Tag Archives: classes

W. Dale Clark Library: A Reflection of Omaha

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Why  are  libraries  relevant? For Rem Koolhaas, international architect and designer of one of America’s premier libraries in Seattle, “in an age where information can be accessed anywhere, it is the simultaneity of all media and, more importantly, the curatorship of their content that makes the library vital.”

This compelling principle of curation—a thoughtful way of organizing and presenting content—is how the Omaha Public Library’s W. Dale Clark branch promotes free public access to multimedia information, programming, and assets inside and outside the four walls of  215 S. 15th St. The library’s architecture, in turn, is both a container for, and reflection of, the community of Omaha at large.
Omaha’s first permanent public library opened in 1877 at 18th and Harney streets. Designed by Thomas Kimball, it was Omaha’s first building dedicated solely to a public library. However, with a capacity of 46,000 books and drastically out of sync with modern needs, the library outgrew this historic building after World War II. Often referred to as “the worst library in America” and “the horror on Harney Street,” city and library officials began contemplating a new building and the role a new central library would have in defining the cultural core of Omaha in the late 1950s.

While some branches of the Omaha Public Library system are named after locations, others are named after prominent city leaders and/or major funders. The central library branch is named after W. Dale Clark, a long-time banker, civic leader, and Omaha World-Herald board member. It is no coincidence then that during the development of this new central branch, the Omaha World-Herald was often a soapbox for the library’s necessity as a cultural anchor. A June 9, 1957, article explained, “a library should offer the opportunity for enlightened citizenship and the continuing education and cultural advancement necessary to a working democracy.” This sentiment held true for W. Dale Clark as well.

Although Clark did not live to see the completion of his library branch, which began construction in 1975, the 124,500-square-foot Bedford limestone monolith opened on March 9, 1977. Architects John Latenser & Sons of Omaha designed the $7 million open-plan building to accommodate 350 patrons and 400,000 volumes (the current collection is 500,000+ volumes). The Omaha World-Herald defined the opening as “the greatest event in Omaha’s history.”

Little has changed architecturally to the branch since 1977, although its surroundings continue to take shape—the neighborhood is part of a six-block $15 million revitalization plan.

The striated five-story W. Dale Clark Library opens laterally east and west and features a 110-foot bridge on the west entrance that spans a parking moat below for 48 cars, special facilities for audio-visual materials, a large open atrium, contemporary art gallery, and significant art collection including Catherine Ferguson’s sculpture Totem and an Olga de Amaral tapestry. The central library maintains practical roles to store government documents, house the ever-growing genealogy department, and to be a repository for community history.

In a building nearly 40 years old, how has the Omaha Public Library advanced into the digital age—an age where traditional media is seen as almost cliché? The answer is quite simple: curated in-person programing.

The facilitators for this community-driven programing are the 78 library staff at the W. Dale Clark branch. With a web of knowledge and resources, Emily Getzschman, the marketing manager for OPL acknowledges, “the staff are our greatest asset.” They fulfill the library’s tagline “open your world” by connecting dots—many of which are obvious (GED training, citizenship assistance, computer training, and literacy classes) and others that seem more disparate (STD screening, a toy lending library, speed dating, a culinary conference, and facilitated conversations around contemporary topics) all under a major OPL tenet of non-discrimination. As Amy Mather, adult services manager, says, “the library allows a smooth transition where a barrier may be to connect people with ideas.” In many instances, the library is filling voids in the public domain with this free niche programming—all of which is community driven.

Since its beginning, some have questioned the role and need for the Omaha Public Library—a story that continues to play out today. These opposing views undermine the very role of the public library as a space to define, beyond hierarchies, the community of Omaha.

It is a privilege and right to use the Omaha Public Library, which is free and open to all of the public. Everyone and anyone has access to its curated network of resources. The potency of programming, outreach, and staff reverberates beyond its architecture and stated mission placing OPL at the frontier of relevancy. As Mather says, “this is your library.”
omahapubliclibrary.org/w-dale-clark-library 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Swimming Safety

June 20, 2013 by

Always swim with a buddy. Don’t run around the pool. Only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Never leave a child alone near water. Don’t dive into water that’s not at least eight feet deep.

You’ve heard these rules before, but they are never more important than when supervising children around water.

According to the National Safety Council, Nebraska Chapter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated an annual average of 5,200 pool- or spa-related submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011, with 66 percent of those injuries being represented by children between ages 1-3. Even more frightening is that most drowning and near-drowning incidents occur when children are left alone in the water or fall into the water without knowing how to swim.

Parents should always be cautious and constantly watching children around water, but there’s another way to prevent water-related injuries—swimming lessons.

There are plenty of places around Omaha where you can sign your family up for swimming lessons—including Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, Swimtastic Swim School, DiVentures, The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Little Waves Family Swimming School, and more.

When is the best time to get children into swimming lessons? “I believe the earlier, the better,” says Mike McKamy, owner and manager of Little Waves Family Swim School in West Omaha. “We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water. We see a lot of 3- and 4-year-olds starting, too.”

“We start children at 6 months [because] children as young as 1 can learn to float on their backs if they fall in the water.” – Mike McKamy, owner of Little Waves Family Swim School

Little Waves strives to provide a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for families to learn swimming techniques. Lessons are available for all ages—babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and adults. There are even pre-competitive classes and triathlon stroke clinics for more advanced swimmers.

When it comes to swimming, McKamy agrees that children should never swim without supervision; however, he does think that the supervision can be less hands-on as children’s swimming skills improve.

“They can get in the pool by themselves when they are able to float on their back and swim comfortably across the pool and back, [and] they should be able to breathe without effort when swimming over and back. But I always tell children they should never get in the water unless an adult is watching them.”

As for lifejackets and flotation devices, McKamy believes they’re necessary for non-swimmers to be safe around pools or lakes, but they’re not helpful to a child learning how to swim.

“A child who learns to swim with a flotation device can become very comfortable in the water with one. But when they become too comfortable with one and forget they don’t have it on, they [might] jump in without knowing how to swim. It’s best for children to learn how to float and swim without one so, if they fall in, they know exactly what to do.”

McKamy also thinks it’s a good idea for parents to receive CPR training. “Hopefully, you’ll never use it, but a 4- to 8-hour class may help you save the life of your own child or some other child or adult.”

For more information about Little Waves Family Swim School, visit littlewavesfamilyswimschool.com or call 402-932-2030.

Silver of Oz

August 16, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Welcome to Silver of Oz, a handcrafted silver jewelry shop owned and operated by jewelry designer Levent Oz. (At the time of this interview, the store was located in Benson. It has since relocated to Montclair  on Center in West Omaha).

Oz’s personal story is dramatic and intricate, much like the antique silver cigarette cases, pill boxes, decorative rings, and dangling necklaces and earrings on display. Oz, who was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and lived in Vienna, Austria, before moving to the United States in 1998, has been influenced by a combination of Ottoman court jewelry and European modern style.

The son of a Turkish museum supervisor, who cared for the royal jewelry collection in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Oz had the chance to study the impressive court jewelry collection not accessible to most visitors. His awareness of and contact with classic silver pieces—such as Irish and Spanish swords designed with Nioello silver patterning and with Armenian black metal (which is tricky to work with and can shatter easily)—helped influence Oz’s silver-crafting style, fusing old and new, east and west.

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Oz’s own jewelry designs play with the surface of the metal. He creates unique pieces which embrace precious and semi-precious stones. His creations are made in a rectangular workshop at the back of the Maple Street store where he also teaches silversmith classes.

From a small burner in the studio space, Oz stirs the dark, thick Turkish coffee, Nuri Toplar; and just when the bubbles pop, he pours the sugary mixture into two demitasse cups with bright Turkish designs and tiny spoons.

After one sip, Oz excuses himself during a recent Saturday to greet customers Beth and Leon Wassenaar from Orange City, Iowa, who drove into Benson specifically to meet him. “Our friend owns this building, and we really like the wedding rings he made for them,” explains Beth.

An hour later, the Wassenaars left Silver of Oz with big smiles after buying a lovely pair of silver tassel earrings and a stunning silver and coral necklace Beth promptly wore out the door.

“The main point,” Oz said, smiling, “is not really selling. I love to interact with my customers.”

Not only does Oz enjoy talking with and getting to know his customers, he also likes to share a specialty from his homeland—coffee. With his mother still in Istanbul and a sister in London, Oz tries to visit Europe and the Middle East, but his teaching and designing schedule is hectic.

Doug Kuony took Oz’s beginner’s silversmith class a year ago when he found he had extra time on his hands after his father’s death. Oz teaches three levels of classes, two hours a week each in four-week sessions. Kuony, who lives close to the shop in Benson, said his experience with Oz “has been great.” He learned how to use the jeweler’s saw and the fusing torch, and now Kuony routinely makes his own silver designs.

For Oz, the journey to owning his own business has been a long one.

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While in college in Turkey studying English Literature, Oz worked at an antique store where he was introduced to the European art. After immigrating to Vienna in 1992, he learned how to produce the jewelry he designed since he no longer had the support of the workshops that finished his pieces.

In 1998, he decided to move to the United States and become a citizen. After landing in New Orleans where he worked as a waiter, Oz and his wife, Yeshim, a child, adolescent, and family therapist, were on their way to the west coast when they “got stuck in Omaha.” Oz ran a silver jewelry kiosk in the Oak View Mall for three months until he closed that operation.

Instead, he went to work at First Data in 2001. Oz ran a machine that inserted credit card statements into envelopes. He stayed in that position for 10 years, all the while knowing in his heart that he was an artist.

He finally got up the courage in 2008 to open his tiny shop in Benson. The following year, he moved Silver of Oz one block west into a much bigger space, adding a workshop and small art gallery. This April, Oz relocated his store once again to Montclair Shopping Center at 13013 West Center Road under the clock tower.

Perhaps the framed dollar bill he keeps superstitiously in an office drawer, signifying the first dollar he made in America, has brought him good fortune after all.

Silver of Oz
13013 W Center Rd
402-558-1307
www.silverofoz.com