In what year was the Omaha Public Library established as a free public library?
The Omaha Public Library was established as a free public library in 1877.
An Omaha Library Association was established in 1857 but due to lack of funds failed in 1860. After several attempts another association was formally organized by several prominent Omaha men in 1872 when they opened a tiny library on the second floor of the Simpson Carriage factory at the southwest corner of 14th & Dodge Street. On June 13, 1877, the Omaha City Council appointed a library board, levied a tax, and accepted a gift of 4,500 books from the disbanded association. At that point the Omaha Public Library was born.
For 17 years the library moved from one location to another until real estate tycoon Byron Reed donated land and his vast collection of coins, books and manuscripts to the library. On July 5, 1894, the Omaha Public Library opened in its first permanent home in a stately new Italian Renaissance-style building (designed by renowned architect Thomas Kimball) at 18th and Harney. A year later, Omaha Public Library set itself apart as one of six public libraries in the nation to establish a separate children’s section.
In 1977, Omaha Public Library moved to a modern new construction across from Gene Leahy Mall Park at 14th and Farnam where it stands today. The new main library was named for W. Dale Clark, longtime banker and library board member.
Of the 12 libraries in the system, the W. Dale Clark Library currently houses the largest collection, including 7,000 genealogy books; 2,000 photos of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi International Exposition; a cuneiform collection; thousands of old postcards; and a rich collection of Omaha and Nebraska history resources. Library goers also enjoy the Phipps Art Gallery and a coffee shop that overlooks the lovely Gene Leahy Mall Park.
For more information, go to our Gateway to the West digital collection at http://digital.omahapubliclibrary.org/earlyomaha/library/library.html.