Library Considers Adding Culinary Literacy Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Cafés and other food service operations are becoming increasingly common at libraries, but a culinary literacy center is among the concepts being considered for the planned renovation at the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s Main Library.

A potential café at Main Library and the culinary literacy center were among the concepts Aimee Fifarek, PLYMC executive director, discussed as she updated the library board of trustees’ building and sites committee at its meeting Monday.

Cost of the renovation is tentatively budgeted at $25 million. It is expected to include a 4,400-square-foot addition to the branch at the corner of Wick and Rayen avenues. A final figure won’t be determined until Fifarek and the project team are 90% though the construction documents, she said. The design process could be complete in January with a potential construction start in summer.

A culinary literacy center would provide educational opportunities on healthful eating as well as culture, she said, noting strong interest in local history and genealogy. Libraries in Philadelphia and other cities are doing “great culinary literacy programs, especially in regard to African American history,” she said.

“We’re very much a food-focused area in Mahoning County. This is a great opportunity to do programming on nutrition, cooking what you grow and also a historic-cultural thing,” she said.

Other features of the renovation are expected to include an event space, new meeting rooms and small meeting spaces, an expanded children’s area, relocation of the public elevator and addition of a freight elevator, restoration of the building’s skylight, reconfigured staff space in the lower level and restoration of the now-closed Wick Avenue entrance as the main entrance.

Main Library will remain open during construction and maintain core services for patrons, but several signature services will move either temporarily or permanently to other branches, she reported.

The library’s career and job center and business and industry center will relocate to the Brownlee Woods Branch, the telephone contact center will move to the Boardman Branch Library, and genealogy and local history will shift to the Struthers Library, all temporarily. Special delivery will relocate permanently to the Newport Branch.

The committee was unable to act on one piece of planned business related to the renovation: acceptance of a bid to construct an addition to the existing garage at Newport. The library sought bids for two-bay and three-bay additions to the Newport garage, but requested a zoning variance from the city of Youngstown for the three-bay version.

The city’s planning commission and board of zoning appeals met earlier this month and heard testimony from Fifarek and project architect Ron Faniro but could not vote on the variance because it lacked a quorum.

Asked whether the committee could vote to give approval to a bid conditioned on approval of the variance, Fifarek said she consulted with the library’s attorney, Denise Bayer, who cautioned against it.

Monday afternoon, Youngstown’s department of community planning and economic development announced that the planning commission and zoning appeals board would meet Dec. 11. Among the items on the agenda is the library’s garage addition at Newport.

Also during the meeting, the library committee approved awarding a $363,207 contract to Jim Santini Builder Inc., Washingtonville, to build its new Campbell Branch Library, which will be housed in Campbell’s Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center now under construction.

The project had to be rebid because the early estimate for the work was too low, requiring the library to adjust the bid, said Mark Mrofchak, chief fiscal officer. Santini’s bid was the lowest among six bids submitted, which ranges from its submission to the $402,000 bids each submitted by B&B Construction and Sander Contracting Inc.

Pictured: Aimee Fifarek, the library’s executive director, updates the library board of trustees’ building and sites committee on the renovation.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.