Journal Opinion: Libraries for the People

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – One institution that unites people across the Mahoning Valley – with our gratitude and respect for its services – is our local library systems.

No longer simply repositories for collections of books and periodicals, our library systems have adapted and updated their service models to keep pace with rapidly changing technology.

The offerings of today’s libraries include mobile device apps that allow patrons to access books,
audiobooks and magazines, spaces to meet and study, and mobile hotspots that provide internet access. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced libraries to curtail access to their buildings, many adopted curbside service.

These changes in how we use libraries are illustrated by upgrades at the flagship branches of the largest library systems in the Mahoning Valley.

In just a few weeks, the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library will unveil its expanded and remodeled downtown Warren Library.

Construction began in April 2021 on the $5.3 million project, which included a 14,800-square-foot addition that increases its size to about 72,000 square feet. Closed since Feb. 28 to accommodate the final stages of work, supply chain issues forced the library to shelve plans to reopen the building in phases.  

Much of the additional space is dedicated to children and teens. Renovation of the original section of the building included installation of shorter bookshelves to permit more natural light from the windows that line the exterior walls.

The reopening of the Warren Library will take place just weeks after the unveiling of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s Main Library following its $27 million renovation. This project, which broke ground in August 2020, involved construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition to accommodate a new meeting room that can hold 125 visitors and the new culinary literacy center.

One of the more impressive features of the project is restoration of the Grand Reading Room’s art glass ceiling, which lights up the room, and of the grand staircase entrance facing Wick Avenue.

Other features include a maker space with a 3D printer, sewing machines and even a sound studio, a further reflection of Main Library’s expanded uses.

Our libraries are important assets for businesses and nonprofits as well as families, connecting them with research, information about obtaining grants, genealogical data and assistance finding employment. Significantly, they bridge the digital gap for people and neighborhoods that lack broadband.

These upgrades are possible only because of the hard work of those operating our libraries – from the professional staff to the boards of trustees – and the support of the public, which consistently approves library tax levies. These are smart investments in resources that benefit our entire community.

For sure, libraries are, as the inscription above Main Library’s restored main entrance reads, “For the People.”