As you walk up the stairs that separate the A.V. Sorensen community center from the library, the quote by Thomas Carlyle, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand,” adorns the wall. A bronze sculpture of children playing on a tree rests below the words, and it all seems very fitting of this Dundee community library. Nestled on the corner of 48th and Cass Streets, Sorensen Branch is one of 12 within the Omaha Public Library system. Some locations are large, and others (like Sorensen) are… more tightly curated, but all are unique and essential to their communities.
Omaha Magazine published an article earlier this month introducing OPL’s new director, Laura Marlane. In it, she is quoted saying, “Libraries should be reflective of the people they serve. It’s important that they exist and that they give back. Collections and resources should be community-driven by knowledgeable staff dedicated to supporting the public and infrastructure.” Nothing could be truer of Sorensen Branch, Matt Couch, the branch manager affirmed. Because of its location on an economically divisive line within Omaha real estate, community members of varying socioeconomic statuses visit the branch for many diverse reasons.
For example, on one chilly, Thursday afternoon, you would find a Spelling Bee taking place in the large recreation room. Home-schooled elementary students from across the city came to compete and win the medal for their class. Ryland and Ava battled back and forth for over 20 rounds in an effort to prove dominance in the fields of vocabulary and spelling. Ava finally pulled ahead and won the third grade championship by spelling the word “centimeter.” The Spelling Bee is just one of many events that take place at Sorensen Branch; a complete list can be found on the Omaha Public Library’s calendar.
Just down the hallway, a dozen children were zooming around a gymnasium filled with toddler toys. Adults conversed on the bleachers, sharing stories of parental frustrations and joys while their littles rode scooters and played tag. The parents and nannies seemed glad for a place to let the children run around indoors. “After the six inches of snow Omaha received last week, most of the parks are out of the question. So, we come here instead,” one visitor said. The other adults agreed. As for the children, they didn’t seem to care about the location, there were toys and friends… what more do you need!
Leaving the playgroup, you pass a small workout room full of weights and machines. The facility is maintained by the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department and requires a $3 drop in charge for Douglas County residents. Past the welcome desk and up a flight of stairs are the books… These stacks have been well loved, as was evidenced by the many patrons perusing the shelves with full arms.
The library teems with guests of all ages engaged in reading, using the computers, or investigating the two, spotted lizards residing in the children’s area! Because so many people use the library in such different ways, Couch hopes to create more programs and spaces that will fulfill everyone’s needs. Recently, A.V. Sorensen Branch was the recipient of a historic $1 million donation thanks to the generosity of the late Virginia Schmid. It is still being determined how to best put the new resources to work, but it’s clear that the gift will be well invested in this community oriented library!