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Public library system plans ambitious construction and renovation effort at Canfield, Boardman and main buildings.

Published: Mon, February 25, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Library plans $20.1M in improvements at Main, Boardman, Canfield, Milton


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.”


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.


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.


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.


1lee(544 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Wasn't it just last year the library was so broke they needed to pass a tax just to stay open?

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2nipsy(157 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Right on Lee..Just like the WRTA..The voters of Mahoning county were suckers on both counts. Youngstown uses the buses but the whole county now has to pay for it through a sales tax. And the public library played to our heart strings and now is flush with funds to build and spend....

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3walter_sobchak(2256 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

The expansion of the Canfield branch at the current location does not seem cost-effective. Why not purchase cheaper land on Rte. 46 between Canfield and the new South Range complex, build a new building and abandon the current location? The land and property around the current site had to be more expensive.

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4redeye1(5169 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

HellBB If they don't spend all of our money . How are they going to come crying to us in a few years saying that they need more money if they don't spend it all now.

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5ytownsteelman(667 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

HellaBB, you ask why do libraries need to exist? Due to copyright law, there is a wide swath of mid 20th century knowledge that is only available in libraries. Books printed before 1923 are in the public domain and are available on Google Books and Archive.org etc, but from 1924 forward everything that has been published is under copyright and only available either by purchase from the publisher or at a library. So what happens when a book is out of print and there are no libraries? I guess that knowledge just disappears. Now that may appeal to those of you who are "low information citizens", but some of us actually think that knowledge and intelligence is important and need access to it.

Another reason why the library is important is that it brings the Internet to people who do not have it at home. The computer room at the main library is always packed and demonstrates the need for such resources. The library also provides public meeting space which many groups utilize. Non profit organizations use the Grant Center at the main library for researching foundations and donors. This is an important service that would otherwise be too expensive for individual nonprofits to obtain independently.

One final point. The money that the library system would be spending on this project has been voted on and approved by the public through the tax levy, and also provided by private contributions. This is not money that is being taken by force, it was voted on.

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6DwightK(1384 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Libraries are used for more things than loaning books. Buildings are used for public meetings, for some people to access the internet, for public training, to borrow media that is not books and for getting assistance from real, live human beings who are knowledgeable. I like having a library in my community and think it is one of the best uses of tax dollars.

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7lee(544 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

I am OK with public libraries the problem was we were lied to again, the libraries said they needed the money or they would close, the tax said nothing about building more.We voted to keep them open not make them bigger.

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8redeye1(5169 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

LEE I agree with you, We don't need such elaborate buildings . I lived in Pgh Pa. the buildings there were nice, just not so fancy as what we got around here.

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9peggygurney(408 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Why do public libraries need to exist? Are you kidding???

Many of us parents try to limit our children's online time, and give them the library experience that we enjoyed as a child.

Tell ya what. why don't we just plug 'em in!

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10HDavis(5 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps those questioning if libraries are still needed should check out why so many people go there? Maybe you'ld learn something.

And check the record on the last levy campaign. The library said then that improving buildings was one of the reasons for the levy. They said much the same thing then that is in this article. Nothing really is new from then, including many of the ill-informed that spend time here.

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