YOUNGSTOWN — In a bid to keep the West Branch library open, residents pledged to raise money for its upkeep.
At a meeting of the West Side Coalition on Tuesday, they kept that promise.
Faced with a 20 percent decrease in funding from the state and after making other cuts, the building and sites committee of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in June recommended closing the West Side branch as a cost-cutting measure.
Instead, members of the board of trustees voted to give Youngstown Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, time to work with her constituents to raise money to help defray the cost of keeping the branch open.
Ken and Shannon Bullen, owners of The Handle Bar on Mahoning Avenue, spearheaded an effort to raise money to keep the branch open. Other West Side taverns jumped on board, and in 45 days, the West Side Walk was a reality.
About 175 people paid $20 to participate, Ken Bullen said.
“And we all did a walk,” he said. “We spent a half-hour at each place. Free food at each bar. We’re just trying to keep the library open for the West Side.”
The library’s very important for the children, Bullen added.
“I mean, kids are our future,” he said. “And a lot of elderly people use it, too.”
Bullen presented a check for $3,001 to Carlton Sears, library director.
At this point, Sears said, there are no plans to close the West Branch library.
The strategic plan that suggested closing that facility was adopted in 2004.
“We’re going to be going back and reassessing it, given all the changes that happened in 2009,” Sears said. He expects that process to be complete around March.
Jackie Leson, a West Side resident and member of the West Side Coalition, said, “We are still the working people of Youngstown. And we pay the most taxes. Our property taxes and everything. And then they want to close everything. And I am totally against that.”
The check presented to Sears shows the commitment of West Side residents, she said.
“We’re a fighting side of town,” Leson said.