Library Works with Campbell Schools for New Branch

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It’s official. The Board of Trustees of The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County voted Wednesday to work with Campbell City Schools to develop a library branch within the school system’s proposed Activity Recreation Cultural Center.

The trustees authorized the incoming interim director of the library system, Sue Merriman, and the board president, Dr. David Ritchie, to work with legal counsel to complete an agreement with the district and for Ritchie to enter into an agreement for the project.

“This is the proposal that our consultants are recommending,” said Heidi Daniel, executive director of the library. “This is a good option.”

The agreement is in line with others at two branches of the Stark County system operating successfully, she added.

“It’s a no-brainer. It’s a fabulous opportunity in every aspect,” said architect Brett Hendricks of BSHM Architects Inc., one of two firms contacted the library to consult on the Campbell, Struthers and Brownlee Woods branches. “The main one is collaboration and service to the community. You couldn’t find a better fit.”

The proposal to work with Campbell schools came about as the library weighed how to consolidate the three branches. Although the district was prepared to move ahead with its project regardless of the library board’s decision, Campbell Superintendent Matthew Bowen applauded the action.

The district is developing a three-phase project that would incorporate athletic, cultural and activity spaces, including a 600-seat auditorium. The library would be part of the first phase.

“We knew they were going to consolidate [the three branches into one initially] and then as the conversations continued we were hopeful there would be a Campbell solution,” Bowen said. “We knew we would benefit if this decision were made. It’s a win-win not only for the library but the residents of Campbell.”

The library will occupy 3,000 square feet of the center, 2,500 of which would be traditional library space, while the remaining area will be used as a maker space for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, Daniel said.

“It’s wonderful for us because we have a built-in audience to do the things that we do,” board member Tom Frost said.

“This partnership with the schools is so important because you’re bringing the library into the community where it’s going to be used,” said Rose Newton-Clay, head clerk at the library’s Austintown branch and with the system nearly 28 years. “That library is used because it’s right there on the campus.”

The library will pay Campbell schools $525,000, the library’s rent over the life of the 50-year lease. The proposed agreement would allow the library to withdraw from the space after 10 years. Should that happen, the library would receive a prorated rebate.

Over 50 years, the library would end up paying 29 cents per square foot for the space, and 58 cents per square foot were it to leave after 10 years. As such, it likely is one of the more affordable building projects undertaken, Daniel said.

In addition, the school district is working with Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield to provide new STEM – science, technology, engineering and manufacturing – opportunities for students in seventh and eighth grades at the new center. That would position the library to help create a manufacturing space for students of all ages, Daniel said.

Daniel, who is leaving the system next month, also recommended the library explore options such as laptop vending, which would allow patrons to access laptop computers by swiping their cards at a vending machine equipped with security cameras.

The vending machine could be accessible beyond the library branch’s normal hours.

The library will provide designs for its space to the architect of the Campbell project once the school board determines who will handle the project.

The Campbell School District will next issue a request for qualifications for the three-phase project and secure a construction manager, “after which time we will have hard costs on all phases of the project,” Bowen said.

The district ended the year with a balance in excess of $5.9 million, not all of which will go toward the project, he said. It’s also seeking donations, grants and state funds for the project.

“Anytime we’re able to show these partnerships, it’s going to help us with our grant applications and also with the fundraising campaign, without question,” the superintendent said.

About 20 members of the Campbell community attended Wednesday’s meeting and applauded the library board’s vote.

“It’s wonderful,” said Campbell resident Michelle Martinez, who works as a payroll benefits specialist for the school district. “Putting [the library] in the school will be magnificent. It’s a great partnership.”

The old Campbell branch was closed last week because of a failing roof. In the meantime, the community will be served by the library’s Pop-Up service and by a location Daniel expects will open this fall in Campbell High School’s field house. The temporary branch will have a book drop, collection and computers.

Pictured: Campbell Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen and Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County Executive Director Heidi Daniel.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.