Library to Set Timetable for Main Branch Renovation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Construction projects on and around the Youngstown State University campus could prompt another Mahoning Valley institution to move forward with a long-contemplated renovation of its main branch sooner than anticipated, its executive director says.

Renovation of the main library of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County will be discussed Friday when its building and grounds committee meets.

Earlier this year, YSU announced a series of upgrades and projects on and around the campus to coincide with street improvements nearby, including major upgrades to Wick and Lincoln avenues.

A renovation of Main, last upgraded in 1994, has been an aspect of the library’s last two strategic plans and was scheduled to be discussed next year with a potential 2018 start for construction, library Executive Director Heidi Daniel said Wednesday.

Daniel will provide a refresher tomorrow on projects in the strategic plan. “We’re excited about what we’re seeing in terms of development by YSU and the community as a whole, so we really want to be able to tie into that,” Daniel said. “It’s time for us to start thinking about it because we have been setting the funds aside for this project.”

The library has saved $14.5 million for the renovation, reported its spokeswoman, Janet Loew.

The library must address several issues at the main branch, including shelving. “The collection on the shelves is a little smaller than it could be because it can’t bear that weight any longer,” Daniel said. Also, during the last upgrade, the branch was wired for the internet. Wireless access has become “incredibly important” to the services it provides, Loew stated.

“In addition, we’ve known we need to address the different service points to be more efficient in our staffing and customer service models,” she said. Furnishings and carpeting also need to be replaced.

“It really is in need of some upgrading, some repairs and so forth,” said Dr. David Ritchie, president of the library board of trustees. “Some of that stuff is outdated and so [are] the rooms, the structure and so forth. It is definitely in need [of updating].”

Earlier this year, the library opened its new branch in Canfield.

Other items on the agenda are reviewing proposals for a consultant for the proposed merger of the Brownlee Woods, Struthers and Campbell branches and discussion of the Michael Kusalaba Branch project.

The library is close to breaking ground on the Kusalaba Branch, which will replace the West Library. Following a July 14 fundraiser, “that will allow us to say goodbye to West and raise a little bi of money for our capital campaign,” she said, the library will proceed with asbestos remediation. The goal is to put the project out for bid for a general contractor in the fall, she said.

Consolidation of Brownlee Woods, Struthers and Campbell has been in strategic plans for at least a decade, Daniel noted.

“[It] would be a good move to look at some form of consolidation so that we can offer more modern library services and more extended hours to those communities,” she remarked.

She also said that branch consolidations could be sensitive subjects for patrons affected. The library is looking at “continual community conversations” to understand their concerns and ensure the properties won’t be abandoned, she said.

“We also have really strong outreach services that we can provide to all of the communities,” she continued. Among them are a soon-to-be-acquired van for its pop-up library service “a little closer to traditional bookmobiles” that allow the system to serve communities where lacks a physical presence with a technology component.

Ritchie said renovating the main building likely would begin after other scheduled library projects are completed, but a delay in determining a location for the Brownlee Woods/Struthers/Campbell branch might move the Main project forward.

Daniel also reported that renovation of the Boardman branch is nearing completion, with work remaining on the exterior and interior children’s areas. The exterior area will be a learning area that focuses on the STEAM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – while the interior children’s area will offer “quieter art-based and science-based activities,” she said. “Then we are pretty close to finished with that project.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.