Omaha’s library shifts continue to evolve, and City Council to vote Tuesday on multiple items

Among latest twists: Temporary downtown library site is to open to fill a gap until 14th and Jones space done

By: - July 25, 2022 4:10 am
14Jones library

Currently under renovation, this future downtown library branch at 14th and Jones Streets is to open in March, with public services now offered at soon-to-be-demolished W. Dale Clark Library. A temporary library site at 1410 Howard St. is to open during months between when the main library closes and when the Jones Street site is ready. (Courtesy of White Lotus Group)

OMAHA — The City of Omaha is preparing to pay $37,000 to open a temporary downtown library site because a replacement for the soon-to-be-demolished W. Dale Clark Library won’t be ready until March.

That interim library is to open in September at 1410 Howard St., costing $4,500 a month to rent. 

The City Council on Tuesday is to consider the associated six-month lease for $27,000, along with a related $10,000 proposal, also recommended by Mayor Jean Stothert, that calls for Omaha-based HDR to design the temporary library space. 

The extra cost and interim library would allow Nebraska’s largest city to avoid a gap in downtown library service and presence. It also lets the city stay on track with the tear-down of the W. Dale Clark Library to make way for the Mutual of Omaha office skyscraper announced by the mayor and Mutual CEO James Blackledge in January. Mutual’s office project price tag is now estimated at $600 million.

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The building at 14th and Jones Streets is now expected to open in March, offering  downtowners public library services. (Courtesy of White Lotus Group)

Stothert said in a statement that the newly revealed cost to rent the roughly 2,500-square-foot interim library site would be paid through the city’s general fund.

“The Howard Street location is convenient and accessible and allows us to continue service throughout this transition,” she said.

The temporary library is just one part of the ongoing shuffle and repositioning of key public library facilities serving Omahans.  The shifts have not come without controversy, including the city’s route that led to the future demise of the main library structure that opened in 1977, in the core of downtown’s business district.

Tuesday’s City Council agenda contains a series of other library-related items up for a vote, including a proposed agreement with the nonprofit Community Information Trust, an arm of Heritage Omaha, which plans to raise the bulk of funds for construction of a new main library southwest of 72nd and Dodge Streets.

72Dodge library rendering exterior
A proposed central library southwest of 72nd and Dodge Streets is to incorporate services of the existing Do Space technology library. (Courtesy of HDR/APMA)

The city is to contribute $20 million toward that project, led by philanthropic interests. It is expected to cost as much as $150 million and incorporate services of the existing “Do Space” technology library now operating at that corner.

City documents say that the new facility would become part of Omaha’s public library system and that the city’s financial contribution would be funded through redevelopment bonds.

Meanwhile, renovations continue at 1401 Jones St. — the building the city will lease as the more permanent public-facing downtown library branch.

(The administrative and distribution components of W. Dale Clark Library are to relocate to a former Shopko the city is to lease in the Frederick Square shopping center, south of 84th Street and West Center Road.)

City administrators had expected the Jones Street structure to be finished earlier but said additional time is required to complete structural improvements to support the library materials and display features.

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A trendy spot in the future downtown library at 14th and Jones Streets, which is to open in March. (Courtesy of White Lotus Group)

The cost of the improvements is to be covered by building owner White Lotus Group, according to the statement from the Mayor’s Office. It also said the opening date for 1401 Jones now is scheduled for March.

Laura Marlane, executive director of the Omaha Public Library system, said the city and library trustees anticipated that construction on 14th and Jones might not be complete by the time the main library was set to close to the public at the end of August.

14Jones Library
The future downtown library at 14th and Jones Streets is under renovation and expected to open in March. (Courtesy of White Lotus Group)

“They planned for the interim space to ensure library service to downtown residents and patrons would not be interrupted,” she said. W. Dale Clark is to close its doors to the public at the end of August to begin the move of library materials and equipment.

Demolition is to begin at the beginning of October. Cox Contracting won the demolition contract. 

The Howard Street temporary library and computer lab are to be open during the same hours as W. Dale Clark, providing services including materials to check out, computer access, scanning, copying, printing and fax machines.

Meeting rooms and programs, such as children’s reading programs, will not be available during the interim six months, the city’s statement said.

Among other library-related matters seeking council approval Tuesday is an addition of $150,000 to the previous $390,000 contract with Noddle Co. for project management services related to the W. Dale Clark library relocation.

Another is a city agreement with Weitz Co. to fund, with city redevelopment bonds, no more than $2.53 million in construction services associated with library relocation to the 3020 S. 84th St. site in Frederick Square.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.

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