Public Library Embraces Transformation

By Janet S. Loew, communications/PR director

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Libraries are perhaps the perfect example of transformation. With the advent of the internet and e-books, it was often heard that libraries would become a thing of the past. But instead, libraries grew and evolved, embracing that technology and building on it.

The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County continues to grow and change each year to meet the needs of the community it serves. Today’s libraries are no longer just buildings where books are housed, but are community gathering spaces, attracting people to programs and events, as well as the use of meeting rooms and study rooms. Library materials have expanded to include audio/visual materials, both in physical form and electronic.

We are moving forward with the renovation of our Main Library, 305 Wick Ave. The library gathered input from staff and the public, and trustees approved proceeding with the qualifications-based process of hiring an architect.

The vision for the Main Library is transformation. This 109-year-old Carnegie Library will retain its historic architectural features, which add character and speak to the rich history of Mahoning County’s libraries. But the interior will be a fresh, vibrant and inviting place where services and features in demand today and in the future will change the way people view this facility and libraries for years to come. The new library will offer increased “people space” with flexibility to be reconfigured as needed for meetings, exhibits and events.

Another prime focus for the coming year is increasing workforce development efforts. Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek recognizes the impact that the loss of GM Lordstown would create.

“In 2019, we hope to make people more aware of how libraries help our local workforce with training and job-search offerings. We want to reach out and connect with people and with organizations and businesses impacted by loss of jobs and related impact on the local economy,” Fifarek says.

The library’s career and job center offers programs and materials, plus a librarian trained to help patrons with their career and job needs, such as navigating the OhioMeansJobs website and company websites, writing resumes and cover letters, providing help on where to go to apply for a job and how to upload a resume. Librarians relate stories of working with patrons who landed jobs as a result. Online offerings such as Lynda.com and Universal Class provide training at no cost to library cardholders.

Library patrons can get one-on-one assistance with the Book-a-Librarian service, tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. A librarian will give undivided attention to customers who want in-depth help with a wide variety of topics. These include career and job assistance, using a computer, email and the internet, downloading e-books and audiobooks, using digital resources, researching a topic, finding investment information, genealogy research and grant research. Through the Business and Investment Center, patrons can Book-a-Biz-Librarian for sources to help their businesses thrive.

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County was founded in 1880 and has 15 locations throughout the county plus a special delivery service that provides materials by mail to those who cannot get to a library. The library employs 195.

Circulation in 2018 was 1.685 million, up 8.9% over three years. The projected operating budget for 2019 is $17 million. The major sources of funding are the Public Library Fund, derived from a percentage of the state’s General Revenue Fund, and a local real estate tax, which will be due for a vote on the November ballot.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.