnership for the new library includes the Omaha Public Library, the OPL Foundation, the City of Omaha, Heritage Omaha, and Do Space. The architects and designers behind the space are Omaha-based firms HDR and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture. Also involved is the Margaret Sullivan Studio, who helps curate public libraries across the country.

The plans are in the very early stages, designers say.

But Omaha library frequent flyers are excited to be part of the process.

“It was really cool to see the results of the survey,” Nora says. “It was great to work and talk with other people and hear what their ideas were too.”

“I’m really glad that forums like this are happening, I hope that more happen,” Anna says. “I think people in general felt really left out of the process with the downtown library.”

Anna adds that she hopes the resources and energy that are being put into the new library project will not take energy and resources away from the neighborhood library branches.

To share your thoughts on what should be included in the new library, you can take the online survey here.

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