Phoenix candidate tapped to lead public library
By JUSTIN Wier
Aimee Fifarek said leading a public library system has been a goal of hers, and the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County provides the right opportunity.
“I think Ohio has a long tradition of really loving its libraries and a great history of library communication,” Fifarek said. “PLYMC has been doing great things in the community. It’s going in all the right directions.”
The library’s board unanimously voted Tuesday to offer the position to Fifarek, deputy director of information technology and digital initiatives for Phoenix Public Library.
Her proposed contract includes a $110,000 salary, a standard benefits package and a $7,500 relocation allowance. Fifarek currently earns $94,244.
Contingent upon her passing a required background check and drug screen, the board expects Fifarek to begin early next year.
Dr. David Ritchie, president of the library’s board, said Fifarek expressed an interest to lead a library of PLYMC’s size and answered many of the board’s concerns.
“She has some great experience,” Ritchie said.
Before working at the Phoenix library, Fifarek, a Wisconsin native, worked in both public and academic libraries in Milwaukee and Baton Rouge, La.
She is also the past president of the Library Information Technology Association, which is a division of the American Library Association, and a graduate of the Research Institute for Public Libraries.
Despite an increased presence of technology in public libraries once associated solely with books, Fifarek said they remain committed to help connect people with the information they need to reach their goals.
“That used to be done strictly through books,” she said. “Now it’s done in a variety of ways.”
She lauded the library’s “ambitious” strategic plan and underlined the importance of the library promoting literacy, getting involved in the community and looking into STEM education.
Other roles for libraries include supplementing and augmenting the schools and helping people get a leg up on constantly changing technology, she added.
Ritchie expects a continuation of many of the initiatives underway, including looking closely at a potential renovation of the main library at 305 Wick Ave. — an estimated $15 million, multi-year project — and the consolidation of the Brownlee Woods and Struthers libraries.
Those projects, however, will remain on the back burner until the new director is in place, he added.
Interim director Susan Merriman has kept watch over the construction of the Michael Kusalaba branch on Youngstown’s West Side — slated to open early next year — and a branch in Campbell schools’ proposed Activity, Recreation and Cultural Center expected to open in fall 2019.
Several staff members in key roles are reaching retirement age, Fifarek noted, so she will need to manage the workforce transition.
Previous executive director Heidi Daniel left in July to lead the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.
The board approved a $20,000 contract in June to have Bradbury Miller Associates lead the search for Daniel’s replacement, and Fifarek prevailed among 20 applicants.