In a true public-private partnership, the people of Poland as well as artists, craftsmen and businesses from throughout the Valley have joined the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County to create what must surely be one of the most beautiful public library buildings in the nation.
With more than $800,000 in grant funds and private donations -- including $1,040 from Poland schoolchildren and their teachers to purchase new books -- the new facility will be more than bricks and mortar. It is a testament to a book-loving community with vision and dedication.
When Gov. Bob Taft attended a "sneak preview" of the facility last week, he said that he was "absolutely amazed" at its beauty and noted that the "new facility, built extensively with recycled products, combines two of our greatest resources, the environment and books."
Looking at the exquisite building, it's hard to believe that, in fact, the new Poland Library is one of the foremost "green architecture" projects in the region. The Recycling Division of Mahoning County provided a generous grant of $400,000 to support the use of recycled construction materials. And the 4M Company designed the library.
Ultimate in recycling: The siding is made of cement and recycled wood fibers, the roofing of recycled tires, rubber and plastics. The historic structure located next to the library -- the former Poland Union Seminary dormitory -- was incorporated into the new structure. The wood flooring uses hardwood planks from old New England barns.
Even the parking lot is made of recycled asphalt and recycled tires. The windows and door frames are made of 95 percent recycled aluminum, and 15 percent of the glass content is also recycled.
While the private funding and the work of local artisans have contributed to the beauty of the new library, the long-range planning process of the library's board of trustees and the careful husbanding of state and local resources made the project possible.
More to do: There's still work to be done before the library can open to the public.
More books need to be put on the shelves -- the new library can hold 75 percent more than the old. A lower-level bookstore must be completed. The bookstore and the county's first library caf & eacute;, which will open with the library, will be privately operated but will generate income for the library.
The first Poland Library, dedicated more than 66 years ago, was located in a small room in the Poland Town Hall and held 1,377 books. The new library comprises 35,619 square feet and was designed to hold a collection of 70,000 items. In the most recent Poland Library, 15 patrons could seem like a crowd. The new facility includes a meeting room that seats 300 -- as well as plenty of room for readers.
And readers -- young and old -- are those for whom free libraries are established. In the new Poland Library, the cause of literacy has been advanced magnificently.