Omaha’s first digital library to open near UNO at former Borders store

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Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway After Borders closed nationwide, there was an opportunity for an organization to take over the building.
Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway
After Borders closed nationwide, there was an opportunity for an organization to take over the building.

By Eugene Kim, Contributor

Omaha’s plan for its own digital library is slated to open in the fall of this year in the former Borders Bookstore on the corner of 72nd and Dodge street.

The location was chosen because of its ease of access, central location, and bus access to the entire community, which was an important goal, according to Mike McCarthy, chairman of the Community Information Trust, the non-profit organization tasked with building and operating the digital library.

“A former bookstore just made an ideal footprint for the digital library,” McCarthy said. “The idea came out of a discussion about the needs of the community for the 21st century. Technological innovation, access to technology, and more opportunities for online learning were all things that merged into this idea.”

With demolition to the previous Borders site already happening, construction is underway, while concepts and designs are in their final stages of completion.

According to McCarthy, the digital library idea originated from Heritage Services, while the funding has all been done through private philanthropic support.

“Heritage Services recognized that libraries play an important role in the community, and we started to look at some of the needs, both physically and programmatically within the library system; one of the things that we identified was a strong need for in the community was technology,” said Heritage Services President Sue Morris. “Obviously, we’re not going to have books in the digital library, this is a technology library.”

Morris anticipates the library to have technologies including 3D printers, PCs, Apple computers, Chrome operating systems, advanced software programming beyond primer level Adobe and even iPads to be used in interactive story hours for children.

Metropolitan Community College will occupy the top floor of the building as an educational partner, which arose out of a need for the specialized knowledge involved with some of the more technologically sophisticated aspects of the library, providing related user training and eventually, programs specifically developed to address individual user needs.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is not involved in any way with the digital library project in its current stages, but McCarthy expects and welcomes the library to see heavy use from the UNO community, noting that the library should be an enhancement to the technology already available at UNO.

Morris expects there will be collaborative education curriculum developed with UNO or other community organizations in the future, citing the early stages of development as a factor in UNO’s absence in participation of the project.

UNO senior political science major Temir Mamatisaev stated he would use the digital library over the campus library to work on research projects, mentioning that he felt it would be “more time efficient, requiring less searching and [have] greater availability.”

McCarthy noted that the digital library will be very different from traditional libraries in its operations, while maintaining similar core values such as being an open communal area to access and explore knowledge.

“It hasn’t happened yet and needs to happen if we’re going to be leading into the 21st century. This will be unique,” McCarthy said. “We really believe we can develop and execute a plan to have a truly leading edge in the United States.”

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  1. This is really cool. It’s a great way to get out front of the ever-changing technology boom. We do something similar at my company. We are a tech support company and we have a small IKEA-style apartment (complete with tons of technology for the home) in one of our offices. Everyone in the company is encouraged to come play with and learn the new technology. It’s way easier to master the technology being so hands on. It’d be crazy to see this to scale for that size space. It’s cool that UNO is at the forefront like this. Great article and writing.

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