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What will Omaha’s new digital library mean for startups?

RebeccaStavickOmaha’s first digital library will offer experimental maker technology to the public–including entrepreneurs, according to Rebecca Stavick, the library’s new executive director.

“This place will directly support entrepreneurs,” said Stavick. “This will be a perfect place for coworking, high-speed internet, and prototyping on 3D printers.”

Free resources for innovators

The library will have conference rooms and other flexible spaces where people can bring in their own machines. The policies for using these spaces are still being worked out.

The library will also have ultra high-speed gigabit internet access, akin to spaces like the Mastercraft building.

Patrons will also have access to design software like AutoCAD.

Stavick is particularly excited about the 3D printing capabilities.

“We’re looking at options beyond your average maker bot.”

Stavick says users will only have to pay for the filament–just like a printing charge at a regular library.

“It’s not a lot,” said Stavick. “It will be inexpensive.”

Will there be robots?

“If I have anything to say about it, there will be robots,” said Stavick. “That’s a definite yes.”


“I don’t know, maybe.”

Virtual reality?

“Maybe, we’ll see.”

Creating the creators

Stavick is currently working on partnerships with people in the startup community. She wants to develop youth entrepreneurship programs that connect entrepreneurs to the public.

“Omaha is a relatively small town with a relatively small startup community. My question is, ‘How do we grow that? How do we take that to the next level?,'” said Stavick.

“I’m interested in figuring out what we need to create the creators.”

Not part of Omaha Public Library

The vision for the project came from former Omaha Public Library director Gary Wasdin and community leaders affiliated with Heritage Services.

Heritage Services has privately funded over $800 million in building projects since 1989, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The philanthropic group has been involved in public-private partnerships for some of the biggest projects in Omaha.

The library will be set up and operated by Community Information Trust, a nonprofit 501(c)3 created and funded privately by Heritage Services. They have not released how much has been raised for the library.

“It is not the Omaha Public Library, it’s not a branch of the library, it’s not even a dual facility, but it is a strong partnership with OPL,” said Stavick.

For example, patrons will use an OPL library card to access the resources.

Stavick calls the library a support to the existing public system. Omaha’s 12 public libraries have internet access but their budgets limit what software they can buy and what systems they can upgrade.

“In some areas of the city the wait to use a computer can be 30 minutes to an hour,” said Stavick.

In her previous role, Stavick was an advocate and promoter of OPL’s technology resources.

“You know lynda.com? You can get that totally free through OPL. If you have a library card, you can get totally free access to that. But nobody knows about it.”

Now hiring

Stavick will be hiring her management team between now and August. She imagines the final staff will be “less than 15.”

She is also looking to develop a robust volunteer and mentor network. Volunteers will assist patrons with answering questions.

“That can range from everything from ‘How do I forward an email?’ to ‘I’m using autoCAD for the first time. Can someone help me?'” Stavick said.

The library will also have a host of education programs that will train people to use the resources.

“We’re not just throwing technology out there and saying, ‘Good luck,'” Stavick said. “Instead, we’re providing the education you need to use technology.”

Stavick to startups: Tell me what you want

Stavick wants the digital library to change lives.

“I want to hear stories like, ‘I was able to prototype something for my business and secured funding because of that.’”

Stavick wants to know how she can help the startup community.

“I’m totally interested in supporting the startup community. Tell me what you need. Tell me what you want,” Stavick said. “Giving me that information helps me.”

The library will be located at 72nd & Dodge. According to Stavick, the library is on track for a November opening.

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