By AIMEE FIFAREK
Director and CEO, PLYMC
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If there was a word that exemplified The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in 2021, it would be “connect.”
From supporting the community through the second full year of the pandemic to improving upon the serv-ices that the community expects and deserves, PLYMC grew and strengthened its connections throughout the community last year.
The library connected Valley residents to the latest public health information about COVID-19, including providing tests and vaccinations. Through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Health, PLYMC provided more than 17,000 free rapid testing kits in 2021. Throughout the fall, PLYMC partnered with the Youngstown City Health District to provide free vaccinations, boosters and flu shots to 680 patrons.
The library system also continued its longstanding partnership with the Red Cross by hosting regular blood drives. From January to September, the drives accounted for more than 1,600 units of blood, or 28% of the region’s blood donations.
PLYMC partnered with the Youngstown State University Workforce Center’s Virtual Career Fair to connect workers with employers. As part of the planning for this partnership, PLYMC updated and replaced outdated laptops at its branches so patrons were prepared to log on with ease. The library also continued to offer personalized services through its Career and Job Center.
Connections – both literal and figurative – became even more important to us all in 2021, which is why PLYMC continued to advocate for closing the digital divide.
During the height of the pandemic, when PLYMC closed its branches, Wi-Fi signals to parking lots were boosted so those learning and working from home could secure a connection. PLYMC continued this service in 2021.
The library wanted to do even more to ensure it could connect patrons with the resources they want and need. As its Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Rental program proved popular with patrons before the pandemic, the library expanded the program. It received $171,122 from the Emergency Connectivity Fund to purchase 50 mobile Wi-Fi hot spots and 150 iPads with internet connections for patrons to use at home for free.
Finally, 2021 brought much progress for PLYMC’s Main Library renovation. In August, the much-anticipated Family Engagement Area opened, giving children and teens a place to create, learn, explore and connect.
After a brief and temporary closure to transition to the final phase of construction, the Main Library reopened to the public Jan. 3. The project will be completed this summer.