Education

Public Library Launches Express Branch at Oh Wow!

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As befits an institution that focuses on introducing science to Mahoning Valley youth, Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology is conducting an experiment, as Lisa Long, the center’s new associate director, puts it.

The newly minted Library Express, which launched Wednesday, is the center’s most recent collaboration with its frequent lab partner, the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County.

“At Oh Wow we’re all about education and entertainment so this is a wonderful addition to our exhibit floor. It instills a love of reading in children and gives parents and grandparents and visitors a new way to connect with kids,” Long said.

“We’re excited about having something additional to offer to people who come here already, so the families can have their library experience and their museum experience all in one,” she added.

The new service, which operates from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, provides a limited selection of books for children and adults as well as a book drop for items borrowed from other library locations, said Heidi Daniel, executive director of the Public Library.

Daniel was looking for a location on Federal Street when she and Suzanne Barbati, president and executive director of Oh Wow!, were having coffee one afternoon about six weeks ago. Barbati offered the center as a site for the pilot project.

“We’ve had such a great history of partnering together that we thought it was a perfect fit,” Daniel remarked. The two institutions previously collaborated on grants and an initiative to offer access to Oh Wow through STEM kits borrowed from the library.

“From a 30-second conversation to six weeks later, we have the Express Library installed here at Oh Wow,” Barbati said. “That’s how Heidi rolls and that’s why she’s going to Baltimore.”

Daniel was announced last week as the new president and CEO of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library system. She starts her new position this summer.

The limited-service branch will be staffed by the library system’s community outreach clerks, who will provide information about other library services and place holds for materials to be sent to other branches.

“We know that there’s a downtown business population here during the day and we thought that this would be a good way to provide a little express service for them,” Daniel said. The library had heard “multiple times” from people in the downtown community that they forget about the proximity of the Main Library.

“They can run in and get the newest hot fiction pick or self-help or business book on their lunch break, learn about our other services and maybe see Oh Wow for the first time,” Daniel said. “We also think it’s a great convenience for the families utilizing Oh Wow.”

Barbati noted that Oh Wow has expanded its program of offering the membership packages from libraries in the Mahoning County system to libraries throughout the five-county region. Families can borrow the memberships for four or five days, depending on the library offering them.

Pictured: Suzanne Barbati, Lisa Long and Heidi Daniel.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.