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Bennett Martin Public Library

Lincoln's proposed central library will replace downtown's Bennett Martin Public Library.

The city is looking for a consultant to begin planning for a new central library that will replace the downtown Bennett Martin Library.

The city’s purchasing department has issued what is called a request for proposal, asking consulting firms that want the job to provide their experience, staffing and costs.

The firm selected will suggest what kind of space is needed and an estimate of costs, including acquiring a site and equipping a new library.

This plan, a written document, is a first step in what could lead to architectural design and construction of a new downtown library.

The request for proposal says this planning document will not be site-specific, even though Pershing Center is often mentioned as a possible site of a new downtown library. 

What has been seen as a presumption that a new library would end up on the Pershing block has generated controversy, and Lincoln Independent Business Association leaders have promoted selling Pershing Center and putting it on the tax rolls rather than retaining it for any use by the city.

Several studies done for the Lincoln Library Board of Trustees over more than a decade have indicated the city should not try to renovate the aging Bennett Martin building.

A 2003 study determined that city needs had outgrown the downtown library at 14th and N streets.

A 2012 study concluded it would be smarter to renovate Pershing or build a new library on its site rather than renovate Bennett Martin.

And last year the advisory library board began seriously and publicly advocating using Pershing Center or the Pershing site at 226 Centennial Mall for a new downtown central library.

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Building a new library is listed as a proposed capital construction project for 2017-18, making it part of the next two-year budget. That is an indication the administration of Mayor Chris Beutler is seriously considering replacing Bennett Martin.

The estimated $50 million cost of using the Pershing site for a new library would be paid by about $8 million in donations and $42 million in general obligation bonds, based on information in the proposed capital construction budget. Those general obligation bonds would require voter approval.

The request for proposal indicates the consulting firm would review all relevant documents about the central library, evaluate input from residents, conduct focus groups and interview key constituents and create a plan describing the services, space needs and potential costs for a central library.

Interested companies must submit proposals indicating their interest by July 1, based on the bid document. The city wants to select a consulting firm and negotiate a contract by early August, with a competed study due at the end of October.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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