Interim director returns to steer library through transition period

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By Justin Wier


The day Susan Merriman was named interim director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, she felt like she hit the lottery.

“It’s such a great institution,” Merriman said.

Merriman’s not a stranger to the library; she served as its fiscal officer for about 23 years.

She came out of retirement to help steer the library through its transition as it searches for an executive director to replace Heidi Daniel, who left in mid-July.

“It’s going very well,” Merriman said. “I’m fortunate to have a marvelous administration team.”

Library spokeswoman Janet Loew said Merriman was an excellent choice for interim director.

“Sue is stable and level-headed and knows how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together,” Loew said.

Rehiring a retired employee is good for an interim role, Merriman added, because you don’t have to take someone from an existing role.

The library is in the midst of several projects during the transition. It recently agreed to open a branch in an Activity, Recreation and Cultural Center, or ARCC, proposed by Campbell City Schools; the Michael Kusalaba branch on Youngstown’s West Side is slated to open early next year; and plans for a consolidation of the Struthers and Brownlee Woods branches are underway.

Merriman sees her primary responsibility as making sure the ARCC and Kusalaba branch stay on schedule.

“My role is to keep everything moving until a new director is in place,” Merriman said.

Bradley Miller Associates, a search consulting firm out of Kansas City, Mo., will find candidates for Daniel’s replacement. Applications close Aug. 27 and library officials hope to have someone in place by late fall.

Completing the consolidation plan and the renovation of the main library on Wick Avenue, an estimated $15 million, multiyear project and still two or three years away, will be among the first tasks of the new executive director.

Daniel left to lead the Enoch Pratt Free Library, which is the public library system of Baltimore.

In addition to constructing a new branch to serve the North Jackson and Lake Milton area and another in Canfield, Daniel’s achievements included creating Pop-Up Libraries and fine-free library cards for children and teenagers.

“One of my core beliefs is that the library needs to be where people are,” Daniel told The Vindicator in June.

A good candidate will show vision and a desire to be involved with the community, Merriman said. In addition to Daniel, Merriman said previous directors Carlton Sears and Theresa Trucksis helped guide the library through major changes over the last 25 years.

“Each subsequent director took a wonderful situation and managed to make improvements,” Loew added.

The library board wants a replacement with an equivalent ardor for public libraries.

“The board wants to see that spark of passion in someone,” Loew said.

Library officials expect to conduct Skype interviews in September and have public forums with the finalists in October before making a decision.

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