Library System Impresses Prospective New Director

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The candidate selected to lead the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County says she is impressed with the direction the system has gone in since putting its strategic plan in place.

The library’s board of trustees voted Tuesday morning to offer the position to Aimee Fifarek, deputy director of information technology and digital initiatives at the Phoenix Public Library.

Fifarek, a native of Marinette, Wis., was selected from among four finalists to succeed Heidi Daniel, who now is president and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

Ohio is well known for loving its libraries,” Fifarek said in a phone interview. Although the state’s public library fund isn’t what it used to be, in comparison to what is available in other states it is “quite a boon,” she remarked.

Any position would be a wonderful one to look at but I was quite impressed with PLYMC and the direction they’ve been moving since putting the strategic plan in place three years ago,” she said.

They are clearly focused on making sure that the library is involved with the community, focusing on STEM and all of the important 21st century skills that our communities need in order to grow and prosper,” she continued. “Clearly it is a system that is very closely tied to community success and also a system that is well loved by its community.”

The position, which is contingent on Fifarek passing required background checks and drug screenings, will pay $110,000 annually with fringe benefits “generally consistent with those provided to other full-time administrative staff,” according to the resolution library trustees approved. The offer includes a $7,500 relocation allowance and is also contingent on her accepting within 24 hours.

Fifarek said yesterday she is evaluating the details of the offer and would discuss it with her husband Tuesday night.

If she accepts the offer and receives the required approvals, Dr. David Ritchie, president of the library’s board of trustees and chairman of the search committee, said he expects Fifarek to be able to start by January.

Ritchie cited Fifarek’s interest in becoming a director of a system of this size and her experience, having worked in academic and public libraries for 20 years, as the factors that separated her from the rest of the field.

She’s coming from a larger library system but she’s not the director. Now she will be the person in charge,” she said.

He also noted Fifarek’s involvement in state and national library organizations, which help give libraries “a little bit of a jump on other ones” he said.

That way they’re up to date with everything that’s going on,” he said. “Heidi was rather involved with most all of those things so I think that would be somewhat of a continuation.”

Fifarek said she brings a “strong history” of coming from libraries with good early literacy programs, which is “the foundation of what libraries do, getting children prepared to read and enter kindergarten and helping their parents help them make that transition.”

Her background in technology has given her insight into how libraries’ divisions operate and work together, she said, adding that putting the community and library patrons first is among the most important duties of a library system.

It’s crucial that when we make decisions about how we run the library, especially when we plan changes, that we consider the needs of the community as we’re going forward, no matter how big and small those might be,” she said.

She also brings experience in dealing with construction projects, including the development of business incubators at branches in the Phoenix and Scottsdale library systems. Among the current projects in the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County’s strategic plan are the consolidation of the Brownlee Woods and Struthers branches and the long-planned upgrade of the Main Library.

A move to Ohio would bring her closer to her father, who still lives in northeastern Wisconsin. “It will be nice to have a little bit shorter flight,” she said.

She also is prepared to return to Midwest winters.

Surprisingly enough, sunshine does get a little tiring after a while,” she said. “As a Midwesterner I never would have believed it, but it is true.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.