Supply Chain Woes Extend Main Library Renovation into Summer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Supply chain issues are moving the expected completion of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County’s Main Library renovation to summer, said Executive Director and CEO Aimee Fifarek. 

Monday marked the reopening of Main Library to the public after being closed late November to accommodate the removal of materials from the library’s Great Reading Room and to prepare the second floor for public service to resume. Main’s renovation is now in its third and final phase, which includes construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition, renovation of the grand reading room and restoration of the grand staircase entrance facing Wick Avenue. 

The $25 million project remains on budget, Fifarek said. Despite rising prices, costs have remained within the contingencies budgeted for. 

“Some things come in under budget and some things come in over budget. It’s really a moving target, from week to week,” she said. The construction management team is working with the architects to determine what substitutions can be made for materials and items that can’t be procured timely, or for prices that have risen too high in a “cost ballet that construction management is doing on a regular basis,” she added.  

However, supply chain issues mean the project likely won’t be finished by the anticipated spring completion date. 

“All I’m saying right now is summer, because with everything you just don’t know,” she said. “We are pretty much on track to finish this summer.”

The supply chain issues that are familiar to businesses and the general public are affecting contractors’ ability to obtain materials, mainly finishes, she said. So far, there have been no major workforce issues because of the pandemic and the construction management team has done “an amazing job” reconfiguring the schedule to keep work happening despite the supply chain challenges.

“In some cases, we’ve had some supply chain issues also with books. Publishers are having trouble actually getting books printed,” she said. 

The second-floor space that reopened Monday hosts the recently returned local history and genealogy department, computer center and several meeting rooms. The floor has eight four-person study rooms at 10 feet by 10 feet, a 12-person meeting room and a larger conference room, said Maggie Henderson, library strategic communications officer.  

Each of the rooms will have a large monitor and speaker bar with a built-in camera to accommodate video conferencing. “We just need to finish the install,” Fifarek said. 

So far public response has been positive to the spaces that have opened though the renovation, including the first-floor family engagement area and maker space, complete with recording room, which was unveiled last summer, Henderson said. Patrons are excited that Main Library is not only being “brought back to life” but being brought forward into the future. 

They are particularly excited by the culinary literacy center in the addition, which will have 16 stations within a test kitchen where the library will offer cooking lessons and other food programs, she continued. It also will have a 125-person meeting space. “Hopefully we’ll be able to invite chefs from the community to come in and do some demonstrations and that sort of thing,” she said. 

The culinary literacy center can double as a set-up space for caterers. “So we’ll be able to, on a somewhat larger scale than Poland Library, have large events here and be able to rent that space out and then the caterers can use that as their kitchen,” Fifarek said. 

“That’s just one of the things that the community is really excited about, on top of just having this wonderful … revitalized building that really is this wonderful feature in downtown Youngstown that we’re stewards of and carrying it forward,” Henderson added. 

Note: John Vargo contributed to this story.

Pictured: Library Executive Director and CEO Aimee Fifarek stands in one of the new conference rooms as workers operate in the background.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.