Mahoning County’s libraries of tomorrow are focus of today

The library of 2020 will be noth- ing like the library of 1910 — and will even be dramatically different than the library of 2000.

That’s because libraries are forced to change with the times, with the technology of a new age and with the emerging demands of a changing public.

That was a guiding principle during the 15 years that Carlton Sears was director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. And now, after less than a year, it is clear that his successor, Heidi Daniel, is pursuing an equally foresighted path.

Daniel is spearheading an effort aimed at producing by September a six-year strategic plan, appropriately titled Library 2020.

She will have a lot of help. Informal meetings with small groups of community leaders and public meetings will be held. In the meantime, anyone can go on the library’s Website,, and fill out the My Library 2020 survey. It takes only a few minutes and gives anyone the opportunity to say what they like about the library now or what they’d like to see improved. Even those who don’t use the library now or use it infrequently are welcome to make suggestions.

A place for all ages

Daniel came to Youngstown with experience from Oklahoma City and Houston and so had a strong foundation in serving urban and suburban library patrons. She knows that libraries can enrich the lives of the young and the old — and can play a vital role in helping job-seekers in an age when a computer and a high-speed connection is a required tool.

She has seen the construction of the newest building in the library system, the soon-to-open Jackson-Milton Branch, a $1.8 million project, and is looking at a multi-year construction and renovation proposal that will cost about $20 million. Making major improvements, especially at the 102-year-old main library, has been a recognized goal for years.

Libraries from coast to coast are adapting to the new realities of Internet services, e-books, social media and are preparing themselves for constantly evolving new technologies.

But even in a age when millions strive to communicate in 144-character bites, books remain an important part of our heritage and our learning experience. And even when children can be entertained by TV characters or engage in computer games with cyber friends, there’s still something special about a librarian reading aloud during story time at the children’s section.

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County is working toward its 2020 vision, and everyone is welcome to help define and refine that vision. The libraries of today could not have been imagined by Andrew Carnegie when he set out 130 years ago to make books available to the common man. But these emerging libraries certainly reflect his commitment to providing everyone with access to the accumlulated knowledge of the ages and the latest developments of the day.

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