Library Shelves Brownlee Woods, Struthers Merger

Library Shelves Brownlee Woods, Struthers Merger

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County will shelve plans to consolidate its Brownlee Woods and Struthers branches and instead focus on boosting their utilization.

Plans for the branches were disclosed at Thursday’s meeting of the library’s board of trustees at the Austintown Branch Library.

The last two strategic plans for the library system called for review of the disposition and possible merger of the Brownlee Woods, Campbell and Struthers branch libraries. In 2016, the board’s building and sites committee approved hiring the partnership of HBM Architects of Cleveland with BSHM Architects Inc. of Youngstown to research options.

A year ago, the library accepted an offer from the Campbell City Schools to include a new branch into its Community Literacy, Workforce and Cultural Center, which is slated to open in 2019. The existing Campbell Library building was closed due to structural issues and Library Express inside Campbell High School opened in September.

Finding a suitable location to consolidate the Brownlee Woods and Struthers branches proved challenging, Aimee Fifarek, the library’s executive director, told trustees.

The consultants’ recommended putting a consolidated library in a high-traffic area and they identified Youngstown-Poland Road, near Midlothian Boulevard, as the best location. But the consultants were unable to identify a suitable location that is available for purchase or lease.

Fifarek told the board that the library would continue to operate the Brownlee Woods and Struthers libraries  — both buildings are structurally sound and in good condition — and to explore ways to improve services and increase usage.

She suggested reviewing services and the internal layout of the buildings to determine changes that would be beneficial to providing services the library has found to be popular in other locations, such as improved meeting room space and additional programming, along with addressing any needed repairs. She told the board she had met with Struthers officials and hopes to work closely with them to develop targeted services and partnerships with the Struthers schools to increase usage.

Once the new program is launched in Struthers, library staff will work on updates for Brownlee Woods. These efforts will be reviewed for effectiveness after one year.

Fifarek also informed the board that Kravitz Deli has left the Poland Branch Library after eight years and several businesses have already expressed interest in the space. A process will be developed to assess inquiries and proposals from businesses.

Not all businesses are interested in catering, so the library will look at developing a list of approved caterers that would be available to patrons renting the meeting room, she said.

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