Jackson-Milton residents excited about new library

By Peter H. Milliken



Think of the community’s long-term needs in a new library branch here, but suggest ideas as early in the planning process as possible, the library director urged residents of Jackson and Milton townships.

“People have a hard time predicting the future, but you try to think about it as far as you can,” said Carlton Sears, director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

Sears got a wide range of responses when he asked about 50 local residents what library service means to them. The responses ranged from plenty of books, to Internet access, to instruction concerning use of new information technology, to research services for students of all ages, and DVDs, music and videos.

“When you think about this, think about e-books, the interest in computers, the printed book,” Sears urged. “Five years after this library’s built, will there be videos? If you plan space for the current collections, and in five years you find out those are obsolete, it’s not a very wise investment.”

“There’s a time to cut the cord with some media formats. We cut the cord with eight-track tapes years ago,” he added.

Being engaged in the early part of the planning process is important, he said, noting that changes are more difficult for architects to make in the later design stages.

Library officials are planning to build a new public-library branch along Mahoning Avenue just west of Duck Creek Road in Milton Township. The site is now an athletic practice field at the middle- and high-school complex, where Tuesday’s meeting took place. The land for the library is being donated by the school board.

The proposed one-story facility, estimated to cost about $1.4 million, was shelved in 2008 after a recession-induced decline in funding for the county library system. Sears said he hopes the new library can open in April 2012.

Eighty percent to 90 percent of its cost would be paid from the library’s building and repair fund, which consists of state and local levy money and totals between $6 million and $7 million, Sears said. The rest would come from community fund-raising activities, he said.

The new 5,500-square-foot building would replace the separate North Jackson and Lake Milton branches, which the library system occupies rent-free, but does not own.

Although the Lake Milton branch in Craig Beach would close as a result of the merger, Craig Beach resident Rhenea Shablesky said she was “very excited” to have the new library in the schools complex.

“It’s right on the main road. It has access to everything,” she said.

Schools Superintendent Kirk Baker said the new centrally located facility is “win-win” for J-M students and the residents of Lake Milton, North Jackson, Craig Beach and surrounding areas.

Library officials have said merging the branches would be cost-efficient because utilities, maintenance, staff, computers and library materials would no longer have to be provided in two separate northwest Mahoning County locations.

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