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Collaborative space, reading nooks and a coffee shop might enhance the appeal of a new downtown Lincoln library, a group of young professionals proposed at a gathering Monday evening.

The dozen or so gathered at Barrymore's bar ranged from parents of elementary-school-aged children to single graduate students and shared their thoughts in an effort to help Lincoln City Libraries officials develop plans for a new library.

The Lincoln Library Board is eying the site of the old Pershing Center as the future home of a library to replace Bennett Martin library, which was built in 1962.

It's unclear how many people in their 20s and 30s visit the city's libraries each year, Library Director Pat Leach said, but often their library usage drops after college and picks up again when they start families.

Still, that population is key to the future success of the city's main library, Leach said.

"How can we make the physical space so attractive that you want to go there?" asked Anna Wishart.

Wishart, who prefers shopping online instead of at brick-and-mortar stores, said a newer, more attractive library with welcoming space and amenities might draw people like her to check out books or other items in person.

In addition to books, Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, who arranged the meeting, said he'd like to see conference rooms and collaboration space in a new downtown library.

Later weekday hours would also help draw young adults downtown, several people said. Bennett Martin closes at 6 p.m.

Several parents at the meeting said they would like a downtown library with more children's programming on the weekends and such creative spaces for kids as a recording studio.

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The new central library would need be a place that not only draws young professionals but welcomes the lower-income residents the library serves now,  Leach said.

"It's a real trick," she said.

For Courtney Lyons, who lives downtown and visits the 14th and N streets library about twice a month, the new Bennett Martin doesn't need to be a "super library."

"We just want Bennett Martin updated and don't want to take resources away" from the other branches, she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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