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Omaha Public Library leaders say they look forward to discussions about system's future

Omaha Public Library leaders say they look forward to discussions about system's future

With the raging social media storm over the Omaha Public Library’s future calmed, library leaders say they look forward to continuing discussions about a potentially significant library project.

Keegan Korf, vice president of the Omaha Library Board, said on Twitter that the stressful period this week has produced new public discourse and transparency over the plans.

Korf urged people to keep talking, asking questions and staying engaged as planning continues for a major fundraising campaign by Heritage Services, an Omaha philanthropic group.

“Innovation and development can be both polarizing and an important catalyst for needed change in communities,” Korf said.

“The potential partnership with Heritage Services is one such catalyst and could lead to the largest private donation in our library system’s history.”

Overall, the project could involve demolishing the downtown W. Dale Clark Library, building a new downtown branch and establishing a new central library and book distribution hub near 72nd and Dodge Street. While private funds could support construction of a new main library, the city would be responsible for tearing down the W. Dale Clark Library.

Heritage’s involvement sparked controversy this week when an anonymous Twitter account raised alarm that the organization and local officials were trying to privatize Omaha’s libraries. The account cited a September 2020 email from Heritage to the city — although project organizers say the plans discussed in that year-old email are no longer under consideration.

In a statement Friday, Library Director Laura Marlane said the library system appreciates the ongoing conversations and Mayor Jean Stothert’s involvement.

Marlane said the library is excited to explore opportunities presented by Heritage Services and looks forward “to working together to best provide library services to Omaha and Douglas County residents.”

Jo Giles, board president of the Omaha Public Library Foundation, said foundation board members also look forward to the continued process.

Giles said the foundation is discussing a collaboration that “centers on patron and community feedback” and best practices for the library’s future. She said the foundation welcomes the chance to “strengthen philanthropic partnerships.”

Said Giles, “We are excited to explore how a transformative library project will enhance library services, technology and community spaces for all.”

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