In Omaha, A Library With No Books Brings Technology To All

By Bill Kelly
Original Article Published on

On the corner of the busiest intersection in Omaha, Neb., there’s a square cement building, wrapped on two sides with a flashing LED billboard promoting the high-tech equipment and classes inside.

“I thought it was a 3-D printer sales place,” says Frank Fu, a high school student.

Earlier this year, Fu stumbled upon Do Space, a technology library providing free access to powerful PCs loaded with software used by businesses and artists. There are 3-D printers and laser cutters.

“It was exactly what I was looking for, and I never knew there was a place anywhere like it, and it turns out there’s not,” Fu says.

There are no books in this library. Instead it’s jammed with high-end technology that it provides free to the public.

As director Rebecca Stavick tells visitors, it’s a logical evolution from traditional libraries.

“I’ve always thought of libraries as places full of tools. Books are tools, scrolls are tools, computers are tools,” she says. “This vision of bringing technology to everyone in the community, it just gets people very excited.”

Taxpayers didn’t fund this library. Instead, Heritage Services, a coalition of Omaha philanthropists, donated $7 million to renovate the building — which had been a Borders bookstore — and pay for computers, 3-D printers and the Internet bandwidth. Sue Morris speaks for the donors.

“With 1 [gigabit] minimum, to go up to 10 gig, to have that in a public building that’s free?” she says. “That’s really amazing; that is unheard of anywhere.”