Dr. David Ritchie, president of the board of trustees of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, tours the new Jackson-Milton public library under construction on Mahoning Avenue in Jackson Township. With him is Heidi Daniel, director of the library system.
By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County’s public library system proposes $20.1 million in construction and renovations over the next several years, with more than two-thirds of that amount targeted to its main library on Wick Avenue.
Spending now listed for 2013 consists of about $3.9 million for a nearly four-fold expansion of the Canfield branch in its current location; about $1.1 million for improvements at the Boardman branch; and about $177,000 to finish the new $1.8 million Jackson-Milton branch that will open this spring.
The first $70,000 of the $14.6 million main library project is budgeted for 2013, with the rest planned for 2014.
But the actual amounts to be spent, the details of the work that will done in future projects and the spending timetable aren’t etched in stone, library officials said. The expenditures listed are “just a road map” and likely will spill over into 2015 “and possibly longer,” said library Director Heidi Daniel.
“Community input is key to me here,” Daniel said. “I do want the community to give us guidance as to what they would like to see as we move forward,” in the new strategic plan being created this year, she added.
“We have aging buildings. We have buildings that are not right-sized,” said Susan G. Merriman, library fiscal officer, citing the 102-year-old original main library building and the Canfield branch, which is too small for the volume of transactions it handles. She also said her construction and renovation budget numbers “are really place markers,” which are subject to change.
“I want to see us creating buildings and spaces that are flexible and will take us into the future,” Daniel said, adding that the library system is facing increased use of electronic technology and increased demand for community meeting spaces.
“We’re changing from a place where people have traditionally come in and taken things out of our building and gone home, so we needed (extensive) stacks of books, to a place where people are coming in and doing things and making things and meeting with each other and doing work,” she observed. “We need buildings that can reflect that.”
HOW WORK WILL BE FUNDED
The 16-branch Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County system intends to perform the construction and renovation work by using its building and repair fund, which now totals about $19.9 million, and by supplementing tax dollars with philanthropic efforts.
Daniel said she intends for the library system to remain debt-free throughout the projects. Not borrowing money avoids interest payments and fees for bond counsel, she added.
Once the Jackson-Milton branch opens, the library system will turn its attention to expansion of the Canfield branch. Tentative plans call for spending about $100 per square foot to renovate the 5,104-square-foot, 1969-vintage Canfield building and adding 13,663 square feet at a cost of about $250 per square foot.
The library system has been acquiring land adjacent to the Canfield branch in advance of the expansion, during which that branch will be closed.
The expanded Canfield library will have meeting space, which the current building lacks, Daniel said.
Plans call for raising $500,000 in philanthropic support for the Canfield project.
WHAT WILL BE NEW IN BOARDMAN?
The money to be spent at the 21-year-old Boardman branch building includes spending for new boilers, a partial roof replacement, replacement of the building’s original carpet, and use of furnishings and equipment to reorganize space, perhaps establishing a small business-service center there, Daniel said.
MAJOR CHANGES FOR MAIN
The main-library project, first presented two years ago by architect Ronald Cornell Faniro, includes a complete overhaul of the building, which consists of a 1910-vintage front section and a 1994-vintage rear addition and houses basement library administration offices.
Plans call for raising $1.1 million in philanthropic support for the main library project.
Main Library would likely close for at least parts of the project, said Daniel, who became director upon the retirement of Carlton Sears last summer.
Faniro proposes removing the stacks at the rear of the original building, relocating an elevator, and replacing those stacks with a central patron service area, from which staff would be able to monitor most of the library. This would reduce staffing costs because the library would no longer have to staff multiple patron service desks, Daniel said.
The work would include a new entrance and children’s-section addition for the newer wing, replacement of all roofing and first and second level flooring, relocating the meeting room from the basement to the second floor and complete repainting of the interior.
It would also include replacing the major components of the library’s heating and cooling systems with more energy and cost-efficient equipment.
Other items include replacing electrical wiring and conduits and light switches in the original building and replacing most of the library’s lighting with newer, brighter and more energy-efficient fixtures.
“We know we’re going to have to replace boilers,” at Main Library, Daniel said, adding that roof replacements, boiler replacements and other heating, ventilating and air conditioning matters must get top priority.
Daniel said she considers two items in Faniro’s report optional: Restoration of the exterior Wick Avenue front steps, which were removed in 1954, and restoration of the original skylights.
Faniro’s report says his proposed alterations to the Wick Avenue entrance to “reassert the main library’s presence along Wick Avenue,” would cost $432,255, with the reading room skylight restoration costing $95,250.
The main library’s public entrance now faces the parking lot on the north side of the 1994 wing, and the street-level Wick Avenue entrance is now strictly an emergency exit.
In its current strategic plan, the library system no longer projects any expenses for repairs to its Brownlee Woods, Struthers, Campbell, and West branches because it has assumed it will vacate these branches and rent library space to replace them. However, Daniel said the library system will revisit this issue in this year’s strategic planning process.
The library system intends to conduct a survey and public meetings to obtain patron comments as the strategic planning for new and renovated library facilities continues.