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Mayor Stothert says there are no plans to privatize the city’s library system

Posted at 1:27 PM, Sep 23, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Recently, social media posts have been gaining traction online which state there are plans to privatize the Omaha Public Library System.

On Thursday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert issued a statement, saying not to listen to the chatter.

Stothert said:

"Social media posts suggesting the Omaha Public Library system will be privatized are completely false. There is no such plan. It is unfortunate someone has started an irresponsible social media campaign that encourages rumor and speculation.

The OPL Board of Trustees is currently updating its strategic plan. There will be a series of public meetings coming up this fall and the Board will look forward to public comment."

The Omaha Public Library Board President, Mike Kennedy says they have met with donors who want to enhance the library system.

"Back about 3 or 4 years ago this idea happened where they wanted to help create a vibrant library system in our city that’s nationally renowned and they wanted to think out of the box," Kennedy said. "One of the concepts was 'Do we need to change the board, like some cities have and how are we going to do the funding?' Well after they came up with some of their initial ideas, they talked to Mayor Stothert, they talked to our board and we all came to the agreement the Omaha library board will stay in place, that our employees will not be privatized, they will be city employees."

One of those donors is Heritage Services, the company that funds Do Space.

In a statement to 3 News Now, Rachel Jacobson, the President of Heritage Services says public libraries need to stay public.

"Omahans love their libraries. We are simply exploring, along with OPL, OPLF, & the city how we can help build on the wonderful legacy of the libraries and ensure they continue to help make Omaha a great place to live. There is no proposal or desire for privatization of the system, and no legislation proposed. Heritage services is a nonprofit that works to make Omaha and the region a more dynamic place to live," Jacobson's statement read.

While there are no plans to privatize the library, the system will see some changes as part of the 2017 facilities plan and the upcoming strategic plan.

Under the facilities plan, the Downtown branch of the library will be moving to the crossroads area around 72nd and Dodge.

"We were going to operate on the hub and spoke process with our other branches. We currently house the most amount of books in the central branch now. We’re not going to reduce the books and materials available to people but we’re probably going to efficiently allocate those as needed and we’re going to have a more efficient process for doing that," Kennedy said.

Kennedy adds that technology updates have been something on which the library system is behind. He says they're working with donors to enhance that as well as renovate select branches and says there are no plans to close any branches.

The board is holding community forums for the strategic plan. Kennedy says they are committed to being transparent with the community and want to hear feedback.

The first community forum meeting will be held Tuesday, October 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Millard Branch.

UPDATE:

The Omaha Public Library Foundation issued the following:

“For more than 35 years, Omaha Public Library Foundation (OPLF) has focused on raising money for special projects, programming and staff needs of our public library system. We remain committed to public libraries and the incredible staff who assist patrons every day.

As an extension of our support, OPLF board members look forward to the continued process to reimage our public library system with a variety of stakeholders, including donors, patrons, library staff, community and city leaders. We are excited to explore how a transformative library project will enhance library services, technology and community spaces for all; and welcome an opportunity to strengthen philanthropic partnerships.

While no decisions have been made, OPLF is having discussions about a collaboration which centers on patron and community feedback, along with industry best practices for the future of our library system.”

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