Laura Marlane: The new library space will provide an opportunity for new memories | Lifestyles


Laura Marlane Omaha Public Library

I was 5 years old when I got my first library card. I was allowed to walk to the library alone and used that privilege extensively, walking three blocks to the library every few days to get more books. I vividly remember the pink granite steps leading up to the double entrance doors and the highly polished circulation desk that wrapped around the Doric columns. Every time I entered the building, I always felt like I was in a special place.

Over the past five years, the Omaha Public Library has held several public forums designed to gather feedback on its strategic plans and facilities. At each meeting, I listened to community members share their experiences with the library with the same respect and affection I have for my own. I’ve heard of clients who come to the Willa Cather branch after school daily to do their homework; found treasures at Swanson Branch book sales; raised funds and awareness to get the Sorensen branch up and running; and so many others. The memories we create in these spaces are what make us love them, and also what make things difficult when there is change.

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Laura Marlane is the executive director of the Omaha Public Library.

Over its 150-year history, the Omaha Public Library has seen many changes – from its shaky beginnings as the Omaha Library Association in 1857, to being one of the nation’s first libraries to creating a separate children’s section in 1895, to its growth into a 12-branch library system spanning Omaha and Douglas County. The original Main Library at 1823 Harney Street, a stately Italian Renaissance-style building that opened to the public in 1893, saw its last useful days in the 1950s. While the building’s architecture was undeniably beautiful , it was deemed insufficient to meet the city’s growing population and the need for more modern resources. The W. Dale Clark Library opened in March 1977 and was declared by one newspaper columnist to be “the greatest event in Omaha history.”

Looking out my office window at the beautiful, newly renovated Gene Leahy Mall, I think of all the changes I’ve seen in Omaha in the short seven years I’ve been here. Omaha is a dynamic and vital city that is constantly growing and evolving, reinventing itself to meet the needs of an ever-changing community. That’s what cities do to stay relevant and useful, and the same goes for libraries.

This month we say goodbye to the W. Dale Clark Library and invite you to join us for a community farewell party on August 20 from 2-4 p.m. Celebrate this special space by sharing your memories and enjoying historic photos and memorabilia, refreshments, crafts, entertainment and more.

A temporary downtown library will open soon at 1410 Howard Street and will remain open until the new downtown branch at 1401 Jones Street is ready next spring. The library’s administrative offices and genealogy and history collection will be relocated to 3020 S. 84th St. We understand that these changes will be difficult for some, but we also know that we can take the memories we’ve created at W Dale Clark Library with us when we go there, and that the new spaces of the library will be an opportunity to create new memories that will find a place in our hearts. Visit for the most recent dates, times, and updates on your library’s facility projects.

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Laura Marlane is the executive director of the Omaha Public Library.


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